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Monday, 3 December 2018
Page: 9127

Senator WONG (South AustraliaLeader of the Opposition in the Senate) (13:14): I have spoken on the second reading; I just want to briefly speak to the second reading amendment moved by Senator Collins, which is on sheet 8606. So I rise to speak on that amendment. Today, as I've previously said, we do have an opportunity to do what this parliament too often fails to do; to come together on an issue on which we all agree and change the country for the better. The bill does one thing, and one thing only; that is, to ensure that every Australian child, no matter their gender or sexual orientation, is treated equally. It will make this country a more equal place, nothing more. It won't prevent schools from requiring students to attend chapel, it won't prevent schools from requiring uniforms and it won't prevent—let me be very clear—the teaching of religious education. To put that issue beyond doubt, Senator Collins has moved the second reading amendment on sheet 8606 to that effect. I support that amendment.

Also, this bill does not deal with the issue of teachers. Whilst Labor has made clear that it supports the removal of that exemption too, it acknowledges there is not yet wide enough support across the parliament to get that done. We will continue to work with schools and religious bodies to find a way in which that exemption can be removed so as to protect religious schools' rights to practise their beliefs. As Mr Shorten has said, Labor will seek to remove that exemption early next year.

What we do not need here today, and what we have regrettably seen from Senator Stoker and some other coalition senators, are false accusations and prolonged debate in this chamber. Enough of the false accusations—we saw enough of that in the marriage equality debate. The country doesn't need more of that. On this matter, we are all agreed. Mr Morrison has said he supports doing this. The Treasurer has said he supports doing this. The Attorney-General has said he supports doing this. What we are doing in this chamber is seeking to give effect to the promise made by the Prime Minister in the lead-up to the Wentworth by-election. It is something that the parliament can pass today with the support of all parties. I commend the second reading amendment, moved by Senator Collins, and the bill to the Senate.