Page 302 - Week 01 - Thursday, 15 February 2018

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pursue their view of the world and not be impinged on unduly by those who pursue religion as their pathway. This is the community we should seek to live in, where people are free to pursue their view on life without being vilified by others. I think that that is the balance we have imagined to achieve in the ACT. This is the point that the government is trying to make in our submission.

A good example of this is the way we dealt with the issue of privacy zones around the Marie Stopes clinic or the abortion facility in the ACT during the last term. We received reports that women who were accessing that facility felt that they were being targeted by protesters who were opposed to that facility. My view is that people have a right to protest; I think that is quite well known in this place. But I also felt that it was unfair that those individual women were being made to feel uncomfortable, being made to feel lesser citizens of this city, because of their accessing that medical facility.

I think we were able to draw up a good response to that. We created an exclusion zone around that facility of 100 metres. That means that people can access that facility without being identified and have a right to privacy in their medical choices. At the same time, those who are opposed to that facility are free to protest right throughout the rest of the city. That is quite appropriate as well. As I have said a number of times before, they are more than welcome to set up in Garema Place, City Walk or right out the front door of the Assembly, if they wish. That is the appropriate way to have that freedom to continue to protest and express those particular views.

Unfortunately, we see religious vilification and discrimination alive and well in our society. Unfortunately, it is experienced by people of many faiths. In particular, in this modern age, where we have a perpetual war on terror and an abundance of fake news, some people have decided to tarnish an entire religion because of the atrocious behaviour of terrorists who claim to be Muslims. It is a disturbingly regular occurrence for people or groups to attack or abuse people of Muslim faith simply because of their faith.

The level and extent of vilification occurring is simply appalling. It is not limited to online and social media; it happens in public. Sometimes these things overlap. For example, there is the self-proclaimed Patriot group filming and abusing Sam Dastyari in a pub; the group called the Australian Defence League following and photographing Muslim women on public transport and posting videos of them online with abusive comments; and the far right group Party for Freedom storming a church in Gosford dressed as Muslims and shouting, “Terrorists not wanted here.” These things are not welcome in Australia. They are simply not welcome. That is simply uncalled for behaviour, and it fails to respect the right to freedom of religion and the right to practise one’s faith.

If anyone here wants to see the tip of the iceberg, they should try defending religious vilification laws on social media. As members who were here last term will recall, and perhaps others who noticed it in the press, I introduced an amendment to the Assembly last year during debate about our anti-discrimination laws to add religious vilification laws to the ACT statute book to make sure that there was a provision there, because there had been some lack of clarity in the previous interpretation of the

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