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Tuesday, 8 November 2016
Page: 3125

Racial Discrimination Act 1975

Dr ALY (Cowan) (14:00): My question is to the Prime Minister. The former Prime Minister, the member for Warringah, cited national security concerns as the reason for dumping changes to section 18C, saying that, when it comes to cracking down on terrorism and cracking down on things that aid and abet terrorism, the 18C proposal was becoming a needless complication. Has the current Prime Minister sought the advice of the AFP or any other security agency on the implications of watering down section 18C; if not, why not— (Time expired)

Honourable members interjecting

The SPEAKER: Members on my right will cease interjecting. The Leader of the House will cease injecting—it is only one past two and I am asking him to cease interjecting. The Prime Minister can address the wideranging statements in the question. I think there was going to be a question at the end that did not fit in the time.

Mr TURNBULL (WentworthPrime Minister) (14:01): I thank the honourable member for her question. Australia is the most successful multicultural society in the world. It is a democracy founded on the rule of law, founded on fundamental freedoms of speech, of worship, of assembly. We are a nation founded on freedoms, and clearly always we need to make sure that our laws get the balance right between defending the strength of our multicultural society and the mutual respect on which it depends and those freedoms. It is perfectly appropriate for a committee of this parliament—the Human Rights Committee no less—to consider those matters. The honourable member may reflect that only this morning the President of the Human Rights Commission, Professor Triggs, welcomed such an inquiry and recognised that there should be changes.

The fact of the matter is that there is a broad array of opinion. Parliamentary committees are an appropriate place for those opinions to be ventilated and heard and considered, and the honourable member, given her distinguished academic past, would do well to remember that it is best not to caricature views in this arena but to treat them with respect so that the parliament, through its committee, can consider these important issues—defending freedom, preserving freedom of speech and ensuring that the foundation of our great multicultural society, mutual respect, is maintained.

Opposition members interjecting

The SPEAKER: The member for Parramatta will cease interjecting. The member for Barton interjected right through that answer. The member for Barton is warned.