Australia

Barnaby Joyce lobbies for ‘right to be dopey’ to be protected in religious discrimination bill

Former Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce says people's views on god should not be part of any contract. Source: AAP

Nationals MP Barnaby Joyce wants proposed religious discrimination laws to ensure someone can't be fired for expressing a religious view if it doesn't relate to their work.

Nationals MP Barnaby Joyce says a worker who expresses religious views may be a "pain in the arse" or "dopey", but they don't deserve to be sacked. 

Mr Joyce was among 20 coalition backbenchers who discussed draft religious discrimination laws with Attorney-General Christian Porter on Friday. 

The former Nationals leader wants the laws to ensure that employees can't be fired for expressing religious beliefs, using Rugby Australia's decision to sack Israel Folau over anti-gay social media posts as an example. 

“I think a lot of what Israel Folau said is completely and utterly dopey, but it’s his right to be dopey,” Mr Joyce told ABC radio on Monday. 

Former deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce at a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra, Monday, November 26, 2018. (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas) NO ARCHIVING
Former deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce says Israel Folau should not be sacked for expressing "completely dopey" views.
AAP

Folau is contesting his sacking and the case is set to be heard in the Federal Court. 

Mr Joyce said it would be different if a person's beliefs affected their work, suggesting if Folau was a school counsellor his sacking would be more justified. 

“If there is a nexus between what you do and what you say then there is a question as to whether you can do the job.

"But if there is no nexus, in this case a man who is employed to run very fast, carry a white ball, jump high, place it on the other side of an arbitrary line on a paddock, what does it matter what their views are?”

The draft laws, set to be introduced to Parliament next month, are expected to mirror existing sex discrimination laws, rather than a new religious freedom act as some coalition MPs have been pushing for. 

Asked if it would be acceptable for a Muslim plumber who repeatedly told colleagues they were going to hell for being divorced to be sacked, Mr Joyce said that would be annoying but not a sackable offence.  

“If he wants to be a total pain in the arse that’s his right if he’s a plumber. We’ve got people who are a pain in the arse, they’re in every office. But we can’t just go round sacking them because they’re annoying.”

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