Sen Di Natale: I rise to take note of an answer given to a question directed to Senator Brandis. Let me begin by saying firstly to the many decent, honest, law-abiding Australians who also happen to be Muslims that, on behalf of most politicians in this place, we are sorry. We are sorry that you were subjected to some of the most shameful and disrespectful mocking of your religion. People simply should not have to deal with that.
We Greens have always stood with you. We’ve stood with the Muslim community at a time when there is so much fear and hatred directed towards you, but what we learnt today was that it’s not just the Greens who stand with you. Indeed, we saw the overwhelming majority of this parliament come together and rise as one to say that such behaviour should never be tolerated. I believe that’s a sentiment that most of the Australian community also feel. To the children, the families, the men and women, the people who are Muslim right around the country: please know that we are with you right now.
Let me also say that in a short while the Senate Select Committee on Strengthening Multiculturalism will table its report. Without pre-empting the findings of that report, let me make it clear that the Australian Greens are strong advocates of a code of multicultural ethics that would effectively give every single person in this place a framework around what is appropriate and what is completely inappropriate when it comes to mocking someone’s religious background or cultural background.
We think the time has come to ensure that every member of this parliament signs up to a code that demonstrates what true Australian values are about. True Australian values include respecting diversity, celebrating our differences and recognising that mocking somebody on the basis of cultural and religious difference is never acceptable. The responsibility of each and everyone of us in this chamber is to lead by example. On that note, let me again congratulate the Attorney-General for showing such leadership at an important moment, because it’s not just the response to Senator Hanson that was important; it was the response to the entire Muslim community across Australia that was just so important. They need to know that those were the views of a hateful, ignorant, bigoted individual and they are not views that are shared by the parliament or, indeed, the Australian community.
We Greens believe it’s time to establish a multicultural act: legislation that effectively demonstrates our commitment to multicultural Australia. Canada has done it. We think it is so important that Australia does it—particularly now, at a time when we see this sort of hatred and bigotry within our community. Of course, it should be part of something broader. We think it needs to be part of a charter of human rights. We will be strongly advocating for legislation to protect all cultural, religious, political and other freedoms in this place.
As part of the work of the Senate Select Committee on Strengthening Multiculturalism, we also heard about how important it is to ensure that people who come to this country get the support that they need through job service providers in the form of flexible learning of English language skills. And we, as a country, have a tradition of doing those things extremely well.
What those comments today from Senator Hanson highlight is the critical need to educate the Australian community around the values of respect and inclusion, and what better place to start than within our school system? That’s why we support the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority, in consultation with government and non-government authorities, introducing an intercultural curriculum to all primary and secondary students so that they can learn about other religions and cultures and, hopefully, grow up in an environment where they aren’t making decisions and statements on the basis of prejudice and ignorance.
Finally, let me say once again that we, the Australian Greens, will always stand up for individuals who are honest, decent and law-abiding people. We think that the Australian Muslim community makes a great contribution to this nation and we celebrate that contribution.
Chamber Senate on 17/08/2017 Item QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE: TAKE NOTE OF ANSWERS – Parliamentary Behaviour Speaker:Di Natale, Sen Richard Parliament of Australia Transcript Used for News Reporting