Keep religious freedom law simple: senator

Attorney-General Christian Porter says his beliefs don't affect his ability to draft religious laws.
Attorney-General Christian Porter says his beliefs don't affect his ability to draft religious laws.

The Morrison government shouldn't create "reams and reams" of law to protect people of faith from discrimination, a veteran Liberal strategist says.

Senator Arthur Sinodinos says the coalition's goal is to have a "basic" law to ensure people can be free of discrimination on religious grounds.

He says the government shouldn't try to address "every possible nuance and situation".

"We don't need reams of reams of law ... we just don't want to drown the place in black letter law in this sort of thing," Senator Sinodinos told ABC News on Wednesday.

The Labor opposition broadly backs the push to outlaw religious discrimination, with Attorney-General Christian Porter currently working on draft laws.

Mr Porter is consulting with coalition colleagues before speaking with religious leaders and the public.

But the legislation is causing tension within the coalition party room, with some conservative MPs threatening to vote against the bill if it doesn't go far enough.

Mr Porter has now dismissed a reported claim by one unnamed MP that he didn't believe in God and therefore didn't have a full understanding of the issue.

"I'm not particularly religious but that doesn't mean I don't believe in God, which probably makes me like a lot of Australians," Mr Porter told The West Australian.

"In any event, as a minister, my personal beliefs make no difference to the commitment to the task of drafting legislation."

He said he would consult widely with his colleagues and other stakeholders to ensure the bill achieved the "right" outcomes for Australia before it goes to parliament later in the year.

"That is my sole focus in developing this important legislation," Mr Porter said.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has backed Mr Porter, saying personal religion and the laws are separate issues.

"Everybody is entitled to have faith in God if that's what they believe or otherwise, and it shouldn't be held against them," he told reporters in Melbourne.

"But that is very different to the motivations behind this particular piece of legislation which the attorney-general is working on."

Feeding into the religious freedom debate is the sacking of ex-Wallaby Israel Folau, who was dumped by Rugby Australia for an online post that was deemed homophobic.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison addressed the issue when he opened the Hillsong Church conference in Sydney on Tuesday night.

Responding to a question from Hillsong founder and senior pastor Brian Houston, Mr Morrison said he was passionate about religious freedom.

"Of course we will do what we need to do from a legislative point of view," the prime minister said, according to Eternity News.

"But what all that boils down to is the culture in this country.

"It's not the laws that make freedom of religion work, it's the culture that accepts it.

"So I speak about my faith ... because I want everyone in this place to feel comfortable talking about faith in this country. It's not a political agenda, it's who we are."

The draft laws are likely to come under scrutiny from a parliamentary committee, making it unlikely religious freedom protections will pass parliament until at least late this year.

Australian Associated Press