Published: 14 November 2016



Establishment of Select Committee - Inquire and Report - 

Anti-Discrimination Amendment Bill 2016 (No. 54)


[11.37 a.m.]    Ms FORREST (Murchison) - Mr President, I move -

That a select committee be appointed, with the power to send for persons and papers, with leave to sit during any adjournment of the Council, and with leave to adjourn from place to place to inquire into and report upon the Anti-Discrimination Amendment Bill 2016 (No. 54).

And that Mr Dean; Mr Finch; Mr Gaffney; and the mover be of the committee.

Mr President, why do I think there is a need for a more detailed look at this bill?  There are a number of reasons.  I will comment on each of them and refer to other people's comments.  These key areas include:  the low level of community support; the very limited time for consultation on the draft bill; genuine concern regarding possible consequences of the bill; and concern by some that the bill does not go far enough and will not result in change that some in the community believe is necessary.  There has not been broad support for this change and there has been a lack of time for input into consultation on the draft bill.

I refer to comments made by the Leader in an interview on ABC Radio a little while ago.  The Leader was being interviewed by Leon Compton.  He was asking about comments made by the Archbishop and others regarding this.  She said -

kay, Leon, so what we are actually proposing is amendment to both section 55, which is the defence in relation to section 17(1) and 19, and also section 64, which is around rejection of complaints.  We are proposing to add the word 'religious' to section 55 so that would provide there would be an exemption where a public act is done in good faith for academic, artistic, scientific, religious or research purposes, or any purpose in the public interest.

We are just adding the word 'religious' in there and we are also adding in 'a public act done reasonably in good faith'.  There is another rider there that we are proposing to add and that is consistent with the Commonwealth, New South Wales and Victorian in terms of the use of that rider 'reasonably'.  New South Wales and Victoria also made reference to 'religious'.

She goes on to discuss it a bit further.  She was saying this was a necessary change.  She went on to say -

Section 55 currently applies to section 19.  All we are proposing to do is add the word 'religious' and as I said, we were adding the rider 'reasonably' as well.

Leon Compton went on to say, 'But Julian Porteous is effectively saying he does not want that power.'  The Leader said -

With respect to Archbishop Porteous, he has not actually seen the amendments yet and I would previously have liked to have had the opportunity to explain them to him when the bill is ready.  He, like every other Tasmanian, including the Anti-Discrimination Commissioner, Robin Banks, will have the opportunity to provide feedback on these proposals, but we are in no way giving the green light to hate speech.  I certainly commend the Archbishop for indicating he does not want to engage in hate speech.  I would expect nothing less.

Leon Compton went on to say, 'This is Robin Banks, the Anti-Discrimination Commissioner, also talking with us last week on Mornings'.  This interview was taken on 23 August this year.  He then played the audio of his, and Robin Banks', comments -

I heard the interview you had this morning with the Archbishop and if he is aware of something beyond what the media release says, I am certainly not.  

Have you spoken with the Government yet about this issue?

I haven't yet.  I haven't yet seen any draft legislation.

Leon said -

Minister Goodwin, why is it you haven't spoken as a Government with the woman you set up to advise you on issues around the Anti-Discrimination Act?  You are talking about changing her act.

The Leader went on to say -

Yes, as I indicated, Leon, all Tasmanians, including Robin Banks, Archbishop Porteous and others, will have the opportunity to consider this legislation and provide feedback.

She then went on to talk about this being a policy decision of Government.  We understand that governments make policy decisions and bring in legislation to give effect to those.  The concern was that there had not been a lot of time for that input.  Many other stakeholders also felt they were not given adequate time to have input into this legislation.

I imagine all members would have received this from TasCOSS, under the signature of Kym Goodes their chief executive, which she wrote on 21 September this year -

I write to you to express our concern at the lack of consultation, inappropriate time lines and processes relating to the Anti-Discrimination Amendment Bill 2016, tabled in Parliament yesterday.

TasCOSS was invited to comment on the draft Bill within the time line that we considered to be grossly inadequate.  The letter inviting comment dated 25 August 2016 was mailed through Australia Post.  It was received by TasCOSS on Friday 2 September.  We clear our post office box twice a week.  The previous day of clearance was on Tuesday 30 August and the letter had not been received on that day.  

While the letter inviting comment was dated 25 August, it is our assumption that with the less frequent Australia Post service, it took four to five working days to get to us.  The closing date for submissions was Friday 9 September.  This allowed a one week time line for consultation, analysis and feedback.

TasCOSS, a key stakeholder, clearly did not have time to put their case.  They went on in a subsequent letter on 11 October, to say -

TasCOSS has used the opportunity provided by the adjournment of the debate on the proposed amendment to the Anti-Discrimination Act to survey our members about the proposed changes.  The survey was distributed via our e-news and boosted through social media.

She is referring to the adjournment of the debate in the House of Assembly.  She went on to say -

The vast majority of responses, 94 per cent, argued strongly against the proposed changes.  This is an overwhelmingly strong position from our membership and our submission therefore reflects that position.  

Overwhelmingly, the response from our members was that they felt that the Act as it exists already provides the balance between providing protection while allowing debate and that it did not need to be changed.  

In fact, it was notable that our members' responses spoke highly of the Act in its current form describing it as 'a landmark piece of legislation' which enshrined in legislation an understanding that our community is diverse.  

Many also spoke of the significant power the Act as an educative tool.  'The Act exists to provide protection against hateful or discriminating language.  It also serves as an education tool.  One cannot use language that will cause offence to a person.  It is about learning to speak with respect.'

She closed the letter saying -

TasCOSS members are also very critical of the poor community consultation on the Amendment Bill and the lack of time given to discuss and respond to the proposed changes.

They took the time available when there was a bit of a pause in proceedings, but their feedback was pretty clear.  The Australian Lawyers for Human Rights also note the time frame.  The Australian Lawyers for Human Rights wrote on 23 September this year -

ALHR notes that the Government's call for public submissions on the Bill was made on Friday, 26 August 2016.  Submissions closed on 9 September 2016, leaving just 10 business days for individuals and organisations to provide feedback.  

Given that the proposed amendments have the capacity to significantly change the effect of the Act, and therefore have a profound impact upon a wide array of minority groups within the community, ALHR is disappointed that the Tasmanian Government has limited the time frame for informed and reasoned debate about legislation that protects fundamental human rights.

I would like to quote from is an email from Anna Reynolds on behalf of the Multicultural Council of Tasmania, of which she is the chief executive officer.  In an email dated 26 October 2016, she wrote -

The Multicultural Council is concerned about a number of things.  We have only recently been able to get basic information about the proposed changes.  We have not been provided with a briefing on, or any written material about, the changes from the government.  This means we have not been able to inform or consult with our 55 member organisations, cultural community organisations who we expect would have a strong interest in the changes to this law.

They are representing 55 community organisations, not 55 individuals - 55 community organisations.  The Law Society also, in a letter dated 15 September 2016 addressed to Mrs Catherine Vickers, Director, Department of Justice, stated at the outset -

I refer to your letter of 25 August 2016 received by the Society on 29 August and asking for submissions by 9 September 2016.  Legislative change of the kind suggested deserves being given appropriate time for consultation.  11 days is not appropriate.

They raise that concern about the time frame as well.  That is addressing the time frame and the lack of opportunity for many of the key stakeholders to have input.  Submissions also made to the Government have not been made publicly available, though some have been made available by people who put them in.  A number of them have been sent to members, but some have not been made available to the broader public or members of this House, as far as I am aware.

Furthermore, there has been some change made to the draft bill following this very brief period of consultation, and some matters have been raised by these organisations.  Some are in contradiction to the proposals put forward.  If we are to do our job adequately, we need to hear from key stakeholders, particularly those engaged in the initial consultation process, as well as others who may not have had the time or opportunity to put a submission during the consultation on the draft bill.

I am including those who say this bill does not go far enough, or they believe it does not do what the Government are suggesting it will, in terms of allowing that freedom of speech.  There does not appear to be any time sensitivity around the plebiscite.  Mind you, one can never tell for sure, but it seems that time pressure is gone.  I have mentioned what the Leader said when she was interviewed by Leon Compton on 23 August.  She referred to the plebiscite.  She said, when Leon Compton asked her, 'You are arguing that they are exempt from inciting hatred.  That is the title of section 19 that they would get the exemption from,' and the Leader commented -

But Leon, the whole point of this is that it has to be done reasonably, in good faith, and in good faith for one of those reasons.  That puts a strong check on what people can say.  We are not at all giving the green light to hate speech.  What we want to do is to get the right balance, to encourage respectful debate, but give churches the opportunity to express their views respectfully in the lead-up to the same-sex marriage plebiscite.

She clearly identified that as the key driver at the time and the need for some haste around getting the bill through.

A number of genuine concerns have also been raised about the impacts of the draft bill.  If we are to do our job properly we need to fully understand these because they are genuine concerns raised by people with a direct interest.  I will refer to some comments by the Anti-Discrimination Commissioner when she was interviewed on ABC Radio by Leon Compton on 26 August this year.  I will do it in context and I will read the question Leon Compton put to her:

How does it do that?  I mean, already there are significant protections for people expressing a point of view and involved in debate like happens on this radio program.  If you are operating obviously under the protection of Parliament, how does this extension to religious groups increase that probability [of the use of hate speech]? 

Ms Banks said -

Because it not only applies a defence that gives only religious groups a protection in relation to incitement to hatred, but it goes further and expressly adds a rejection provision that seems to mandate that I have to do something, which is to reject the complaint if that defence may apply.  I notice the Attorney-General talks about it giving me more powers.  In fact, it seems to mandate that I act in a judicial or a quasi-judicial way, which is not my role. So it does, I think, give a green light in a way that I had never anticipated would happen.  It only protects religious groups because of the definition of religious purpose.  So it would not allow an atheist, for example, to critique a religious position in a way that incited hatred and it would allow a religious person, a person for religious purposes, to do the same.

I am aware that this week there has been media about a rabbi who likened homosexuality to incest and beastiality.  That would appear to be a form of potentially inciting hatred against people who are homosexual and that would be completely justified under these changes.  It would add protection. 

Whether that is right or not, is a matter that needs to be tested and a committee process could do that.

The Hobart Women's Health Centre also raised concerns in a letter dated 22 September 2016 where they said:

The proposed changes are broadening the scope of protection for those who would offend or incite hatred, rather than reducing it.  This statement is not suggesting that religious people are more likely to incite hatred.  The new category of 'religious purposes' however is problematic.  Most religions reflect the values of respect, love and peace and their adherents base their life on these values.  However, as we know, there are those in the world at present with a distorted view of religion which is not accepting of those values and their narrow interpretations are harmful to a just society.

It is therefore not impossible under the new proposal, their views would be counter to women's equity.

Have the parliamentarians considered the risk of enabling those with extreme views to behave for public purposes in a way which will incite hatred?

Have the parliamentarians considered the risk of allowing one religion to offend or incite hatred for those practising another religion?

We are a secular organisation but of course many of the women we serve have strong religious affiliations commitments.  We already know that some women receive abuse for their faith because their clothes are seen as symbolic of particular religious views and practices. 

They were raising a separate area of concern that needs to be taken under consideration.  I refer back to the TasCOSS letter dated 21 September where they raised concerns about the potential impacts and Kym Goodes has written -

TasCOSS considers this Bill in particular has potentially wide-ranging implications for many Tasmanians and therefore requires a comprehensive consultation process that allows time for people to have considered input.  Rushing the tabling of these amendments results in people losing confidence in the integrity of representative democracy and is not in line with the principles of good governance. 

This Bill affects the balance between freedom of expression and freedom from vilification and prejudice.  Tasmanians value these fundamental human rights.  The potential for unintended consequences, and the impact on individuals from these amendments, has not been adequately explored and the lack of input from a range of interest groups raises a high level of concern about the process.  In the Tasmanian community sector, for example, there are strong and complex views on all sides of the discussion, and these deserve to be heard.  

While much of the focus of public discourse has related to the potential marriage equality plebiscite, TasCOSS is concerned the proposed amendments could impact on many marginalised, vulnerable Tasmanians.  This includes people living with disability, Aboriginal Tasmanians, culturally and linguistically diverse individuals, just as a few examples.  These groups have not been adequately consulted prior to drafting and tabling the bill.  

In her email to members, Anna Reynolds raised the similar point, in her email dated 26 October 2016 - 

Our primary concern is that these proposed changes send a message to the broader community that people are able to say hateful things if they can claim they are acting because of religion.  This is a very damaging message to send and is particularly problematic at a time of a heightened level of anxiety among some communities in Australia.  

Unfortunately, racism and discrimination does still exist in Tasmania and many migrants and international students are on the receiving end of verbal attacks and unequal treatment.  Our members have a strong interest in the proposed changes to this law and only a full inquiry by the Legislative Council will allow us to research, consult and then properly inform decision-makers about potential impact of these changes.

The Australian Lawyers for Human Rights made a comment in their letter, I do not have the date, I apologise.  It came at the same time as the other one, the 23 September 2016.  They said -

The bill, if passed, will substantially diminish the protections offered by the Act to people in minority groups and will not 'achieve an appropriate balance between providing protection from discrimination and unlawful conduct, whilst allowing for general public debate and discussion on important issues'.  The Bill will not protect vulnerable Australians from discriminatory behaviour.

They go on to some degree on that point, which is a matter for another time.  Another point they raised was in regard to unintended consequences under the topic of free speech, and they said -

The bill has been promoted on the basis of the supposed desirability of allowing free speech.  The Premier has been quoted as saying, 'We want the greatest quality and standard of free speech in Australia.'  This is not a proposition shared by international law.  As earlier stated, the right to freedom of expression carries with it a duty to respect rights and reputations of others.  It is not possible to have real freedom without equality and human dignity.  

Free speech is not supreme, it is not a superior right to any other human right.  Australia's Race Discrimination Commissioner put it well when saying, 'The marketplace of ideas can be distorted.  It is not an arena of perfect competition, as economists might put it.  We cannot realistically expect that the speech of the strong can be countered by the speech of the weak.

ALHR submits that the Bill does not achieve this balance.  It denies the weak from effective redress against speech that incites hatred and violence against them.  It places the onus on the victim, the person who has been the subject of offensive and humiliating commentary, to establish that the comments have no factual basis and are not for a good faith purpose before a complaint can be accepted.  

It does not give effect to the social compact, enshrined in international law, that places a duty on all people to freely express their opinion while respecting the rights and reputations of others.  This is not an unfair or onerous duty, it is one that all minority and majority groups ask of each other and a principle of international law that ought to be respected.

We also, as a House, need to fully understand those international law obligations.  There is also a letter I think all members would have received from Mr Frank Davies.  I do not know this man, but he wrote an interesting letter to us, dated the 21 September 2016.  Under a heading, 'Why exemptions for religious organisations?' -


Protection already exists in the Australian Constitution and the Tasmanian Constitution for religious organisations to practice their religion.  Being permitted to commit conduct or public acts that offend, humiliate, intimidate, insult or ridicule, or incite hatred or serious contempt of an individual or group, is not practising religion.  It is about intentionally hurting people.  The Amendment Bill will provide the protection for this to happen.  Surely this was not the intention of the legislators of our Constitutions.

That gentleman made an interesting point.

The other interesting point is that the Australian Christian Lobby and the Human Rights Law Alliance wrote a joint submission that recommended changes to the current act.  However, their suggested change was not contained in the bill when it was tabled, and that is now on our Table.  It is reasonable that the Australian Christian Lobby should also put their case and views forward, as it seems some proposed changes are at odds with their view.  I will just read a small section of the letter they sent, dated 9 September 2016, to the Department of Justice.  I assume this was done as part of the consultation period.  They have a lot of information in that submission, but the conclusion stated -

Recent events in Tasmania have precipitated this review of the anti-discrimination law.  Those events highlight inadequacies in the law that need to be addressed.  Those inadequacies will not be addressed in any significant way by the proposed reform.  They are the fruit of a more significant problem with the drafting and implementation of Tasmania's anti-discrimination law which must be considered as part of any reform.  The Australian Christian Lobby urges, as a minimum, the repeal of section 17(1) and the insertion of a general limitations clause.

Their view is this is not the right way to do it.  They deserve the right to put their case to us.

Members would have received a letter from Mr Eric Lockett on behalf of the Baptist Churches of Tasmania.  He is the Public Questions Officer at the Baptist Churches of Tasmania.  His letter is dated October 2016, a day is not given, and he says -

While we applaud the Government's recognition that changes are needed and have no objections to those proposed in the Anti-Discrimination Bill 2016, we do not think they go nearly far enough.

Then he goes on to set out his reasons, which is a matter for another time.  He concludes his letter with -

We urge Legislative Councillors to give this matter much deeper consideration.  If the Legislative Council should choose to initiate an inquiry into the changes needed, I would be happy to present more detailed evidence to that committee.

That is another group who feel the bill is not right as it is.

There are some in Government who have suggested - and perhaps in other places too - the Government has suggested some of these people are supportive of the proposed change.  Some of these claims have been publicly denied.  I refer to comments made by Archbishop Porteous when interviewed by Leon Compton on ABC Radio on 19 August 2016.  Leon Compton asked -

I understand that, Archbishop, but the flip side of that is that this is an issue that where it is important that these protections exist, and while it may be difficult for you in preparing those cases, nonetheless there should be checks and balances under which the Government's proposal, it would seem, would be removed altogether in the case of religious groups.

The Archbishop went on to say -

No, that is not the case.  In section 19 of the Act this is not going to be altered at all, and I fully support this.  This should not be changed.  It says that a person must not incite hatred towards, serious contempt for, and [be] severely critical of a person or a group of persons, and it goes on to mention a sexual situation as one option.

Leon Compton said, 'That is where the Government is proposing exempting you, from section 19.'  The Archbishop replied, 'No, no, no, that stays.'  Leon Compton then said -

No, with respect, Archbishop, not under what the Government are saying they are proposing.  They want to give you an exemption under section 55 for religious purposes that 'would mean section 17 and section 19 do not apply, if you are speaking from religious purposes'.  Why do you want, or does the Government think you want, an exemption from hate speech?

The Archbishop responded -

No, and I would not want to be exempted from hate speech.  Absolutely.  I completely and totally oppose any form of vilification or any form of inciting of hatred, and I would say that we should be answerable to the law if that was in fact the case.

He went on to say -

I really want to emphasise completely that I oppose, I am opposed to the churches or anybody in our society from being exempt from inciting hatred or violence toward another group.  That is totally foreign to my own personal beliefs, to the beliefs of the church.  We do need to have the freedom to be able to present our view in a respectful and reasonable manner so we can engage in a proper debate on those really vital issues that are going to shape the nature of our society into the future.

So we just want to say, give us the freedom to present our view but not in any way to be promoting hatred or bitterness towards a particular group.

I will go on a little further.  As interviews do, they come and go and ebb and flow and toward the end of the interview, the Archbishop said -

Our society needs to be protected against hate speech, against vilification, and against anything that would incite hatred towards any group in our society.  It is a fundamental principle of our society.

The interview is quite extensive and honourable members have access if they wish to read the whole interview.  The Archbishop does not appear to be requesting the change that is being presented.  He may want other change or may want to achieve a different way, but what is before us is not what he was requesting on behalf of his church and the people.

Without seeing some of the other submissions, it is hard to know why this bill has been brought forward and the committee of inquiry would help to establish this.  Many have suggested there is not clear evidence these amendments are needed and genuine concern has been raised the proposed change will open the door for religious-based hate speech against vulnerable individuals and individuals from marginalised groups.

I go back to the Anti-Discrimination Commissioner's comments on ABC, which I did refer to earlier where she talked about 'it is not just about religion, it is about other minority groups as well'.  And the Commissioner for Children and Young People in his submission to the Department of Justice during the consultation period dated 12 September, raised some concerns as well.  Under the heading of 'Changes to the way in which complaints under section 17(1) and 19 are dealt with - amendments to sections 64 and 71', he says -

It is difficult to comment on the proposed amendments for a number reasons, including -

He lists a number of points, but I will go to point (e) where he says -

(e)     Section 55 of the Anti-Discrimination Act already provides that the provisions of section 17(1) and section 19 do not apply if the conduct is a public act done in good faith for any purpose in the public interest.  No explanation has been offered as to why this exception is not sufficient for conduct engaged in for 'religious purposes'.

That is a really important point he raises.

He goes on to say -

I note that the proposed 'reasonably and in good faith for religious purposes exception' will be available in respect of conduct that is offensive, humiliating, insulting or ridiculing of another person on the basis of any of the attributes listed in section 17(1).

Therefore, a possible outcome might be that conduct - such as public comment for 'religious purposes' - which might otherwise be offensive, humiliating, ridiculing or intimidating, can be excused if it can be found to have been engaged in reasonably and in 'good faith' for 'religious purposes'.

As a matter of policy, if this proposed amendment is accepted, public speech, which, for example, affects young (under 18) unmarried mothers or young (under 18) women who are pregnant, children who have a disability, children who are intersex, children of a particular race, or a young woman who cannot breastfeed, would be permissible if found to be carried out inter alia "reasonably and in good faith for religious purposes".

As Commissioner, I cannot support such an outcome.

More fundamentally, given the reliance on human rights to justify the proposed amendments, consideration of the scope of these rights must be part of the debate.

I query the extent to which the amended legislation could be consistent with and respectful of the rights and freedoms contained in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and the CRC.  In other words, is it permissible to engage in public acts which are offensive etc to a child or young person on the basis of the attributes described in section 17(1) if those public acts are done reasonably and in good faith and for 'religious purposes'?


Is it permissible to engage in behaviour otherwise contrary to section 19 of the Anti-Discrimination Act - which deals with the incitement of hatred towards, serious contempt for, or severe ridicule of, a person or a group of persons on specified grounds - if these public acts are done reasonably or in good faith and for 'religious purposes'. 


I am unable to support these potential outcomes due to their likely impact on children and young people.

In conclusion the Commissioner for Children and Young People wrote -

On balance, I am unable to support the proposed amendments - mainly because they privilege public conduct that has the capacity to undermine the right of children and young people to freedom from abuse (Article 19 CRC).

This is particularly so where that conduct - however offensive or humiliating-  is justified on "religious grounds" and is engaged in to influence secular laws, thereby affecting the rights of those who do not adhere to that religious belief.

Furthermore, these proposed amendments do not take appropriate account of the role of parents and guardians in assisting a child's religious and moral education.  Rather, these amendments suggest that religious purpose can override that role.

The proposed amendments fail to acknowledge the special protections children and young people require under human rights instruments.  They also fail to acknowledge the need for limitations on the rights to freedom of religion and freedom of expression where the exercise of these rights may result in the undermining of the fundamental rights and freedoms of others - especially children and young people.

The above comments apply equally if not more forcefully to the amendments proposed in relation to section 19 and vilification on the grounds referred to in that provision of the Anti-Discrimination Act.

I do not understand why it is considered to be acceptable to excuse, on the basis of "religious purposes", conduct which might otherwise amount to the incitement of hatred towards, serious contempt for, or severe ridicule of, a person or group of persons on the ground of:

(a)     the race of the person or any member of the group

(b)     any disability of the person or any member of the group

(c)     the sexual orientation or lawful sexual activity of the person or any member of the group; or

(d)     the religious belief or affiliation or religious activity of the person or any member the group.


Mark Morrissey, the Commissioner for Children and Young People, wrote an extensive submission based on his concerns about the impact on children and young people.  We need to perhaps hear more from him.  With regards to the Law Society, they also made the point in their submission to Catherine Vickers on 15 September 2016 where they said -

The proposed amendments introduce a very widely framed exemption for religious purposes from provisions which promote community harmony and the avoidance of conduct which would lead to a breach of the peace and community division. 

They go on.  I am not going to read the whole submission because it does outline a number of concerns.  They also say in point 8 -

Religious purpose covers a wide range of beliefs of many religions, for example, Anglican, Catholic, Muslim, Jew, Mormon, Hindu, Buddhist, et cetera.  The wide definition of 'religious purpose' does not contain any limitation on the religious activities or conduct.

There are a number of unanswered questions and they do require further scrutiny.  The Anti‑Discrimination Commissioner's lengthy submission made very interesting reading.  I am sure members would have had a chance to look at this.  Many points she made require full consideration and testing.  I want to quote one section from pages 14-15 of this submission to illustrate the point.  She talks about the impact of changes on protections under the act.  She says -

The proposed changes will affect provisions that protect people from being negatively targeted because of their race, age, gender, sexual orientation, disability, religion, pregnancy, marital status and more.  This is a significant change and would potentially permit a person to assert that their actions were based on religious views or doctrines, irrespective of how outdated or inconsistent with a modern pluralist society or community standards those views and doctrines might be.  In 2006, an Australian religious leader was publicly reported as having said, in response to reports of rapes of women in public places -

          If you take out uncovered meat and place it outside on the street, or in the garden or in the park, or in the backyard without a cover, and the cats come and eat it … whose fault is it, the cats or the uncovered meat?  The uncovered meat is the problem.  If she was in her room in her home … no problem would have occurred. 

The religious leader described women as weapons used by Satan to control men.  In 2002, a religious leader made a number of statements about Islam, including, for example -

          Muslims are demons.  People do study for six to seven years, they become true Muslims and we call them terrorists but they are true Muslim.  They have read the Qur'an, they have understood it and now they are practising it.  That is the connection between the Qur'an and terrorism.  Muslims intend to take over Australia and declare it an Islamic nation.  Muslims derive money from drugs, so they make a lot of money and they can spread Islam and fulfill their desire.


In 2016, another religious leader was the subject of an article in The Australian -

          A patron of the Australian Family Association has compared homosexuality to incest and beastiality ...  

          Given the breadth of what is encompassed by 'religion', there are similarly diverse and, at time, extremely negative and hurtful views expressed as religious views about, for example, disability, minority races, single parents and members of other religions.  The expression of all of these views would potentially be afforded protection under the proposed amendments.  Whether or not they are could be subject to extensive litigation, as has been the case in other jurisdictions, and individual complainants, the majority of whom are unrepresented, would be unlikely to be able to pursue such litigation

It shows it is not just about the concerns of people of a Christian faith to have the right to say what they believe they need to say in a same-sex marriage plebiscite; it is much broader to give protection to this kind of behaviour, and that is a real concern if it would be the outcome.

The Anti-Discrimination Commissioner, in another point on page 24 of her submission, talks about giving religious views a privileged status -

To privilege or give special status to acts done for a religious purposes in this way can be argued to represent a fundamental curtailing of the reach of the Act in ways not envisioned by its original drafters.  It potentially goes well beyond the public interest element of the test and beyond what is necessary to protect freedom of religion and freedom of expression.  

The Government does not propose to similarly privilege the key form of speech that is central to effective democracy:  political speech.  

She further discusses that matter.

There is a genuine concern by people in the community who have contacted me about this, that this proposed change could be used by religions other than Christians to incite hatred to all Christian people for their beliefs and make statements that are offensive, humiliating, intimidating, insulting or ridiculing under the cover of a different religion.  It is not a one-way street here.  It potentially could go both ways.

The Anti-Discrimination Commissioner also raised a number of other concerns with the proposed amendments to sections 61, 74 and 99, as outlined in her submission and they also warrant closer scrutiny.  

I believe a committee of inquiry is essential to ensure this is done adequately, to assist us to ensure all these areas are fully understood.  When I have been asked why a select committee as opposed to referring this to Government Administration Committee B, I approached a number of members of Committee B and most of them indicated they did not have a problem with an inquiry but that they had many other committee commitments at the moment.  The Chair of the committee is on just about every committee going at the moment, and a number of other members also have other commitments.  Whilst I understand you can substitute members in, if you end up substituting a number of members in you have a completely different committee and it still has to go back to the whole committee.  It seemed preferable to move for a select committee in view of that and to keep it small.  

I deliberately asked non-party members because the parties have already come out with their positions and made them clear in another place.  I am not going to reflect on the comments made in previous debates, but in a recent adjournment speech one member has criticised the nature of a captain's call.  That is how select committees work and I would have liked to be on another committee that I was not asked to be on a while ago.

The reality is, all members who have an interest in this committee process, should this motion be successful, can attend hearings.  They can put submissions in if they want to.  They will be able to have access to all the publicly released documents to inform their decision-making.  A committee report would assist the Council's deliberations on the bill.

I encourage members to support this motion.  I am not sure how we can adequately scrutinise this bill, with all those concerns I have touched on, raised by people who have a direct interest in this bill and the implications of it, without understanding those concerns more fully.  More particularly, it is to give everyone the chance, from those who believe it is not necessary at all, right through to those who believe it needs to go much further, to have their say and for a committee to report on those findings.  Whether or not recommendations are made, that is a matter for the committee at the time, but certainly to guide the debate at a further time on this particular bill.


I look forward to members' contributions and hope they support the motion.









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