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Liberals Forging Ahead with Anti-Discrimination Changes Despite Morrissey's Concerns

Parliamentary Activity - Thursday, 22 September 2016, Cassy O'Connor MP


Ms O'CONNOR question to PREMIER, Mr HODGMAN

The Anti-Discrimination Commissioner, the Law Society, community legal centres, Civil Liberties Australia and LGBTI advocates do not support your attempt to weaken protections in the Anti-Discrimination Act.  Yesterday, the Commissioner for Children and Young People, Mark Morrissey, also came out against the changes.  He said:

There is a very real risk that, as a result of the proposed amendments, public  conduct which for example offends, humiliates or intimidates a child or young person on the basis of factors such as race, gender, pregnancy, sexual orientation or disability may be permitted.

Mr Morrissey said:

I am particularly concerned at the message these amendments send to children and young people, especially those who by virtue of a particular attribute are seen as different and can be ridiculed, harassed or insulted on the basis of that attribute.  This is the essence of bullying.

What is your response to the Children's Commissioner's concerns and why are you supporting legislation that risks exposing children to bullying?

ANSWER

Madam Speaker, I thank the member for her question and make the point again that we are not seeking at all to weaken the legislation.  We are seeking to broaden and to improve it, to afford the same rights and opportunities to those who might express a view with a religious purpose to those already afforded to artists, scientists, researchers as outlined in the act that you were happy to have in place during your time in government.  What you are now saying will be possible under this legislation was also possible under yours to a number of groups.  An exemption exists, but not for those expressing a view with a religious purpose.  We do not believe that is right.  We do not believe it strikes the right balance and as a result we have brought forward legislation. 

We have been very up-front about the provisions we seek to progress.  We have consulted.  People have expressed a view.  Yes, there are a number of people who are not happy with what we propose.  If the Australian Christian Lobby were supporting the legislation you would then claim we were doing what they want.  You would say they are leading us by the nose and we are doing it because of them.

Greens members interjecting.

Madam SPEAKER - Order.  The House will come to order.

Mr HODGMAN - We believe there is an appropriate balance.  We do not believe, as members opposite would have it, that they, or any individual, should be the arbiter of free speech.  It is required under this legislation that hate speech, vilification and bullying are not acceptable.  This legislation we seek to introduce does not provide for that to occur.

Yes, a number of groups have expressed a view one way or another on it.  I make the point again -

Ms Giddings - Who supports it?

Mr HODGMAN - David Llewellyn does for one.  He supports the principle, as I outlined yesterday, and we agree with him.