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Media release: Penalty rates and freedom of religion

Concerns about a push to abolish penalty rates will be discussed at the Melbourne Anglican synod, which begins on 14 October.

Abolishing penalty rates might cause freedom of religion problems and damage both families and faith communities, according to Dr Gordon Preece, chairman of the Social Responsibilities Commission of the Anglican Church in Melbourne.

Concerns about a push to abolish Sunday penalty rates, ignoring the wide community preference for Sunday as a shared day of rest, will be discussed at the Melbourne Anglican synod.

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October 13 2015Abolishing penalty rates might cause freedom of religion problems and damage both families and faith communities, according to Dr Gordon Preece, chair of the Social Responsibilities Committee of the Anglican Church in Melbourne.

Dr Preece says large employer groups are lobbying governments to cut Sunday penalty rates, ignoring the wide community preference for Sunday as a shared day of rest, a shared day of worship for many, and the importance of compensation for those deprived of it, often the poorer members of society.

His concern will be discussed by the annual synod, or parliament, of the Anglican Church in Melbourne at St Paul’s Cathedral this week, involving several hundred clergy and laypeople.

“It’s not just that Sunday is a day of worship, but the Church should stand with those, religious or not, in protecting special shared days of rest,” Dr Preece says.

For Christians, Muslims and Jews, weekly worship is a required religious duty, but preserving penalty rates protects the whole community.

“Resting on the seventh day is built into creation. Human history shows people need that time of rest – it is built into their rhythms.  When the French Revolution tried to give a day of rest every 10 days instead of seven it proved unworkable and they had to abandon it.”

The motion on penalty rates is one of many discussions at the synod on social justice, including refugee policy, euthanasia, family violence and gambling.

On refugees, Dr Preece commends the government for reducing the loss of asylum seekers’ lives at sea and for nearly doubling the intake, and calls for bipartisan support for accepting 27,000 refugees by 2017, as recommended by the Federal Government’s expert panel in 2012.

His motion to the synod deplores ongoing revelations of abuse of refugees on Nauru and Manus islands, and the legislation penalising whistle-blowers who do their professional duty by pointing out such cases.

Melbourne Archbishop Philip Freier says the synod gives Anglicans the chance to raise matters of public interest where they think the Church’s view should be noted.