Page 243 - Week 01 - Thursday, 10 February 2022

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MR STEEL: I thank the member for the question. The fencing has been vandalised. It will continue to be replaced as necessary to prevent access and to make sure that the community remain safe. We will continue to do that. The ultimate solution is to replace the bridges, and we are getting on with that work.

MS CASTLEY: Minister, by what dates will the ecological and heritage surveys and the concept design be complete?

MR STEEL: The ecological survey and heritage assessment to address these issues commenced in December and are expected to be completed by the end of summer 2022. We are already getting on with the work of getting a design consultant on board, even before those finish, so that we can start the process as soon as possible to get these bridges up and running.

Legislation—religious discrimination

MS ORR: My question is to the Minister for Human Rights. Minister, why did the ACT government consider it so important to make a submission to the inquiries into the religious discrimination bills?

MS CHEYNE: Everyone deserves to feel safe, supported, equal and valued for who they are. The ACT was the first human rights jurisdiction in Australia, and we continue to lead the nation with our Human Rights Act and our Discrimination Act. Our human rights framework has very successfully balanced the rights and freedoms of all Canberrans for many years. Our current laws protect against discrimination on the basis of a range of protected attributes including race, age, disability, sex, gender identity, sexuality and religion. The current package of religious discrimination bills presented by the commonwealth government takes away from this.

The bills privilege the protection of religious freedom and speech over other human rights. They will override the ACT’s laws—laws that are efficient, function well, that we are proud of and that are a fundamental part of our city’s character. These bills risk diminishing our Human Rights Act and Discrimination Act and undermining our existing rights and protections currently enjoyed by ACT residents. They risk our social cohesion and inclusivity. That is why the ACT government made submissions to the two parliamentary inquiries calling for significant changes to the bills so that they are consistent with ACT human rights and discrimination law.

Our laws protect the freedom of religion and of belief, as they should, but it is absolutely crucial that those freedoms are balanced with other rights. They should not be elevated above other rights. That is why it was so important for the government to make the submissions that we did. We made those submissions because we must be vigilant in ensuring that reform is good, that it does not weaken protections for others and that it does not elevate some rights over other rights.

MS ORR: I have a supplementary question. Minister, what key recommendations did the ACT government make, and how would they improve the bills?

MS CHEYNE: I thank Ms Orr for the supplementary question. Notwithstanding what has transpired in the past hour in the federal parliament, the legislation is still live and

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