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Wednesday, 29 November 2017
Page: 9179


Senator PATERSON ( Victoria ) ( 12:13) I rise to urge senators to reject all of the Greens amendments because they do the extraordinary thing of watering down even the limited protections in the bill before us. These amendments reveal that all the platitudes the Greens have contributed to this debate so far about free speech are just that: they are platitudes. The Greens do not sincerely believe in free speech; they even think the very targeted and measured protections—limited protections, as they are—that are in the Smith bill go too far and should be watered down or removed, and that is an extraordinary admission that they're making with these amendments so far.

What particularly worries me about this is that we've seen in recent years in politics in this country that, if you want to know what the Labor Party's position on an issue is going to be in five years time, look at what the Greens' position on the issue today, because, as sure as night follows day, the Labor Party ultimately adopts the Greens' position. I'm sure Senator Di Natale would agree with me on that. The Greens have led the Labor Party by the nose on so many issues to so many of the points that they have eventually come to, and I don't doubt that there are members of the Labor Senate team today who would quite like to vote for some of these amendments that the Greens are proposing but will not do so, because, as we know, the Labor Party is only having a Claytons conscience vote, not a real conscience vote, on these issues.

What this shows is that, inevitably, when this law is passed, with the limited protections it has, it will be no time at all before other parties in the Senate, led by the Greens and eventually, I suspect, supported by Labor, will try and unpick, undermine and remove those protections. That means we will be returning to these issues after this bill has passed, in time to come, and those limited protections could be watered down or removed. I think the Senate should make a very strong statement about this today. We should vote as powerfully and as strongly as possible to indicate that is not the path we want to take and that is not the path we will be taking. I urge all senators to vote against these amendments.