Thursday, 22 June 2017
Questions without Notice
Court, Mrs Margaret
My question is to the Attorney-General, Senator Brandis. Attorney, I refer you to recent comments by Margaret Court that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender young people were 'all the Devil'. She equated accepting and supporting LGBTIQ young people with 'what Hitler did, with what communism did'. She said, 'That's the whole plot in our nation and the nations of the world to get in the minds of the children.' Given how hateful and hurtful these comments are to LGBTIQ people, why is Margaret Court speaking at a Liberal Party fundraiser in Melbourne tonight?
Senator Rice, I am not aware that Margaret Court is speaking at a Liberal Party fundraiser. If she is, I assume the reason she is speaking is because she has been invited to. I am not familiar with the particular remarks you have quoted. By the way, I have met Margaret Court. She came to see me a couple of years ago to put her point of view in the debate about gay marriage. She is a significant Australian. As a younger woman, she was a great contributor to Australia as a sportswoman. In her mature years, she has become a minister of a church, as I understand it, and has strongly conservative views on gender issues and the question of the rights of gay people.
I do not share those views, but, might I remind you, Senator Rice, that, in being a prominent opponent of same-sex marriage, Margaret Court represents a point of view shared by, according to the opinion poll evidence, about a third of Australians. I do not share those views; obviously you do not either. But Margaret Court's opposition to same-sex marriage, so far as we can tell from opinion polls, is a point of view that represents about a third of the people in Australia—about eight million people. I am surprised to hear you, Senator Rice, of all people, coming into this chamber to attack the rights of people to express minority points of view, because, Senator Rice, the political party you represent has the support of about 10 per cent of the Australian people. Margaret Court's views on same-sex marriage have the support of more than three times that many Australians. So of course she is entitled to her point of view.
Two years ago, Attorney, you launched the Australian Human Rights Commission report Resilient individuals: sexual orientation gender identity & intersex rights. You were quoted as saying at the launch:
The report reminds us how wicked it is to taunt, to embarrass, to abuse, to humiliate young people because of their sexuality, and that is one of many of the areas which still need to be urgently addressed …
Do you still stand by these comments? Do Margaret Court's comments fit your category of wickedness? (Time expired)
I do, absolutely, stand by those remarks. In fact, it is an issue I feel very strongly about. I have not seen the particular remarks of Margaret Court that you have referenced and, therefore, I am not going to comment on them. But I am going to make the general point, as I have done throughout my career, that I will stand up for the right of people to express a minority view, even though it may be an offensive view.
Attorney, is it a fact that having significant sections of the Liberal Party condoning and supporting hateful and hurtful views like these is holding the Liberal Party back from being the strong supporters of equality and LGBTI people that you should be?
Might I remind you, Senator Rice, that the Liberal Party is very proud of its history as a law reformer in this area, including, by the way, making the first attempt at law reform in relation to the rights of gay people in Australian history—in the South Australian parliament, by Mr Murray Hill, the father of our former colleague Senator Robert Hill. The first attempt in this parliament to protect the rights of gay people was introduced by a former Liberal Prime Minister, Sir John Gorton, into the House of Representatives in the 1970s. So we are very proud of what we do. But, being Liberals, we also respect the fact that this is an area in which different people will have different views, and we can—and I do—both stand up for the rights of gay people and also stand up for the rights of others to express a view that I myself find personally distressing.