Page 3946 - Week 11 - Wednesday, 20 September 2017

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MR PARTON (Brindabella) (11.21): I move:

In paragraph (4), omit all words after “calls on the ACT Government to”, substitute:

“(a) improve its focus on inclusion and to continue delivering new programs and initiatives that recognise, respect and support our diverse community; and

(b) discontinue its systematic exclusion of community groups that disagree with government policy, such as the Canberra Greyhound Racing Club, Clubs ACT, victims of dog attacks, small businesses and the increasing number of Canberrans struggling to keep up with the rising cost of living.”.

“Inclusion” is a fascinating word, isn’t it? I think inclusion means everybody. I applaud the government’s attempts to include so many groups in the mix of what is, as Ms Cheyne described it, one of the strongest communities in the nation. In the context of the current national debate on same-sex marriage, it is important that we all do whatever we can to support those who are experiencing vilification, who are in some way, shape or form being harmed by the way that this debate is being played out.

But I think we should also concede that those acts of vilification are occurring in great numbers on both sides of the debate. “No” voters are also under enormous duress for daring to come out and suggest that they are voting no. I think that (a) they should have the freedom to register their thoughts, but (b) they should feel supported as much as the LGBTIQ community if they are experiencing harm as a consequence. I wish that the debate could just be carried out in a respectful way by all sides, but unfortunately that is not what we are seeing.

I agree totally with Ms Cheyne that we are a proudly diverse community. I think that the government should be proud of what it has done to achieve a sense of belonging for many—but not for all. I am dismayed that so often this government picks its favourites for inclusion. If somehow you do not fit into that mould, you are likely to be ignored. This government has, as an example, demonised, vilified and bullied the greyhound community in this region to the extent that this has now clearly become a serious mental health issue. People in the greyhound racing community have done nothing wrong. They have gone about their business upholding the highest possible standards in the animal welfare space. Now they are having a big section of their lives forcibly removed from them.

The great cruelty of what has gone on here is that the goalposts continue to change. Initially it was going to be a ban; then it was not. Then it was going to be a cut in funding. When that did not kill them, it turned into a ban from 30 June next year. The government have form in this space. They have form in regard to tightening the screws at every turn. It will not surprise me if, when the legislation to ban the industry is tabled, the legislation is even more onerous.

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