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Thursday, 25 September 2014
Page: 7162

Anti-Discrimination


Senator CONROY (VictoriaDeputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) (14:47): My question is to the Attorney-General, Senator Brandis. I refer to the report that the Attorney-General has joined the Melbourne Savage Club, which declared on its website:

Membership is offered to gentlemen only, based upon the criteria of good fellowship and shared interests.

Will the Attorney sing the club song and demonstrate the club initiation ceremony to the chamber? As the Attorney is responsible for federal anti-discrimination laws, can the Attorney-General explain why his new club does not accept women as members—or is it because he believes sexists have rights too?

The PRESIDENT: Attorney-General, you can answer—

Opposition senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order!

Government senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order on my right as well.

Senator Cameron: What goes on behind the scarlet doors, George?

The PRESIDENT: Order, Senator Cameron! Attorney-General, you can answer the part of the question that you feel fits within your portfolio.







Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandDeputy Leader of the Government in the Senate, Vice-President of the Executive Council, Minister for Arts and Attorney-General) (14:49): I think it is a very entertaining question, but I am a little surprised that the shadow minister for defence would choose to pursue a flippant question like that—at any time, frankly, but particularly at the moment. Nevertheless, I will answer him.

Senator Conroy: Sing the song.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Conroy, order!

Honourable senators interjecting

Senator BRANDIS: Mr President, do I have the call? I want to answer the question.

Opposition senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: I am not going to call the Attorney-General until there is quiet and we can hear the answer. Attorney-General, you have more than one minute and 11 seconds left. Attorney-General, you have the call.

Senator BRANDIS: Thank you, Mr President. I assume I am asked this rather flippant question in my capacity as Minister for Arts. I can confirm to the honourable senator that I was recently elected a member of the Melbourne Savage Club, which is a very illustrious organisation operating in Melbourne. I think that, to the best of my recollection, I am a member of three clubs—two of which are mixed and one of which, the Savage Club, has only male members.

There is nothing against the law of Australia for there to be gender-only clubs. There is nothing against the law of Australia for there to be, for example, women-only golf clubs. There is nothing against the law of Australia for there to be men-only clubs and there is nothing against the law of Australia for there to be mixed clubs—nor should there; nor is that sexist.







Senator CONROY (VictoriaDeputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) (14:52): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Why has the Attorney-General failed to disclose his membership of the Savage Club to the Senate given the potential for conflict of interest with his ministerial responsibilities relating to antidiscrimination legislation?

The PRESIDENT: Attorney-General, again you can answer the part of the question that fits within your portfolio.

Honourable senators interjecting—

The PRESIDENT: Pause the clock.




Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandDeputy Leader of the Government in the Senate, Vice-President of the Executive Council, Minister for Arts and Attorney-General) (14:52): I am glad the opposition is having such fun. The answer to the honourable senator's question is: first, club memberships are not a disclosable interest, as he well knows; and, second, there is no respect in which gender-specific clubs are in breach of discrimination law.


Senator CONROY (VictoriaDeputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) (14:53): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Which institution is harder for a woman to get into in 2014: the Savage Club or the Abbott cabinet?

Senator Heffernan: Mr President, I rise on a point of order. Senator Conroy should have declared that he was rejected by the Junee Country Women's Association.

The PRESIDENT: That is not a point of order, Senator Heffernan. Attorney-General, again answer the part of the question that fits within your portfolio.




Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandDeputy Leader of the Government in the Senate, Vice-President of the Executive Council, Minister for Arts and Attorney-General) (14:54): I have nothing to add to my previous answer, but, may I say, after 20 years in this place, Senator Conroy, I think it is about time you grew up.