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Monday, 20 March 2017
Page: 1396


Senator ROBERTS (Queensland) (15:52): As a servant to the people of Queensland and Australia, it is incumbent on me to bring to this chamber information about the persecution through prosecution of Christian groups in South-East Queensland. When this MPI was sent forth today, I am sure my colleagues wondered how in 2017 Australian Christians could possibly be persecuted. The persecution and prosecution is real; it is hurtful to freedom of religion and it is serious.

This is Lent. At this time many Christians reflect on the sacrifices that the Lord God and his only son, Jesus Christ, made in the lead-up to his prosecution and crucifixion under Pontius Pilate. It is a time for reflection and to recall the sacrifices we can make in our lives, to become aware of our spirituality and the suffering of others around us. The suffering and sacrifice of South-East Queensland's Christian community is profound. Recently, I met with Reverend Josh Williamson and Ryan Hemelaar. These people are missionaries. They provide Christian outreach throughout South-East Queensland. They evangelise within the guidelines and proper processes prescribed by Queensland's Peaceful Assembly Act. They feed the poor, comfort the dispossessed and shelter those in need with God's love and care.

It will shock our country to learn that these innocent and decent people are targeted by Queensland state governments of various political colours, which aim to stop them from peaceful assembly and then chase them out of town. They are persecuted—that is correct—and prosecuted for religious assembly; I will explain shortly how. At no other point has our nation's Christian community been under such grotesque attack—a vicious, targeted attack.

The Turnbull government's statement on so-called multiculturalism, as outlined on the front page of today's The Australian, still tried to band-aid over the reality that multiculturalism is a failed ideology that strikes at the heart of our proud national heritage. His statement must go further and acknowledge our nation's Christian heritage, a heritage embodied on our beautiful flag. It is now incumbent on this chamber to rally against those who would vilify our Christian community.

This is Australia; it is not Pakistan, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia or some other despotic Islamic dictatorship. We must intervene in any way we can if we are to protect Christian dignity, protect the dignity of Australian government institutions, protect freedom of religion and protect Australians from conducting the most basic of services to this community.

This persecution story was recently told in The Courier Mailon 9 February 2017, where it was revealed how intense the harassment of the street preachers is. I am blessed enough to have a street preacher on my team here in Parliament House. He and his family have often worked long days in other jobs and then go forth at night to provide service and healing to the community until late at night. Street preachers, I am told, are hunted down and persecuted everywhere in Australia. One would think that this is in Saudi Arabia; however, it is South-East Queensland that I will pay particular attention to.

Street preachers, from what I have seen, assemble in spots like Brisbane's Queen Street Mall—maybe five to 10 preachers. Sometimes they are Jehovah's Witnesses or Mormons; at other times they are a range of other denominations. They set up a little table, place the holy Scripture on it and talk to people who come by. Sometimes they may give a little talk, using a microphone. They talk about Jesus, just as in the same way we use the words of Jesus when we open with prayer in this chamber every day.

On occasions, they may provide literature about the healing, forgiveness and love of Christianity, and on how to obtain help if you are in need of support. I also see the work of Charlie Lin, New South Wales state MP, in pushing back against control-orientated Leftists removing the word 'mateship' in reference to the Kokoda Track as similar to the work of protecting Christians. To deny our national heritage and acknowledgement of important, historical events, such as the Kokoda Track, is no different to prosecuting Christians and campaigning to remove Christian symbols from our flag.

This debate would start to turn the tide against multicultural Marxism, if we were to pull it together. The persecution of street preachers takes many forms. Each street preacher in the information I will provide has applied for a permit under Queensland's Peaceful Assembly Act. They gather under the protection of the law and may not, by act of parliament, be moved on or harassed in the performance of that assembly, just like unions cannot be harassed if they gather, or just like Muslims cannot be—and certainly are not—harassed if they decide to take to the streets of Lakemba, Holland Park or Kerrabee during Friday prayers. Heaven forbid that a unionist or a Muslim in this country ever be brought to heel within the bounds of the law! Local governments, both Labor- and Liberal-orientated, and the Queensland state police, have harassed Christian preachers by issuing fines, illegal move-on notices and charges such as disobeying police orders and intimidation of a police officer.

In Queensland, an umbrella Christian organisation called Operation 513 provides logistical support for about 21 different denominations in the application of permits for street preaching. One of the preachers is Ryan Hemelaar, who is a most unassuming gentleman—polite, amenable and kind. He has been fined by Brisbane City Council for such things as handing out written material, using an amplifier and placing an A-frame sign with a bible verse on it. He has been fined for alleged obstruction; for unreasonably disturbing any person lawfully using a mall by simply having have friendly conversation with someone on a seat; for interrupting, disturbing or frustrating other mall users by simply having a friendly conversation with someone on a seat; for stocking or storing goods in a mall; and for setting up a free bible table. What a charge sheet! His fines have gone into the thousands of dollars—tens of thousands of dollars for speaking up.

Mr Luke Laine is the first of Brisbane City Council's officers who has started the process of targeting these Christian groups, including Mr Hemelaar. Mr Laine is on tape stating that he wanted to close these people down, as if the authorising of state religion was his sole purview. Closing down Christianity is the real aim. It is part of the cultural Marxist march. It is my view that Brisbane City Council and its officers have been loose with the truth when they claimed in The Courier Mail that the street preachers harass people walking by. What a load of lies to say they hurl abuse. Anyone who conducts street preaching knows that if you want to ensure that Christ's message gets through, you cannot go hard at people; we have to emulate the grace, dignity and respect of Christ himself.

I am told that in most instances these fines were issued after Brisbane City Council officers stood around while Mr Hemelaar had a conversation with someone on a bench—a conversation on a bench! After the chat, Mr Hemelaar gave a card with a Christian message to that person and then the officer went up to the person, asked if Mr Hemelaar had given him anything, and took the card off him and issued a fine. Let that sink in for a minute. A street preacher is fined for doing something you or I could do: apply for a peaceful assembly permit, gather with friends, listen to the community and hear their concerns. But give them a loving message about the word of Christ or perhaps political literature that does not suit with the leftist view of the world, and Brisbane City Council spends ratepayers' money on not only fining these people but also challenging the fines in court.

The Christian values of these people are targeted by the Brisbane City Council Liberal National Party. The Lord Mayor of Brisbane must urgently rescind these fines and allow these God-loving Christians to continue their outreach. If he does not, I can confirm here and now that One Nation will do everything possible to let the good people of Brisbane know this shameful behaviour at the next local government election. One Nation's march will go right to the centre of Brisbane without fear or favour.

My thoughts and concerns are also with the Reverend Josh Williamson. I notice no-one in the room jumped when I said the Reverend Josh Williamson. Can you believe that Reverend Williamson was charged, on the orders of the Palaszczuk government—Gestapo-like tactics—for disobeying a police order and intimidating a police officer? In being cross-examined by the prosecution, the barrister argued that using the title 'Reverend' when giving his name to the police was intimidation. Contemplate this: government resources are being used to prosecute street preachers for intimidating police officers with the word, 'Reverend'. This is a direct and astonishing assault on Christianity. Our world has gone mad. People wonder, with things like this happening, why One Nation is on the rise.

Has the Queensland premier prosecuted anyone for the use of the word 'Imam'? Perhaps the word 'Rabbi' offends the extreme left who are now running Queensland? The left, peppered with hateful anti-Semites, will soon use this success in Queensland to turn on the Jewish community—I have no doubt. Does the word 'Father' offend the premier as well? Heaven forbid! Are people free to practise their religion in South-East Queensland under the Peaceful Assembly Act?

The street preachers are always supportive of the police. One Nation are always supportive of the police. We do not believe that this is a police agenda. I am told that two parties are pushing the police: the first protagonist is the former Deputy Mayor of Logan, Councillor Russell Lutton, who, police told the preachers, was behind pushing the police of Logan to target the street preachers. What an astonishing revelation. You would think a councillor who represented Woodridge, the most socially disadvantaged community in our country, would be more focused on calling the police about break-ins, drug dealings and bashings in his community. Perhaps Councillor Lutton spends a bit too much time down at the TAB watching the dogs.

My message is clear: One Nation rejects your targeting of street preachers and not the targeting of the violent criminals you seek to protect. Councillor Lutton, you are not a proper and fit person to hold office. Resign. It is the case that the Queensland government could have cut these prosecutions off. The Queensland government are the second protagonist. They could have protected the street preachers but they prefer not. The Palaszczuk government—a far scarier word than 'Reverend'—could have brought on legislation to specifically protect street preachers as defined in the meaning of peaceful assembly, not that it should have been needed.

It is my view that the Palaszczuk government has contempt for the Christian community and for the poor that community feeds. The Palaszczuk government's hate is palpable. It is the same hate exhibited by the Logan and Brisbane City councils. Shame on these people; shame on their governments. Today, I extend the—

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT ( Senator Gallacher ): Senator Roberts, could you resume your seat for a moment. I refer you to standing order 193(3):

A senator shall not use offensive words against either House of Parliament or of a House of a state or territory parliament, or any member of such House, or against a judicial officer, and all imputations of improper motives and all personal reflections on those Houses, members or officers shall be considered highly disorderly.

Please reflect on your contributions in respect of members of the Queensland parliament.

Senator ROBERTS: Thank you, Mr Acting Deputy President. Today I extend a hand of friendship to the other street preachers who have been persecuted: Blake Cannon, Blessing Odugbesan, Maklin Hughes, John Stotschek, George Youssef, Allan Cameron, David Sansbury, Matthew Andersen, Rebekah Hemelaar, Michael Brimson, Desmond Nunns and Lee-Anne Nissen. We stand with you. One Nation will fight for you.

We know that people have been slapped with thousands of dollars of fines. People have been intimidated, humiliated, harassed, targeted and, worse, persecuted, yet vicious sects with violent views and threats are left unpunished for far worse crimes. I am told by the preachers that they have spent over $15,000 in defending charges and fines. Costs have been awarded against the government in some preliminary cases, but the costs awarded do not cover all of the legal fees. The prosecution must stop. Imagine if these people were free to spend that money for its original intent: feeding and clothing the poor of South-East Queensland—the poor who have been abandoned by the Palaszczuk government.

Let's imagine this: under the Palaszczuk government, these preachers were actually violent union bosses. Perhaps they could have been heavy-handed thugs, violent criminals roaming work sites and handing out union membership forms to workers in public, perhaps on Labour day. Would the jackboots be sent in by the Premier then to stop the unionists? No. Would one of the Premier's prosecutors ask a unionist sitting in the dock, 'Is using your union title an intimidation of police officers?' No.

I will tell you what Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk's minority Queensland government would do. As reported recently in The Australian, she has used the final parliamentary sitting week of last year to reverse a crackdown on unions, including lifting a requirement for union bosses to publish credit-card statements. Premier Palaszczuk has just given thieving union bosses the right to do as they wish with workers' fees. She has just encouraged the likes of Craig Thompson while prosecuting street preachers. If you are a corrupt, violent union boss, Palaszczuk wants to let you free. If you are a violent criminal of Logan, fear not; Councillor Lutton is too busy betting on the dogs to chase you down. But, if you are a street preacher in Queensland, you cannot even tell a police officer you are a reverend. The persecution of street preachers in South East Queensland must stop.