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Statutory Holidays Amendment Bill 2022

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Tuesday, 27 September 2022

Tags: Legislation

Ms O'CONNOR (Clark - Leader of the Greens) - Mr Speaker, the Greens will be supporting the Statutory Holidays Amendment Bill 2022. It was tempting to vote against it to see what happened, given that many Australians had a public holiday last Thursday in recognition of the passing of the Queen.

Of course we understand that the purpose of this legislation is to make sure that businesses and employers are operating under the right legal framework and that workers who worked on that Thursday received all the entitlements they deserve.

When I was thinking about this bill last night, when the Order of Business for today came in, I remembered that if the government of the day in Canberra wants to send this country to war they do not have to take that to parliament. There are no war powers statutes in this country. The most serious decision a government can make is not referenced back to parliament for that authority.

We passed legislation that retrospectively validates a declared public holiday, a day of mourning, which comes through parliament. However, as John Howard did when we joined the war in Iraq, the prime minister of the day can make an almost unilateral decision to send our people, our sons and our daughters, to war. That is certainly a reform that I hope the Albanese Government looks at, war powers reform, because a decision of that magnitude that can come at such significant loss of life and ultimately danger to our nation is something that should go for a full debate to parliament.

Of course we will support this legislation. Last Thursday I thought about the Queen from time to time. I spent the day with my partner and we went to see the wonderful Tim Morris, former Greens member for Lyons, and had a nice lunch with Tim and Pip. Quite often during the day I wondered how First Nations Australians were feeling because that Thursday was not a day for Aboriginal people. I will not go back over the comments I made on the day we returned to mark the Queen's passing, but as Ms O'Byrne said - and in fact Mr O'Byrne reinforced - as a nation we have been able to have a day of recognition, a public holiday declared effectively with the snap of the Prime Minister's fingers and then some retrospective validating legislation go through the parliament every year on 26 January.

Our nation, sadly, becomes more divided about that day and increasingly those of us who are not Aboriginal cannot celebrate 26 January as our national day. Many of us will find a Change the Date event or rally to be at to show respect and stand in solidarity with First Nations people. I do not think it should be contentious to accept that 26 January is a day which for Aboriginal people marks the beginning of the end of their country. I hope that one day we have the kind of political leadership in this country that can have that conversation with non Aboriginal Australians principally about the need for us to have a national day that we can all celebrate and mark together because it is not 26 January. That day does not unite us and for Aboriginal people it is a day of mourning.

I wanted to briefly touch on a very deeply disturbing and significant news story from this past week, the reports we have read of the review into club culture at the Hawthorn Football Club. We hear many horrifying stories of racism in this country. We know it is structural and institutional but the allegations that have made by Aboriginal players and their families about their treatment at the Hawthorn Football Club are so shocking you almost cannot find the right set of adjectives to describe the magnitude of it. There are allegations that players have been told to separate from their families and told that their pregnant partner should have a pregnancy termination. I have never read anything like it come out of a sporting club.

We know that the two clubs which have undertaken these reviews are Hawthorn and Collingwood. In each of those cases what has been discovered is systemic, destructive racism. They are the only two clubs that have had reviews into club culture undertaken and those two clubs clearly have identified a massive problem that is hurting people. Some of the best and most gifted players in the AFL are First Nations people. It is a sport that draws talented Aboriginal kids from all over the country. The AFL has a really serious moral challenge on its hands. The work that has been undertaken, first through Collingwood and then Hawthorn, needs to be undertaken by each of the clubs in the league and the AFL itself because it will not just be restricted to Collingwood and Hawthorn because we do live in a racist country. It is reports and stories like this which make that truth undeniable, Mr Speaker.

As I said at our state conference on the weekend, the AFL should stop telling the people of Tasmania that they need a massive new stadium on the waterfront when we already have two and we have people sleeping in tents and do the work it needs to do to clean up the culture within every club in the league and within itself, and to make sure that those Aboriginal kids who come to play their dream as AFL players are safe and included and feel equal. It is one of, if not the, most important bodies of the work that the AFL can do, because we want to be able to enjoy this game without being aware of potentially very significant cruelty and discrimination within AFL clubs.

I understand that in the context of the Hawthorn allegations, all those senior people within the club who are subject to allegations have strenuously denied them. There is much more to be written in this story. I think, and the Greens think, it is an opportunity for us now as Tasmanians, for the Tasmanian Government to pull the pin on the AFL Hawthorn sponsorship deal once and for all. At the very least, we strongly encourage the Premier to suspend all talks with Hawthorn on that sponsorship deal until the results of the AFL review are known and we have some real clarity about those allegations that were made by First Nations players and their family.

The problem that Hawthorn has here is that the reports and first hand testimony of what is in this review are consistent in their themes. A number of Aboriginal people or family members, partners, have told very similar stories about their treatment at the club. It gives that testimony - in this case, as I understand, to a journalist who was talking to people who had been involved in the review - very significant weight. This is Aboriginal people telling their story. I found the reports of the report to be both revolting and morally compelling. I look forward to seeing the results of the AFL's investigation.

With those few words, we will support the Statutory Holidays Amendment Bill 2022.

We look forward to getting on to some more substantive legislation in the hours and days ahead.