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Malcolm Turnbull Has His Report On Religious Freedom But Won't Make It Public Yet

Prime minister Malcolm Turnbull says the government needs to carefully consider the recommendations before it is made public.

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Philip Ruddock and Malcolm Turnbull in 2016
Lukas Coch / AAP

Philip Ruddock and Malcolm Turnbull in 2016

The long-awaited report on the status of freedom of religion in Australia has been handed to the government today, and will reportedly demand more exemptions in anti-discrimination law for religious groups, but we won't get to see it for at least a few weeks.

The government's review into religious freedom was established late last year to placate conservatives worried about the impact of same-sex marriage when the parliament was debating the legislation last year.

The panel, chaired by the former Liberal minister and now mayor of Hornsby, Philip Ruddock, convened in January and has accepted over 16,500 submissions and held over a dozen hearings in private.

Ruddock is due to hand back his report to the government today, but the Courier-Mail reported on Friday it could be weeks before the report is released to the public.

The newspaper also reported the panel will recommend "strengthening federal anti-discrimination laws" that do not protect religion as a trait similar to race, age, disability or sexuality. The paper reported there will be no additional changes recommended to the Marriage Act to allow organisations or individuals to abstain or refuse service for same-sex couples in light of the passage of same-sex marriage into law last year.

Greens senator Nick McKim has demanded the report be released immediately.

"The report needs to be released in its entirety and publicly, so the Australian people and in particular LGBTIQ Australians can understand the scale of the threat that they are facing," he told BuzzFeed News.

LGBTI advocacy group just.equal also called for the release of the report.

Spokesperson Rodney Croome said in a statement that the review will have a "possibly damaging impact" on LGBTI Australians and should be released.

"The devil will be in the detail and we deserve to see that detail straight away," he said.

McKim slammed the whole review as "secretive", "ad hoc" and just designed to make it easier to discriminate against LGBTI people "under the guise of religious freedom".

"The whole review was a bone that [prime minister] Malcolm Turnbull threw to the fundamentalists in his own party, and it has been a stitch up from day one."

In a statement released on Friday, Turnbull said he would consider the report, but didn't say when it would be released.

"I look forward to considering the report in detail and will consult with members of the government before releasing it to the public and responding to its findings," he said.

Attorney-general Christian Porter will lead the government's review of the report and the government's response to the report, Turnbull said.

BuzzFeed News asked the prime minister's office when the report would be released but did not hear back.

Religious groups are looking to keep the power to expel students and fire teachers who don't fit in the "religious character" of the school, BuzzFeed News reported this week.

The Australian Christian Lobby has also called for the ability for religious people to seek "redress" for having their religious freedom impinged upon, and changes to the Marriage Act to roll back anti-discrimination protections.

A YouGov survey commissioned by just.equal of 1015 voters found that 82 per cent of Australians don't support students being expelled for being LGBTI, and 79 per cent don't support teachers being sacked for being LGBTI.

A total of 69 per cent of Australians say that anti-discrimination laws should not be changed to allow people with religious views to refuse service to same-sex couples.

Josh Taylor is a Senior Reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Sydney.

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