Religious freedom could soon shape into a federal election issue after Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced plans to establish a Religious Discrimination Act.
But a protracted effort to end discrimination against gay students in faith-based schools may not be resolved until later next year.
Mr Morrison believes Australia needs a dedicated new law that makes religious discrimination illegal.
"For those who think that Australians of religious faith don't feel that the walls have been closing in on them for a while, they're clearly not talking to many people in religious communities," he said in Sydney on Thursday.
The proposed legislation is the focal point of former Liberal minister Philip Ruddock's long-awaited review into religious freedom, which the prime minister has released.
Mr Morrison has also promised to appoint a religious freedom commissioner to handle religious discrimination complaints, even though this idea was not recommended by the Ruddock review.
He wants the new laws in place before the next election.
But with so few sitting weeks left before a potential election in May, the time frame is ambitious and could spill over into the campaign.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said he was open to a Religious Discrimination Act but questioned whether there would be enough time to debate the idea before the election.
Mr Shorten warned against religion being weaponised for "partisan advantage" or treated as a political football.
He said protection of religious freedom was Labor Party policy but added he "could not say to you that religion is in the top 100 issues that get raised with me".
The prime minister wants to refer legislation preventing religious schools from discriminating against students on the basis of sexuality to the Australian Law Reform Commission.
Mr Morrison said he expects the ALRC review to be completed in the second half of next year, after the next election.
Australian Associated Press