Thursday, 25 September 2014
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Attorney-General, Senator Brandis. I refer to the report that the Attorney-General has joined the Melbourne Savage Club, which declared on its website:
Membership is offered to gentlemen only, based upon the criteria of good fellowship and shared interests.
Will the Attorney sing the club song and demonstrate the club initiation ceremony to the chamber? As the Attorney is responsible for federal anti-discrimination laws, can the Attorney-General explain why his new club does not accept women as members—or is it because he believes sexists have rights too?
I think it is a very entertaining question, but I am a little surprised that the shadow minister for defence would choose to pursue a flippant question like that—at any time, frankly, but particularly at the moment. Nevertheless, I will answer him.
Thank you, Mr President. I assume I am asked this rather flippant question in my capacity as Minister for Arts. I can confirm to the honourable senator that I was recently elected a member of the Melbourne Savage Club, which is a very illustrious organisation operating in Melbourne. I think that, to the best of my recollection, I am a member of three clubs—two of which are mixed and one of which, the Savage Club, has only male members.
There is nothing against the law of Australia for there to be gender-only clubs. There is nothing against the law of Australia for there to be, for example, women-only golf clubs. There is nothing against the law of Australia for there to be men-only clubs and there is nothing against the law of Australia for there to be mixed clubs—nor should there; nor is that sexist.
Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Why has the Attorney-General failed to disclose his membership of the Savage Club to the Senate given the potential for conflict of interest with his ministerial responsibilities relating to antidiscrimination legislation?
I am glad the opposition is having such fun. The answer to the honourable senator's question is: first, club memberships are not a disclosable interest, as he well knows; and, second, there is no respect in which gender-specific clubs are in breach of discrimination law.