Speeches

MOTION – DISCRIMINATION AND SOCIAL HARMONY - MONDAY, 21 OCTOBER 2019

October 21, 2019

HANSARD

FEDERATION CHAMBER

PARLIAMENT HOUSE, CANBERRA

MONDAY, 21 OCTOBER 2019

MOTION – DISCRIMINATION AND SOCIAL HARMONY

Can I start by commending the members for Moreton and Bonner for putting forward this motion to the House and also to my colleagues who have spoken here today on both sides, particularly the member for Berowra for sharing his own experiences of religious discrimination, religious hatred.

On the weekend I heard a wonderful saying that was, 'Unity does not start with a million people; it starts with just two,' and in the case today it starts with a handful of us coming together to speak on this motion. This motion deals explicitly with vilification against individuals and groups of religious faith. Just to give some examples of that over the past few years, in my home state of Western Australia in 2010 we had two members of Combat 18 shoot a mosque in Perth. In 2014 a pig's head was left at the door of a Perth mosque. In 2015 another mosque was also vandalised with a pig's head. Later that year, that mosque had 'white power' graffitied on its walls. In 2016 a car exploded outside a Perth mosque with a fire bomb. And in 2018 another Perth mosque was fire-bombed. These kinds of incidents may be far and few between—although they are becoming more and more regular and more and more prevalent—but these kinds of violent incidences begin with rhetoric, they begin with language and they begin with behaviour that normalises everyday acts, everyday acts of vilification and discrimination.

The Office of the e-Safety Commissioner reported that 53 per cent of Australian youth have witnessed anti-Muslim harmful content online. It's also reported that 78 per cent of in person attacks were against Muslim women. These were attacks in the presence of their children, where their children were also targeted—attacks of hatred in public. And 96 per cent of targeted women were Muslim women who visibly are Muslim because they wear the hijab. The Islamophobia Register is soon to release its second report but in its first report painted a very bleak picture of the rise of Islamophobia and religious discrimination here in Australia.

I have had rather, I guess, a lot of experience in talking to people who are formers, who have left violent extremism in various iterations in various forms, from former violent jihadists to former IRA and, indeed, former white supremacists. I have to say this, of all dozens of formers that I have met none of them have ever left the movement because they were presented with a fact sheet. No white supremacist ever left white suprematism behind because somebody gave them a report on how great multiculturalism is for our economy or for our society. Indeed, everyone that I have met who was left a hate movement has left because of a personal connection with an individual or a group who they had perceived to be the enemy. That's why it's so important that we come together. It's why it's so important that we come together to speak out against hatred, to speak out against vilification, but also to recognise, as the member for Berowra said, that hatred against one group doesn't end there. Often that hatred spreads to a whole range of other groups as well.

Despite the fact that, as I say, no individual has ever changed their worldview because of a fact sheet, we can do more by setting moral and legal standards as an important step to acknowledging that in this country, in Australia, we have no tolerance for hatred, we have no tolerance for vilification and we have no tolerance for people who would target individuals of religious minorities because of their faith, particularly those who are most vulnerable to targeting, particularly Muslim women who wear the hijab, men who wear religious dress in any form, and—as the member for Berowra so eloquently talked about—cases involving children. We do not want our children to be targeted as well. Once again, I commend all members of the Chamber today for speaking on this very important topic.