MALCOLM Turnbull has moved to clear another hurdle in the way of gay marriage being legal by Christmas by launching a separate review of religious freedoms in Australia.
The Prime Minister announced this morning he had ordered a review into "whether Australian law adequately protects the human right to religious freedom" which will not report back to the government until March 31, 2018.
It heads off calls from conservative MPs within the Coalition for a raft of amendments to the bill on same-sex marriage which had threatened to delay the legislation passing this year.
Mr Turnbull made it clear this morning the review was to appease those calling for amendments, while allowing time to consider any "unintended consequences".
"The impending legalisation of same-sex marriage has seen a variety of proposals for legislative reform to protect freedom of religion," he said in a statement.
"Many of these proposals go beyond the immediate issue of marriage.
"Any reforms to protect religious freedom at large should be undertaken carefully.
"There is a high risk of unintended consequences when Parliament attempts to legislate protections for basic rights and freedoms, such as freedom of religion.
"The Government is particularly concerned to prevent uncertainties caused by generally worded Bill of Rights-style declarations.
"This will be a timely expert stocktake to inform consideration of any necessary legislative reforms."
Treasurer Scott Morrison, a leading conservative within the Liberal Party, has already welcomed the major review of religious freedoms.
The Turnbull Government has appointed retired Liberal MP and former immigration minister Philip Ruddock to conduct the review.
"The Hon. Philip Ruddock is the right person to conduct this review," Mr Turnbull said.
"Mr Ruddock has most recently served as Australia's Special Envoy for Human Rights.
"In his many years in public life he has maintained a steadfast commitment to cultural and religious diversity in this country."
An expert panel including the recently appointed President of the Australian Human Rights Commission, Rosalind Croucher, Annabelle Bennett AO SC and Frank Brennan SJ AO will also conduct the review.
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