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Ikea airs major concerns over contentious religious discrimination bill

Furniture giant Ikea has weighed into the debate surrounding the government’s contentious plan to legislate religious freedoms, warning the bill could cause conflict with “equality and diversity policies”.

Ikea’s Australian operation said it did not support legislation that restricted “other human rights”.

In a submission to the Attorney-General’s department last year, the retailer said it believed there was merit in the proposal but not at the expense of other human rights and override existing anti-discrimination laws.

Despite a rework of the legislation, People and Culture Manager Elin Åhlund said the company stood by it’s original statement.

Camera IconFurniture giant Ikea has weighed into the religious freedom debate. NCA NewsWire / Gaye Gerard Credit: News Corp Australia

“We stand by this belief and are concerned the latest draft of the Religious Discrimination Bill contains provisions that may allow people to be lawfully discriminated against,” Ms Åhlund said.

“We expect our co-workers to respect human rights and to commit to making these rights a part of everything we do.

“If we are to continue to deliver on this commitment, the final Religious Discrimination Bill should ensure businesses are not put in potential conflict with equality and diversity policies or practices in which discrimination of any kind is not tolerated.

“We must see the final Discrimination Bill deliver protection for all Australians regardless of culture, creed or identity.”

Camera IconThe government hopes to pass it’s religious freedoms bill through the lower house this week. NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman Credit: News Corp Australia

The government has referred the legislation to a joint parliamentary committee, which is due to report back to parliament on February 4.

A lower house vote on the bill is expected to come before the house either on Wednesday or Thursday, as the government hopes to push it through before parliament rises for the year.

But Labor on Tuesday raised concerns over the referral to the “government controlled” joint committee on human rights, which will only take submissions that strictly address the terms of reference and meet just three times over the holiday period before reporting back.

“Discrimination legislation is complex and we have already heard many different arguments on what the Bill will do, including from within the Government. It’s important we now have a genuine inquiry to work through this complex legislation,” Opposition legal affairs spokesman Mark Dreyfus said.

“We repeat our call for the Government to work with Labor on a genuine inquiry involving both MPs and Senators so that this important legislation receives the consideration it deserves.”

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