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Liberal Government Removes 'Reasonableness' from Anti-Discrimination Laws in Favour of the Church

Parliamentary Activity - Wednesday, 21 September 2016, Cassy O'Connor MP


Ms O'CONNOR question to PREMIER, Mr HODGMAN

Do you agree that, if passed, the amendments to the Anti-Discrimination Act tabled yesterday will send a powerful message to people who are homophobic or racist or bigots or misogynists that it is acceptable to insult, offend, humiliate or intimidate other Tasmanians and use their religion as an excuse to do so?  In her scathing critique of your divisive and dangerous weakening of the law, the one change that Anti-Discrimination Commissioner, Robin Banks, agreed with was inclusion of the word 'reasonably', which she states would have brought Tasmania into line with New South Wales, ACT, Queensland, Victoria and the Commonwealth, yet the word and the reasonableness test was removed from the bill tabled yesterday.  Can you explain why, in the final draft amendments, the word 'reasonably' was removed in relation to the exemption provided for religious purposes under the act?

Madam SPEAKER - Order.  I will not allow specific questions on the bill.  I am quite happy for members to ask questions about antidiscrimination and its impacts and things like that - though even that is coming too close - but asking the Premier to answer a specific question is something you can save for scrutiny of the bill.  The member can rephrase.

Ms O'CONNOR - I am happy to rephrase my question, Madam Speaker, but as you are aware there are plenty of precedents in this place where questions have been asked quite specifically -

Madam SPEAKER - And I am ruling consistently with those precedents.  I urge the member not to argue with me.  I am allowing the questions.  I am merely not allowing questions that specifically go to matters that will be heavily scrutinised throughout the debate.  We are anticipating an order of the day.

Ms O'CONNOR - Premier, how can you claim these changes will protect respectful debate and people's rights not to be vilified when your amendments to the act do not require people to conduct themselves reasonably in any debate, for example, on marriage equality.

ANSWER

Madam Speaker, I thank the member for her question.  What we are proposing to do does not allow what the member has suggested would be allowed under the amendments we are proposing.  Otherwise, it is fair to say, it would have already happened under the legislation you had in government.

What we are seeking to do here, without going to each and every provision, is to not only improve the process for determining matters in dispute - and I think that is an important part of the legislation we have before the House - but to provide some provision for religious purposes. 

You are quite happy to use your argument to allow groups of artists, academics, scientists or researchers to engage in what you would characterise as hate speech - I do not accept that proposition - but you will not allow those with a religious perspective to have the benefit of unfettered free speech.  This comes off the back of Archbishop Porteous's case with Ms Martine Delaney.

Opposition members interjecting.

Mr HODGMAN - You will not allow that group either.

Madam SPEAKER - Order.

Mr HODGMAN - This highlights your agenda and your motives.  This is about choosing for yourselves when you consider something appropriate to be able to be expressed freely.  Worse still, when you want to prevent certain groups in our community from their rights to free speech, it is selective.  What we are seeking to do is to extend this provision. 

If it is all right for this protection to be available for religious purposes to people in Victoria or New South Wales, why is it not right for them to have that in Tasmania?