Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2018 Week 01 Hansard (Thursday, 15 February 2018) . . Page.. 301 ..
local councils. Those wishing to construct Christian schools, Hindu temple complexes and other places of essential cultural identity have faced similar frustrations. This must not be so.
Living in a land that says, essentially, that you can hold deeply cherished cultural values but that you should not talk about them, act on them or make them too obvious by getting together in purpose-built places to fulfil them is unacceptable. So is having to live with the fear and uncertainty that comes from having places of worship vandalised with threatening messages, as has happened in recent months near a Jewish synagogue here in Canberra.
Migration to Australia is increasing our religious diversity, and this is a good thing, in my opinion. Islam is the second largest religious group in the nation, whilst Buddhism is third, and Sikhism is now fifth. In fact the number of Sikhs living in Australia has risen 500 per cent just in the past 10 years.
In a truly multicultural society, it is essential that these new Australians enjoy freedom from discrimination for any reason, whether it be because of their language, the way they look, the way they do things, or whatever they believe and hold most dear. It is my wish that all Canberra residents, regardless of their beliefs, are free from discrimination in relation to religion. This is an essential aspect of what it means to be truly multicultural.
MR RATTENBURY (Kurrajong) (4.10): I was pleased to work with the Attorney-General and the Chief Minister this week in putting together a submission to the federal government’s inquiry that has been commissioned and is being undertaken by Philip Ruddock on the issue of religious freedoms in Australia. I think the ACT had some very good thoughts to offer in that space.
In my view, government has a responsibility to balance the competing rights of members of our community. There are competing rights, and at times those rights clash. I think the ACT has been very successful in striking that balance both through enunciating those rights in the Human Rights Act and also by articulating the dialogue model that is the core of the Human Rights Act.
That dialogue model seeks to ban various rights. As members know from the various bills we have considered in this place, one of the key elements of that dialogue is trying to find a proportionate response when rights must be constrained or when they are impinged on in some way. The strength of that model is that it gets a robust discussion going about how you can best bring those things together. I think that is what we need to bring to the broader rights discussion: we need to be able to balance these rights out and find ways for them to coexist.
The Chief Minister summed it up quite well in a comment I heard him make on radio. He talked about the essence of the ACT’s government’s submission being that there should be both freedom of religion and freedom from religion. That summed it up quite well. Those who seek to follow a faith should be able to do so without fear of vilification, without discrimination and with freedom to pursue that religion as they see fit. Equally, those who choose not to be religious should have that freedom to