Senate debates

Wednesday, 31 July 2019

Questions without Notice: Take Note of Answers

Conservative Political Action Conference

3:05 pm

Photo of Penny WongPenny Wong (SA, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) Share this | Hansard source

I move:

That the Senate take note of the answers given by the Minister for Finance (Senator Cormann) to questions without notice asked by Senators Wong and Keneally today, relating to extremism.

These questions related to the extraordinary decision by Senator Amanda Stoker and Mr Kelly MP to attend a Conservative Political Action Conference. In the wake of horrifying and tragic events and in the wake of inflammatory and divisive comments by a former senator, we have had in this place in recent time a substantial debate about the importance of all of us uniting to overcome hate, fear and division, and I remember the contributions from the other side. I remember how much discussion we had about the need to be far more careful—you should be listening to this, Senator Stoker—and far more vigilant about the hate speech proliferating in our discourse and the people with whom you choose to break bread and the people with whom you choose to share a stage.

Senator Stoker interjecting—

I'll take an interjection, even though you're not in the chair and you're crouching on the floor and you shouldn't be interjecting from there. I'm very happy to take it from over there. The Australian parliament passed laws requiring social media companies to act upon instructions from police and other authorities to remove material inciting violent hatred, and Mr Morrison, our Prime Minister, made much fanfare for doing something that we do acknowledge was an appropriate thing to do, which was a statement at the G20 pressuring social media companies to act immediately when contacted by authorities to remove terrorist content such as a live video of an attack or other violent posts that seek to spread terror or recruit followers.

These are all fine words, but it's time for the Prime Minister, Mr Morrison, to show he's for real. It's time that he showed some leadership, because here in Australia we have a real-life conference which is a veritable academy for those wishing to learn the dark arts of hate speech. Some of the most extremist elements from the US and the UK are here running workshops on how to recruit people into the ideologies of hate. This requires a response from Mr Morrison, because if it's important enough to act decisively on hate speech in the virtual world of social media it's certainly important enough to act decisively on hate speech in real life; otherwise it will be clear that Mr Morrison's concern for maintaining a peaceful, cohesive Australia risks being far more virtual than real.

Now some might dismiss the conference—I heard some such interjections during question time—as being harmless. This one is not. This is the place where movements start. This is the place where networks are built. And this is the place where Senator Amanda Stoker and Mr Craig Kelly, and potentially others who might not be listed, will be sharing the stage with the people who have the views that were quoted in question time today—views that the Leader of the Government in the Senate described as abhorrent.

There is much to love about America, but there are many things we don't want to replicate here. The white supremacist movement is gaining momentum. Conflict over race and religion is increasing. We have seen more and more attacks on Jewish, Islamic and black Baptist places of worship, along with neo-Nazi rallies that have turned deadly. As I referenced in my question, one of the speakers at the Australian conference of CPAC next week is US congressman Matt Gaetz, best known for inviting a Holocaust denier Charles C Johnson to the State of the Union. Mr Johnson is a man who asked for help in taking out—'taking out'—a black civil rights advocate and who denied that over six million Jewish people were murdered in the Holocaust. There is an argument to make that he ought not be allowed into Australia, on character grounds. But there should be no argument that the Prime Minister should call out this extremism as he said he would. And there shouldn't be an argument as to whether the Prime Minister must ensure that nobody from his party attend or be associated with this workshop, which is about spreading extremism in Australia.

We are a proud, decent, multicultural nation. As I said when we moved on a bipartisan basis to censure Fraser Anning, that multiculturalism and that tolerance and that respect has been built by both sides of parliament. That means that those people in the coalition who know that this sort of activity and these sorts of views are abhorrent should ensure that their colleagues do not engage in this conference with people who peddle such hatred and whose views are so contrary to all of Australia. This Prime Minister, Mr Morrison, said he would call out extremism wherever it was. He gave very clear commitments to the Australian people about his support for multiculturalism, respect and acceptance. Well, it's time he showed it by making sure that his people don't turn up to this conference. (Time expired)

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