Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Thursday, 30 November 2017
Page: 9410


Senator JACINTA COLLINS (Victoria) (18:10): by leave—I thank Senator Fawcett for facilitating the tabling of this report and my opportunity to reflect on a few issues ahead of further discussions of these issues, I suspect, in the House next week. Introducing this report, which probably would have fallen off the program had we not been alerted to it, I think is quite useful.

I became aware of this report in some detail when I looked at the outline of the likely conclusions that was in The Australian newspaper today. As chair of the Privileges Committee, can I say I don't think there's any likely adverse impact of the description that was in the newspaper, so I don't think any further action is required. But it is useful to see what this inquiry has canvassed and discussed. As Senator Fawcett indicated, there is quite a degree of concern with the level of religious literacy and the issues that have been canvassed, at least in this article, and I look forward to seeing the report. I think it will be very helpful to the discussion not only in the parliament but in the period ahead with the Ruddock review and indeed with respect to any further consolidation project that might be attempted for our antidiscrimination framework and state and federal jurisdictions. These were some of the issues that we canvassed in the debate on the bill and the amendments.

I want to take this opportunity to reinforce the point that Labor had a conscience vote in respect of the amendments in the Smith bill, and I acknowledge Senator Smith here as well. We carefully looked at those amendments, and I indicated in the debate that there were some areas that I had ongoing concerns about, there are other areas where issues had been resolved to my immediate satisfaction, and there were other areas which I have subsequently come to class essentially as classic liberalism, where Labor senators were never going to be of a similar mind. If you approach some of the issues in dealing with matters around religious freedom from a classical liberal perspective, it should be no surprise that Labor senators weren't convinced. I say that respectfully, because I'm very pleased that this report has now been tabled and approached, as I think Senator Fawcett alluded to, and I commend the chair of the subcommittee, Kevin Andrews. If this is indeed reflected in the report, which I have yet to look at, I think there is enormous scope for bipartisan support to enhance our current antidiscrimination framework to ensure that some of the issues, problems and ambiguities between the federal and state jurisdictions don't become a challenge in the future to, as Senator Fawcett referred to, the common square type approach that has been applied in Australia to dealing with issues around religious freedom. But, as Senator Fawcett said, these issues are quite complex. People of common interest did indeed have concerns that we weren't in the best frame with the same-sex marriage bill to be dealing with some of these very complex issues.

So I look forward to looking in detail at this report. I'm pleased to hear that it's already been brought to the attention of the Ruddock review, although I'm still waiting to see what those terms of reference are, so it will be good to be able to indeed see that. But I'd also like to highlight that the report by Dennis Shanahan and Joe Kelly in The Australian makes the point that even next week's debate—I think the Prime Minister alluded to it this morning—will look again at the George Brandis amendments that the Senate considered. This report of the report that's now being tabled indicates that the committee has been told that Australia's agreement to various international covenants, which George Brandis wanted to highlight in amendments to the same-sex marriage laws, provides little practical protection. That was indeed the concern that I had when I looked at the first of Senator Brandis's amendments, because, whilst I didn't comment on this at the time, the advice I received was that unless there was some ambiguity in the same-sex marriage bill or act then they were likely to have essentially no effect. And the legal advice I received was that it was very hard to imagine what type of ambiguity in that particular piece of legislation was ever going to arrive to give those provisions effect. I'm heartened, as Senator Fawcett said, that there are essentially four models, I think you indicated, that might deal with some of these issues without necessarily going down the Bill of Rights path, and I look forward to looking at and addressing those.

I want to return to the commendation I paid to Senator Fawcett about the enormous amount of work that must have gone into the process of drafting amendments in respect of this bill. I don't think that work and that common activity is necessarily going to be lost with the passage of the Smith bill. I think it's fine work that quite a range of people have engaged in that can still be drawn upon, by whichever future government, to produce an antidiscrimination framework that still allows for our particular Australian common-square approach. So I look forward to looking at the detail of this report. I seek leave to continue my remarks later.

Leave granted.