Friday, 10 March 2017
Dr CARLING-JENKINS (Western Metropolitan) — I rise to speak on the take-note motion brought to the house by Ms Springle on behalf the Greens regarding a perception of rising vilification of and discrimination against Victorian Muslims, and which calls on all political parties to preference One Nation last in next year's election. I will try not to speak for too long — I am conscious of time — but I will address briefly both parts of the motion, and I will address the amendment brought to the house by Mrs Peulich.
The first part of the Greens motion calls for the house to take note of rising vilification of and discrimination against Victorian Muslims. For me, this part of the motion raises questions of freedom of speech and freedom of religion. Firstly, let me state categorically that the DLP supports the fundamental right to religious liberty. This right is well expressed in article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which reads:
Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.
Muslims here in Victoria enjoy this right along with all other Victorians. They have the right to believe, to worship together and to preach and teach. Any Victorian who chooses to do so can become a Muslim, and any Muslim in Victoria who chooses to do so can cease to be a Muslim — or should be able to cease to be a Muslim and embrace any other religion or system of belief. This is the beauty of freedom of religion and is something which I often remind new citizens of at citizenship ceremonies — that we are a freedom-loving country.
I find it necessary to note, however, that in many countries with constitutions based on Islam, the right of freedom of religion is gravely restricted. Religious believers other than Muslims are often denied the right to worship together, to preach or even to distribute the Bible, in many instances with dire consequences.
Dire consequences are also felt by Muslims in these countries who attempt to convert to another religion. Freedom of religion here can only be preserved in a society that allows robust discussion of conflicting belief systems. In my view Victoria's Racial and Religious Tolerance Act 2001 unduly restricts such robust freedom of speech. Victorians should have the right to openly discuss aspects of any religious belief in any context.
In the case of Islam there are legitimate matters for public debate, including the degree to which modern-day terrorist movements which self-identify as Islamic are rooted in the Islamic belief system and tradition. Similarly the treatment of women in Islam should be able to be openly discussed, as should claims that aspects of sharia law should be acknowledged by the Australian judicial system in cases involving Muslims. For the record, the DLP is firmly opposed to that proposition. There should be one legal system for all Victorians. Sharia law in whole or in part should be rejected by Victoria.
But I do want to make a really brief comment on the calls to ban the burqa. I do not support these calls. While I understand the context that police and judges may need to see a woman's face in some circumstances, I believe that to ban it wholly will lead to further oppression of women, and I reject this.
Back to the issue! Let us be honest. Where there is robust freedom of speech on matters as deeply held as religious belief, some of us will be offended from time to time by things others say about our own beliefs. We should not be too quick to cry vilification or to resort to suppressing freedom of speech, especially when the suppression of freedom of speech is being directed at one group over another. So I cannot support this part of the motion, because it appears to be based on an approach which seeks to limit vigorous debate on matters that I consider to be of profound public importance.
I wish to turn now to the amendment put forward by the coalition. I thank Mrs Peulich for bringing up her amendment for consideration. Essentially what Mrs Peulich has done is broaden the conversation around this motion. I wish to make a few observations.
Mrs Peulich has included the Jewish community. The Jewish community here continues to be one of the most discriminated against and threatened groups in Victoria, and I stand in solidarity with my Jewish friends today. I will note that every time I go to an event run by or for the Jewish community, the one thing that strikes me most is the heavy security. When I go to the synagogues to celebrate Hanukkah, the one thing that I note, particularly at the entrance, is the heavy security, and when I drive past a school, the heavy security again strikes me because of the very real threats that this community is exposed to here in our state.
Of course Mrs Peulich has also added the Christian communities, who are increasingly — within this chamber and without — vilified. I thank Mrs Peulich for drawing attention to these.
I would agree that we should take a stand against extremism of any kind; I think that is one of our roles as leaders in the community and one of our roles as politicians. Extremism is about fanaticism. Often we think about it as being blind and involving violence, and we should condemn this. I will note that freedom within our political system does mean that everyone has a right to find 500 members and register a party, and each party is free to distribute their preferences as they see fit. But Mrs Peulich's motion is not about preferences; it is just asking us to take a stand against extremism on both ends of the ledger. In 2018 I hope that we will be able to trust the voters — and I will trust the voters in Victoria — to make their hopefully informed decision regarding who to vote for and in what order.
Now I will return to the second part of Ms Springle's motion, which calls on all political parties to preference One Nation last on the ballot at the 2018 state election. As of yesterday when I checked the Victorian Electoral Commission website, there were 17 political parties currently registered in Victoria. I am happy to inform the house that the DLP is one of them — successfully re-registered on 27 February this year. But I do note that One Nation is not yet listed as a registered political party in our state. On this ground alone, this motion seems to be premature at best and purely a pre-emptive political statement at worst.
When it comes to preferences, I have a very clear view and my party has a very clear view. The Democratic Labour Party allocates its preferences based on a careful assessment of the degree of overlap between its core principles, as set in articles 11 to 13 of our constitution, and the principles espoused by each other party and/or its individual candidates. One of these core principles is to affirm the sacredness of human life from conception until natural death as a fundamental basis for all human rights. So I do encourage any party who wishes to receive preferences from the DLP, including One Nation candidates and all other potential candidates, to consider their values and their stand on these issues that count, because it is the answers to those questions which will dictate the way in which I direct preferences at the next election, not a parliamentary motion and not a pragmatic approach, which the Liberals are claiming to have taken in Western Australia.
What I do know is that some political parties aiming to run in the next election — the Voluntary Euthanasia Party Victoria, the Australian Sex Party Victoria and the Australian Greens Victoria — openly espouse principles that treat some human beings as disposable or like their lives are not worth living. Accordingly the last three positions on the Democratic Labour Party's ticket are already taken, and there will be no room for One Nation if it does succeed in registering in Victoria in those last three spots.
In case it has not been clear to date, I will not be supporting the motion put up by the Greens today.