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Changes to Anti-Discrimination Act Divisive

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Thursday, 18 August 2016

Tags: Anti-Discrimination Act, LGBTI, Religion, Women, Disability, Multicultural Affairs


The current exemptions under section 55 of the Anti-Discrimination Act 1998 apply to academic, artistic, scientific or research purposes or any purpose in the public interest.  This section is not intended to provide an exemption for expressions of opinions, some of which may be hateful and cause harm.  For LGBTI Tasmanians, the addition of an exemption on religious grounds is difficult to understand.  If it is about freedom of debate, why is the exemption applied only to religious groups?  Do you agree the act currently protects people of faith, as it protects LGBTI Tasmanians along with people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, women, people living with a disability and the list goes on?  Why should religious groups have the right to use discriminatory language that others do not?  How can you argue this change is necessary?



Madam Speaker, I thank the member for her question and her interest in this matter.  I am glad all Tasmanians will be able to express a view about this matter.  There is nothing surprising about what we are doing.  It should not surprise any member that we are doing what we said we would - consulting and engaging with the broader Tasmanian community about the antidiscrimination legislative framework.  We spoke about it when we debated the same-sex marriage issue in this place last year.  I indicated back then that we would undertake inquiry into the legislation, how it is applied here and how it matches up against other states. 

I answered a question yesterday from the member and provided the Parliament with a clear indication of what we are seeking to do, what we believe is a sensible balance and the right way forward.  There was no panic response here; it was in response to a question.  I have been very honest, open and transparent in advance of the draft legislation being released.  If I had ducked the question, you would have criticised me, so I answered it.  In due course the legislation will be released and all members of the community will have an opportunity to contribute to that debate. 

It is about striking a balance; is not just about religious thought, views and expression, but includes those with a religious viewpoint alongside others who have an exemption or an entitlement to express their views within this legislative framework.  We believe it is appropriate.  We believe it should also be available to those who have a religious perspective to contribute and communicate freely, as can other groups, like artists and other members of the community who are able to do so under this legislation. 

I do not think it is appropriate for any of us to try to curb free speech.  We should always be vigilant and determined in our resolve to ensure that, when people speak, it is done with respect and courtesy, does not discriminate and does not incite hatred.  We will always do that.  For those in this place who selectively try to shut down the expressions of those who might have a different view or even a religious view, that flies in the face of the tenet of our community and democracy - freedom of speech. 

Today, on the fiftieth anniversary of the Battle of Long Tan, when we remember people who fought in wars to protect our right for free speech, it is something my Government is determined to ensure is available for every one of us.