Stopping Religious Vilification - Speech, House of Representatives


The shadow Attorney-General referred to the Race Discrimination Commissioner's report Sharing the stories of Australian Muslims. I wanted to take the House to some of the remarks made in the consultations around that report. One participant said:

My aunt wears a hijab, she has been spat on and had her hijab pulled off … she was born in Australia. When my aunt responded, the attacker was surprised that she could speak and defend herself.

Another Muslim woman said:

I don't feel safe while I’m walking down the street. I'm thinking of being spat at or someone might pull my hijab off my head.

The report noted that Muslim women face a 'triple penalty' as women, as members of a racial minority and as members of a religious minority. It highlighted the way in which mosques have been targeted with things such as graffiti, property being destroyed, pig carcasses being left on the grounds and direct attacks on members of the mosque.

We have seen a rise in Islamophobia. The September 11 events led to a shift in attitudes toward Australian Muslims and flow-on attacks on the wider Australian Arab community.

The work that both sides of the House did to try to quell some of those horrific racially and religiously inspired attacks couldn't have the backing of an antivilification provision, because none existed. What we're trying to do here is to put into legislation what the Prime Minister said he wanted to achieve. The Race Discrimination Commissioner has talked about the impact of the Christchurch mosque attack and pointed out that, following that, the Holland Park Mosque in the southern suburbs of Brisbane was vandalised and the swastika was spray-painted on the front gates of the mosque.

We've seen a rise in the rate of religious vilification, noted by the Scanlon Foundation and the Australian National University surveys. We've seen a rise in the number of racial vilification inquiries to the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission, noting that there have been significant impacts over recent years. The 2019 anti-Semitism report reported 368 incidents of anti-Semitism, including physical assault, abuse, harassment, vandalism, graffiti, hate communications via email, postal mail, telephone, leaflets, posters and stickers. The Islamophobia Register, launched in 2014, documents a rise in Islamophobia and reports almost 400 verified instances of reported Islamophobia. Some of those are interpersonal; some of those are directed at the Islamic community as a whole. They include hate graffiti, stickers, hate speech, vandalism and physical attacks. As the member for Gellibrand has pointed out, the rise of online hate speech sees another channel through which religious vilification can occur.

Labor has worked with experts on this. We've sought to ensure that there are appropriate carve-outs for issues such as satire, recognising that there is important scope for public debate and freedom of speech. But, if we really are committed to stamping out religious vilification, then this amendment should be supported. This is an amendment that goes fundamentally to who we are as a nation and whether we as a nation believe it is acceptable for racial vilification to take place. Those of us on this side of the House stand with communities of faith in wishing to rid Australia of religious vilification. We stand with those in the Jewish community, those in the Islamic community and those in the Christian community, many of whom have worked for years to strike the right balance on an antivilification provision, and that is what is before the House tonight.


Authorised by Paul Erickson, ALP, Canberra.

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Cnr Gungahlin Pl and Efkarpidis Street, Gungahlin ACT 2912 | 02 6247 4396 | [email protected] | Authorised by A. Leigh MP, Australian Labor Party (ACT Branch), Canberra.