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Labor calls for ‘grassroots mobilisation’ of religious Australians to tackle climate crisis

·4 min read
<span>Photograph: Bianca de Marchi/AAP</span>
Photograph: Bianca de Marchi/AAP

Care for creation unites every person in this room, Anthony Albanese tells faith summit

Anthony Albanese has called for the “grassroots mobilisation” of people of faith to tackle the climate crisis, appealing to a common “care for creation” across all religious groups.

Speaking to the Labor faith leaders’ climate summit at the University of Western Sydney on Thursday, the ALP leader urged support for the party’s “sensible” climate policy, arguing the need to “look after this precious Earth for our sake and the sake of our future generations”.

“We need to make action on climate change happen,” Albanese said. “And part of what today is about is getting that grassroots mobilisation from people of faith who understand the connection of the creation.”

Related: Anthony Albanese commits Labor to emissions reduction target of 43% by 2030

Highlighting Labor’s climate policy announced last week, which set an emissions reduction target of 43% by 2030 and a renewables target in the electricity market of 82%, Albanese said the plan to look after the planet “happens to be good economics as well”.

“It’s an example of using government as a unifying force for good, and at its heart is the element contained within the teachings of so many faiths – that the environment cannot be separated from those who live in it, and that we have a responsibility to it,” he said.

He pointed to tenets of environmentalism across the faiths, highlighting the “eco-friendly” prophet Muhammad for “recycling, planting trees and caring for the land”, the Hindu tradition where humanity is not separate to nature, and a sense of “stewardship” in Judaism’s creation stor.

Albanese also quoted Pope Francis’s encyclical on ecology, Laudato Si, which warned of an “unprecedented destruction of ecosystems” and “serious consequences for all of us” if humanity failed to act on the climate emergency.

“He speaks of the natural environment as a collective good, and he goes on to say a sense of deep communion with the rest of nature cannot be real if our hearts lack tenderness, compassion and concern for our fellow human beings,” Albanese said.

“In the broad spectrum of faith there are so many lessons leading to a compelling truth – care for creation and thinking first about the most vulnerable in society are teachings and beliefs that unite every person in this room.”

The faith summit comes as Labor seeks to shore up support among religious Australians before next year’s election amid debate within the two major about the religious discrimination bill introduced to parliament in 2021’s final sitting fortnight.

Labor is yet to decide its final position on the bill but Albanese has indicated he is unlikely to support any provisions that could result in greater discrimination against other minority groups.

Two parliamentary inquiries looking into the bill will run over summer and report back by 4 February.

On Monday Labor’s deputy Senate leader, Kristina Keneally, told the Christian lobby group FamilyVoice that she believed religious schools should be free to require all staff to “live out and profess” school values.

“What I know from my life and my experiences … it’s an ecosystem, it’s a community of faith and values,” she said, citing her experience as a former Catholic school teacher.

“Whether it’s the sports coach that leads prayers before you go out on the basketball court, whether it’s the homeroom or classroom teacher who has to take children through the liturgy, whether it’s staying after school to help supervise sacramental preparation.”

Keneally’s comments suggest she supports schools having a broader scope for discriminatory hiring practices, despite concerns from LGBTQ advocates that such provisions would override state laws with more limited religious exemptions to discrimination law.

Under the proposed legislation, schools would be able to discriminate on the grounds of religion in their hiring practices, provided they published a public policy explaining their ethos.

This goes beyond the laws passed in Victoria which limit the discrimination of hiring practices to positions where “religious belief is an inherent requirement of the job”.

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