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Tuesday, 28 November 2017
Page: 9140


Senator PATERSON (Victoria) (22:55): I will make another brief contribution on this issue. I rise to support this amendment by Senator Brandis and Senator Canavan. I've spoken previously on why I think a right to conscientious objection is necessary for civil celebrants.

I'd like to make one new observation that I haven't made before. It is quite amusing for me as a non-religious person to see other non-religious senators from the left of politics, in the Labor Party and the Greens, stand up and say that people of religious faith have special values that are worth having special protections but that those of us without religious faith, who form values for other reasons, are not worthy of protections and should not have our consciences protected.

Senator Brandis gave a very eloquent history of religious liberty earlier, and I share his views on that entirely. But one thing I would add is that the foundation of our belief in religious liberty is freedom of conscience, because we believe it is right for someone to be able to hold their own mind and hold their own view and live their life according to their beliefs, whether they are spiritual or non-spiritual. Spiritual categories of beliefs, religious beliefs, are very important and very worthy of protection, but other beliefs that people sincerely and deeply hold are no less worthy of protection. Yet that is a position that, presumably, many atheists on the other side of the chamber are advancing: that their own beliefs, their own views, are somehow inferior and less worthy of protection than those of people who hold their beliefs based on religious values. I think that is a very strange position for a modern, secular, left-wing political party to take, and yet that is what we've seen here tonight.