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Anti-Discrimination Amendment Bill

Parliamentary Activity - Wednesday, 12 October 2016, Cassy O'Connor MP


Ms O'CONNOR question to PREMIER, Mr HODGMAN

First the Australian Greens and now federal Labor have vowed to block the plebiscite legislation being debated in federal parliament today because of the risk of harm to LGBTI people. The plebiscite is dead and very few, apart from some of your right wing colleagues at a national level, are grieving. The foundation for your ill-considered, potentially dangerous changes to the state's Anti-Discrimination Act was the plebiscite. Now that the plebiscite is not proceeding can you explain to LGBTI Tasmanians and those who love and support them why you remain so apparently determined to bring in changes that have been condemned by every key stakeholder, except the Australian Christian Lobby, and will expose LGBTI Tasmanians to potential vilification and hate speech. Why will you not ditch the nasty unnecessary bill?

Madam SPEAKER - Before I call on the Premier, members know that this is part way through the debate. Therefore it is definitely an order of the day and this is a question relating specifically to the bill. If the Premier would like to confine his comments to something other than the bill - I note the plebiscite was mentioned; he can confine it to that. If he cannot, then I will have to call on the next question. This matter is definitely an order of the day and the question could be asked during that debate.

Ms O'CONNOR - Point of order, Madam Speaker. I asked this question on behalf of LGBTI Tasmanians who want to know today what the future of that legislation will be.

Opposition members interjecting.

Madam SPEAKER - Order. I should be the only one speaking. I should not have to stand to get the attention of the House. I do not need the commentary. However well-intentioned a question - I say this to the member for Denison - and no matter on whose behalf it is, we are part way through a debate; it is an order of the day and I cannot set aside Standing Orders. The honourable Premier to reply, if he wishes.

 

ANSWER

Thank you, Madam Speaker. I will talk again in appropriately broad terms with respect to what we are seeking to achieve so as to not contravene your ruling but make it very clear to members opposite and members of the community that the proposed amendments we have brought forward do not relate exclusively to the issue of the same-sex marriage debate or indeed the plebiscite.

Yes, I have said in the past that it comes in the context of the national debate. I have always said I hope and expect that it will be respectful, that it will not breach not only the laws which are in place to prevent the sorts of things that the member for Denison talks about but to also allow people a right to express their views freely without fear. It does not, as we have said repeatedly in the debate on this bill, allow for people to in an unfettered way exercise hate speech.

What we are talking about here, and what we have proposed are not about same-sex marriage, nor the plebiscite. They could be about any matter. It happens that it is in the context -

Madam SPEAKER - Order. The Premier is referring to the bill now. This is a matter that can be debated throughout the order of the day when it is called back on. If the Premier cannot confine himself to the topics generally or to the plebiscite, then I would urge you to cease the answer.

Mr HODGMAN - I am endeavouring to refute the claim that these proposed amendments that we have brought to the Parliament were about the plebiscite. They are not. They are about free speech. We have a very clear position that allows people in our community who have not been afforded the same opportunity to express themselves as freely as people, such as academics, artists, scientists and researchers, who have a provision under the current laws. We also believe it appropriate that those who have a religious context or perspective be able to more freely express their views.

It goes to the same point that I made in my last answer. It is very selective when it comes to the Greens. The suit themselves when they want to defend people and their right to process, even if it offends or insults or intimidates somebody else. They choose selectively when they want people to be allowed to express their views freely. They are selective when it comes to who might be afforded an exemption under the current laws. For whatever reason, they are happy for artists, esearchers and scientists to have an exemption under the law, but not for those with a religious purpose, which again shows a bias. What we want to do is strike the right balance. The protections that will be maintained in our legislation, which have existed under former Governments, will not be affected by these provisions.

The strengthening of the framework and the environment in which people can express their views reasonably and in accordance with their beliefs, will be extended, in our view, appropriately to those with a religious purpose. We believe it strikes the right balance. It does not diminish people's right to free speech.

Members interjecting.

Madam SPEAKER - Order. The Premier is going to the amendment bill again.

Mr HODGMAN - We hope and expect that no-one would contravene our laws or community standards. The legislation will not allow for that to happen. What it will allow for is more freedom of speech. Why are you against that?