Page 579 - Week 02 - Thursday, 14 February 2013

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This is not a special right. People would be free to have other ceremonies. In fact, when we talk about the Clerk’s advice calling into question our ability to host certain functions here in the Assembly because they have a religious content, that is highly discriminatory. There are all sorts of groups who come into the Assembly with all sorts of views. Why should we pick on those of faith and say, “You are not welcome here”?

The opposition, the Canberra Liberals, do not take that view. If someone wants to come into the Assembly and they have a view that is particularly hostile to religion, particularly hostile to my faith, I would not seek to stop them coming in and having their say. Nor should we try and stop people of faith coming in.

The Clerk’s advice should not just be dismissed. I think there has been a dismissive tone from the government in relation to the Clerk’s advice. He raises legitimate concerns about what this would mean. We in the Canberra Liberals believe that for all of these reasons this motion should not be supported.

I would make another point. This goes to a broader question of what we as an Assembly, and it certainly appears the Labor Party and the Green member, are saying to people of faith. Through this motion what are they saying? It appears to me that they are saying people of faith are not welcome here. Whether you be Christian, whether you be any different type of Christian, whether you be Hindu, Muslim, Jew or any other faith, the Labor Party and the Green member are saying, “You are not welcome here.” I think that this is the most concerning part of this. It is the sentiment behind it. It is saying, “We will do all we can.” It is saying, “We are so offended by a church service that we have to come in and make a special rule that those kinds of church services don’t go ahead. And while we’re at it we will make it more difficult for faith-based groups to access our Assembly and to access our democracy.”

It is part of a broader narrative. The Labor Party once stood for different things, I think. It once took a different view when it came to religious observance and religious practice. But make no mistake: this motion says to any people of faith, no matter what that faith might be, “You are not welcome here.” We do not support that sentiment. In fact we vehemently oppose it because we believe fundamentally in freedom of religion, freedom of worship, freedom of speech. People should be free to express themselves and there should not be special exclusions built into our standing orders that would identify that only religious people are not welcome. But if you keep your religion to yourself, that is okay and you can come and participate. We do not support that. I think it would be a retrograde step. I think the very clear message that we have got today from the Labor Party and the Greens is a continuation of this theme. People of faith are not welcome, according to them. There is a hostility towards people of faith which we utterly reject.

MS BURCH (Brindabella—Minister for Education and Training, Minister for Disability, Children and Young People, Minister for the Arts, Minister for Women, Minister for Multicultural Affairs and Minister for Racing and Gaming) (11.26): I have listened with interest. It is a very sad day indeed to hear the hysteria coming from those opposite who dare to paint those who do not agree with them as being anti

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