Anthony Albanese Scott Morrison
(Image: AAP/Lukas Coch)

In the end, it was a predictable defeat for the government. Scott Morrison’s third attempt at introducing a religious discrimination bill was effectively blown up by five Liberal MPs crossing the floor on Wednesday night (this hasn’t happened to a Liberal government in 40 years). For a government seeking re-election, it’s yet another parliamentary loss, another show of disunity, another week of clinging on between damaging leaks and embarrassing headlines. 

For Labor, it’s something of a victory, or at least some vindication of the opposition’s “small target” strategy. Labor knows it has trouble with the devoutly religious, and is sometimes paralysed by caution over potential wedges. Morrison has spent weeks dogwhistling to culturally diverse religious voters in the Sydney suburbs.

The opposition approach during this entire debate was essentially to bat time. For months, they kept their position tightly under wraps until the very final text was delivered. Essentially, Labor tried to walk a tightrope between affirming, in principle, its support for protecting against religious discrimination, while demanding more protection for the LGBTQIA+ community.