Senate debates

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Regulations and Determinations

Citizenship (Authorisation) Revocation and Authorisation Instrument 2017, Citizenship (Authorisation) Revocation and Authorisation Amendment Instrument 2017; Disallowance

6:44 pm

Photo of Nick McKimNick McKim (Tasmania, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

I, and also on behalf of Senator Siewert, move:

That the following legislative instruments, made under the Australian Citizenship Act 2007, be disallowed:

(a) the Citizenship (Authorisation) Revocation and Authorisation Instrument 2017 [F2017L01044]; and

(b) the Citizenship (Authorisation) Revocation and Authorisation Amendment Instrument 2017 [F2017L01074].

The context of this motion is that in August this year two councils in the Melbourne area, the Yarra City Council and the Darebin City Council, voted to no longer refer to 26 January as Australia Day and to no longer hold citizenship ceremonies on that date. The councils also made comment about the inappropriateness of having 26 January as the day that we celebrate Australia Day because of the hurt that it causes to so many of Australia's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. In taking these steps, the Darebin and Yarra councils have shown courage and leadership, and they've stood with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and the many, many other Australians, including all of the Australian Greens senators in this place, who believe that it's not appropriate to celebrate Australia Day on 26 January. The Australian Greens strongly support the actions that both the Yarra and Darebin city councils took and their decision to no longer hold citizenship ceremonies on that date.

Once they had made those decisions, they were come down on like a tonne of bricks by the government, and, after some completely overblown rhetoric from the relevant junior minister, Mr Hawke, with regard to this matter, we saw an instrument tabled in the Commonwealth parliament that sought to remove the authority of the Yarra City Council and the Darebin City Council from holding any citizenship ceremonies whatsoever. I mean, talk about trying to crack a walnut with a sledgehammer! We oughtn't be surprised that that was the response from Mr Hawke, acting, no doubt, on the instructions of the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, Mr Dutton. The first thing that we need to say very clearly here—

Senator Seselja interjecting

Senator Seselja can mutter away all he likes like Bill the Steam Shovel over there, but he can have his say later if he wants to. What's important to acknowledge is that the conversation about changing the date of Australia Day is happening around the country and it's happening at a higher volume every year. I remember when I had the honour to be invited and attended the first walk in Hobart on Invasion Day many years ago. I reckon we would have been lucky to have 50 people there. When I went to the walk this year in Hobart, we had well over a thousand people walking through the streets of Hobart demanding that Australia Day not be celebrated on 26 January. We have a fundamental respect for the original peoples of this country and we don't believe it's appropriate to celebrate our national day on a day that was the start of so much hurt and so much dispossession for those people.

Good local governments reflect their communities, and good local governments want to be as welcoming and as inclusive as possible. So, to what we believe was a sensitive and sensible step taken by the Yarra City Council and Darebin City Council, the Liberals responded, as I said, with a typically heavy-handed approach. Make no mistake: the government's response to the decisions made by these two councils, decisions that were based on goodwill and bringing our community together, has been vindictive and mendacious. Firstly its response has been aimed deliberately at denying those two councils the capacity to act in the interests of their communities. Secondly, the response is trying to send a shot across the bows of every other local government in this country to make sure they don't go down the same road that Yarra City Council and Darebin City Council did.

This is a conversation that my home state of Tasmania is having right now, in Hobart City Council. Put simply, the government's response to this, this vindictive mendacious response, is nothing other than a denial of free speech. The aldermen who made these decisions have been democratically elected, and the aldermen and councillors are being robbed of their right to participate in a public conversation about the date on which we should celebrate our national day. This sort of overreach, this sort of vindictive and mendacious behaviour, is all too typical of this government. They will spend months fighting for their right to say the 'N' word by gutting the Racial Discrimination Act, then they come down with a furious and purportedly righteous anger against councils who are simply trying to be respectful to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. That tells you everything you need to know about the kind of speech that this government prefers.

All Australians ought to be able to participate in the celebration of our country, and the Liberals, quite frankly, should get out of the way of councils who are progressive and who are demonstrating the courage of their convictions. Councils should not be able to be bullied, and that's what the government is trying to do. Make no mistake; the government is trying to bully councils out of an important conversation, and councils ought not be bullied by a vindictive minister acting like a school prefect on a power trip. That's what we are here to deal with today. That is exactly the way that the assistant minister for immigration, Mr Hawke, is acting—like a schoolyard bully. When you look at the legislative instrument, it reads like it was written by a year 2 student telling everyone else who did not get an invitation to their birthday party. When it lists who in Victoria can conduct a citizenship ceremony, it says:

(iii) Mayor of a local government council, except the Mayor of the City of Yarra Council and Mayor of the Darebin City Council;

(iv) Deputy Mayor of a local government council, except the Deputy Mayor of the City of Yarra Council and the Deputy Mayor of the Darebin City Council;

(v) Chief Executive Officer of a local government council, except the Chief Executive Officer of the City of Yarra Council and the Chief Executive Officer of the Darebin City Council;

(vi) General Manager of a local government council, except the General Manager of the City of Yarra Council and the General Manager of the Darebin City Council;

Fair dinkum, I haven't run into this level of petty vindictiveness since I didn't get an invitation to a birthday party when I was in grade 3. That is the level of vindictiveness we are dealing with here today.

Government senators interjecting

And I have some news for Senator Bernardi, Senator Seselja and anyone else who wants to have a crack back. The Australian people don't like bullies.

Government senators interjecting

And do you know what? We are outing this government as bullies today. The Australian people don't like being silenced and they particularly don't like people being silenced through undemocratic means.

It was really instructive for this Senate to have a look at a couple of things that Mr Hawke said at the time. He said this in his media release in response to the decision of Yarra City Council's decision: 'Politicising citizenship ceremonies will not be tolerated.' Well, guess what? Denying Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people their historical experience is a political decision. Celebrating a day of invasion in this country is a political decision, particularly when Mr Hawke knows full well—or ought to know—the hurt that it causes so many Australians.

Remember: the senior minister in this shambles, Mr Dutton, infamously boycotted the apology to the stolen generation. That's who we're dealing with here. Make no mistake, it's Minister Dutton who is pulling Mr Hawke's strings in regard to this. How dare Mr Dutton pretend to care a single jot about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people!

Well, I've got news for Mr Hawke, who said that politicising citizenship ceremonies will not be tolerated: we actually live in a democracy, not a dictatorship, and who can conduct citizenship ceremonies is a matter for the parliament, not the minister. That's why he's had to bring in a disallowable instrument, to try to change and remove the authority of people on the two relevant councils.

So what we're doing here today—and I thank in advance those other members of this chamber who've indicated that they'll be supporting this disallowance—is standing up. We're standing up for the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians who want to be able to celebrate Australia Day on a day that is not Invasion Day, on a day that doesn't remind them of the hurt and the dispossession and the racism that they've faced since Europeans arrived in this country; we're standing up for local governments to be able to make their own decisions for the benefit of their communities and reflect the hopes, aspirations and values of the people who elect them and pay their rates in those local governments; and we're standing up for freedom of speech, which we hear so much about in this place but which in fact, when it comes to the Liberals, the Nationals, Senator Bernardi and some of their fellow travellers, actually is not something that they truly believe in except in the very narrow frame of being able to allow themselves and their fellow travellers to engage in racist hate speech in this country.

So we're very proud today to stand up for all those things and to make sure that this government understands that, in a parliamentary democracy, they can make all the threats that they like and put out all the disparaging media releases that they want to but, at the end of the day, this is a disallowable instrument and the Senate is going to have its say on this. I truly believe, based on the advice that I've received, that this vindictive, pernicious, mendacious instrument that's been tabled in this place by the government is going to be disallowed at the end of this debate, and that'll be a great day. If there's any hope that I have, it is that this is a small step on a journey that one day sees our national celebration, Australia Day, occur on a date that is not so hurtful and harmful to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.

6:58 pm

Photo of Cory BernardiCory Bernardi (SA, Australian Conservatives) Share this | | Hansard source

I want to thank Senator McKim for his illuminating speech, because it explains a lot. Who would have known that the anger and the hatred towards one's own countrymen manifests itself in being excluded from a three-year-old's birthday party? I have to tell you, Madam Deputy President, that Senator McKim might not have been welcome as a three-year-old. There are many birthday parties he wouldn't be welcome at today, because he carries on against the national interests of this country, and the simple fact that he's dressed this up as some racism debate and says that those who disagree with him are guilty of some racist hate speech tells you about the evil that lurks within—the trauma, the torment, that must be driving this pernicious behaviour that is just about destroying and tearing down the things that are meant to celebrate and unite us as a nation.

One of the things I say as a conservative is that we have built institutions, and things have evolved over centuries—in this country, over many generations—and they've evolved for a particular reason: to bring people together to ensure there is the maximum civil society and the maximum freedom available. What I note is those on the progressive agenda like Senator McKim hate those institutions because they claim they oppress everyone else and they want to tear them down. What they're good at is ripping down things and destroying things, but they are not good at building them. They've got nothing to replace them with.

The Greens call themselves the 'global Green movement'. Their former leader—who, by the way, supported coal-fired power over the Franklin Dam—the person they idolise and adore and revere is the person who said there should be one world government, and yet here they are defending the rights and the roles of councils. They hate councils unless they're stacked full of leftists and Greens. And—what a coincidence—haven't we got a council or two that fulfil that description here?

Let's make this point: this disallowance motion incorporates two exceptions in the list of people who the Commonwealth authorises to receive a citizenship pledge or commitment. The two exceptions are the City of Yarra council and the City of Darebin council, both in the heart of Green territory in the Melbourne metropolitan area. Councils are allowed to provide citizenship ceremonies, as are others, at the behest of the minister for citizenship and immigration. That is their role and, yes, it is a disallowable instrument. But it is absolutely trite and pathetic for Senator McKim and the Greens to drive some sort of wedge into our national psyche on the basis that some extremists who have captured these two councils are pursuing their goal.

Let's have a look at this. The City of Yarra council covers Richmond, Collingwood and Fitzroy in inner Melbourne. The City of Yarra councillors comprise—lo and behold—four Greens councillors, two ALP councillors, two independents and one from the Socialist Alliance. It is pretty hard to pick them all apart; they're all in the same boat. But I have to say that one of these councillors, Mi-Lin Chen Yi Mei, enthusiastically welcomed the passage of the motion abandoning Australia Day. There's someone who enthusiastically welcomed the passage of the motion abandoning Australia Day. This is left-wing nonsense propagated by the far extreme left that is so damaging to all the things that made this country what it is today.

It's interesting to note the City of Yarra council also received a motion which it passed earlier this month asking for Australia to adopt the Rohingya asylum seekers, which, of course, is another Greens policy. It was introduced by the Greens mayor, Amanda Stone, backed by the Greens councillor Misha Coleman. Do you notice anything inconsistent with this? The people who loathe our country the most are the Greens and their associates.

The City of Darebin council later considered a similar motion at the behest of its mayor, Greens councillor Kim Le Cerf. Darebin covers the suburbs of Northcote, Coburg and Reservoir. Its council is comprised of four Greens, three independents and two ALP councillors, absolutely representative of the Australian people—that's called sarcasm, Madam Deputy President Reynolds! But, to her credit, Labor Councillor Williams was a voice of common sense, publicly questioning the proposal and belling the cat by saying it's crazy.

Moreland City Council, in Melbourne's suburban north, in mid-September became the third council to abandon Australia Day. They abandoned the day on which we celebrate us becoming a country, effectively—the day that European settlement started the establishment of this country as we know it today. But Greens councillor and then deputy mayor Samantha Ratnam's motion prevailed, seven votes to four, for which the Greens promptly rewarded her this week by rushing her into the Victorian Legislative Council to further undermine the Australian Constitution, to replace resigning Greens leader Greg Barber. What I find extraordinary is that this person was installed into the council, and had no political experience outside of being a mayor, but, because of her diligent work, was made leader of the Greens in Victoria—no political experience necessary. It says all you need to know. It's the ideology—the ability to carry the Marxist Green agenda right through the institutions. The more you wreck, the more havoc you cause, the more you destroy, the more you are rewarded under the Greens' program.

This trend was set in train by the Fremantle council in metropolitan Perth, which initially proposed doing what the Yarra and Darebin councils have done. But, when the government quite rightly warned them, 'We will take your citizenship rights away from you,' they relented and instead chose another day, 28 January—a separate, so-called 'One Day in Freo' event designed for Aboriginal Australians to stage an alternative ceremony. There are many Aboriginal Australians that I know who are happy with Australia Day where it is. It just seems there is an extreme element amongst them who are intent once again on ripping into whatever celebration there is and using it as a cause for division. That is what is being fuelled by the Greens.

But it's not only in Western Australia and Victoria. In my own state of South Australia we've got this headline-seeking, virtue-signalling council, the City of Marion council, where a councillor moved to abandon Australia day too. Not one other councillor, I'm pleased to say, seconded that motion. We had one person who loathed our country so much and couldn't even find that support.

More councils and councillors are sounding out their ratepayers about what to do on this issue, and this is the Greens' modus operandi: they make it untenable for people to have an alternative point of view. We saw that today with Senator McKim, wo is still lamenting not being able to blow out the candles at a three-year-old's birthday party. He wants to call everyone pejorative names such as 'hate speakers' for speaking up for Australia Day—a 'racist hate speech' for defending Australia Day. That's what we heard in the Senate. This is extremism writ large, and they dare to call others extremists and radicals. These people are getting hold of inner city councils. They're getting hold of institutional power, which they are using against the national interest. It should be of concern for all of us.

I give this history and these concerns because the genesis of this issue and this division lies firmly with the Australian Greens. It's cashing in, if you will, on the nonsense that is growing out of parts of America and, to a lesser degree, the United Kingdom, where the political left—the socialists, the communists, the cultural Marxists—want to rewrite history and erase their heritage and their past because suddenly they've determined that it causes offence. In America and Australia we're seeing people all of a sudden complain about statues that have been there for decades, demanding that they be covered up or the plaques be replaced. Lo and behold, who's behind that? It's the same cultural ideology that has infected the Greens party and is leaking out into other sections of society. It is about promoting this black armband view of Australia's history.

Australia's history is what it is. Like every country, there are imperfections in it. There are things that we all wish hadn't happened, but they go together—just like how in all our individual lives there are things we regret and wish we hadn't done, but there are also things we wish we had done and actions we wish we had taken when we didn't. But they go to making you the person that you are today, just like our history, like it or lump it, goes towards making us the country that we are today. We cannot erase that history. It's not about atoning for it; it is about getting on and making sure we can move forward together. You do not do that by ripping the country apart as the Greens are seeking to.

There is a question here about what on earth can motivate people to pursue this path of division, rancour and abuse. I'd like to characterise it as the misuse of power. Some would be even more aggressive in the language that they use: that this is, effectively, treacherous behaviour towards your country. People are right to question the desires of people who are intent upon destroying the institutions that help to make us what we are today. And it comes back to the agenda of the Greens, belled by former leader and former Senator Bob Brown, who spoke to fellow Earthians. He said we haven't been visited by aliens because they didn't like what we were doing to the planet down here.

He did begin a speech by saying 'fellow Earthians' on his approach to one world government, where everyone gets one vote. You know what? The 20-odd million people in Australia wouldn't get too much of a say in that one world government that the Greens so desire. They want governance by the elites. They believe that they know better than anyone else, that they can virtue-signal and that they can pursue things without being critically assessed for it.

I make no bones about it: Australian Conservatives wholeheartedly and 100 per cent support Australia Day. And this is not to gloss over our history. This is not to recognise that our history doesn't have highs and lows. But we have evolved; we have moved together as a nation to become the country that we are today. It is the best country in the world as far as I'm concerned. Yes, we have some challenges, but the challenges are not 26 January; the challenges are the fact that too few people are prepared to make a contribution to this country in a financial sense, which is leading people in this place to make decisions that we are leaving to future generations to sort out.

I regret that part of the problem is the fragmentation of this extreme leftist agenda, that says they know best and that they can govern better than individuals can manage their own affairs. That is the totalitarian nature of the Greens. That is the big problem confronting our country. Days like Australia Day, Christmas and Easter, our regular festivities and our traditions, are the things that bind and build our culture together. The Greens and their acolytes have no interest in perpetuating the culture that binds us together. They want to destroy, to tear down, the things that makes this country good so that they can reinvent it in their neo-Marxist image.

It is an absolute disgrace that Senator McKim uses his democratic right to trash our country in this place. He's meant to be better than that; he should be better than that. He's still carrying the internal grievance and the hatred that he has for other people because he wasn't included and invited to a birthday party as a three-year-old. This is a man with a serious psychological chip on his shoulder, and he shouldn't be carrying it in this place.

7:12 pm

Photo of Kim CarrKim Carr (Victoria, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister Assisting the Leader for Science) Share this | | Hansard source

I just take this opportunity to point out the Labor Party's position on this motion before the chamber. I indicate that Labor supports Australia Day—and let me be very, very clear about this: we have no plans to change it. We do understand the importance of a national day, and we know that many Australians take pride in Australia Day. But we also understand that for many, including Indigenous Australians, Australia Day is a day which represents a history of dispossession and suffering, and we cannot ignore that. So Labor will be supporting this motion.

But let me be clear about these childish games being played by both the government and by the Greens: they will do nothing to progress the cause of reconciliation, nor will they create a better future for Indigenous Australians. Stripping local councils of their capacity to conduct citizenship ceremonies is a gross overreaction by government. It is a pathetic infringement of what is a scheduling decision by municipal councils. This government: does it really not have anything better to do? Why have they been so focused on these issues? Why aren't they focused on the real questions about jobs and health care and education? If the Prime Minister wants to be the mayor of Point Piper, he's free to do so. The Greens political party have been just as bad, politicising a legitimate discussion with Indigenous Australians about reconciliation.

Labor supports a process of truth telling as part of the nation's healing, and that's why the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Shorten, has expressed support for the recommendations of the Referendum Council, which has called for a Makarrata Commission to oversee the process of truth telling and agreement making.

7:14 pm

Photo of Malcolm RobertsMalcolm Roberts (Queensland, Pauline Hanson's One Nation Party) Share this | | Hansard source

As servants to the people of Queensland and Australia, we are very proud of our nation, with proud values—mateship, which simply means support, a fair go, loyalty, dependability, care, being fair dinkum, truth, openness, law and respect, respect for the environment, science, objectivity, integrity, the Constitution, honesty, fairness, freedom and human progress. We oppose this disallowance. I look across and I'm honoured and pleased to see two Indigenous senators in the chamber. That is all we need to know that the Indigenous are one with us and that we have similar issues that we need to face.

Secondly, I remind senators that last month I went on an extensive tour of Cape York and visited every Aboriginal community, with the exception of Aurukun, which was closed because of Sorry Day business. Up there, we see people talking about other groups—whitefellas; blackfellas—and that is the second sign, because they are not talking in denigrating terms or derogatory terms about each other. They are talking with respect for the other people's culture. While I was in Cape York, not one person across the entirety of Cape York and all the communities raised with me the issue of wanting to change Australia Day. We need to go further, though. We need to stop funding all councils that interfere with Australian icons, heritage and statues, and any local government that wants to rewrite history—because what One Nation says is 'yes' to Australia.

We are also very proud of being part of Western civilisation. We don't hide from it; we are proud of it and the freedoms it brings. In fact, Mahatma Gandhi, when asked what he thought of Western civilisation, said: 'It would be nice.'

Fourthly—families. Families are fundamental to responsibility. There are two organisations that are essential for responsibility and in the organisation of human affairs: the family and the nation-state. The Greens, sadly, want to destroy both. We, instead, want to bring back and support families. We want to bring back one nation for all Australians because we cherish Australia and our institutions that are Australian.

7:17 pm

Photo of Patrick DodsonPatrick Dodson (WA, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to speak on the motion moved by Senator McKim and Senator Siewert for the disallowance of the legislative instruments made under the Australian Citizenship Act. The regulation revokes the authority of the Yarra and Darebin councils and their officials to hold citizenship ceremonies. It lists the mayor, the deputy mayor, the CEO, the general manager and even the administrator of those councils. It sends the message that any council in the future would be named in this regulation if, at the local level, they decide to have a different date for citizenship ceremonies. These instruments were created to bring down pressure from the federal government on local government communities that have taken decisions, after discussions with their communities, to consider holding citizenship ceremonies on a day other than 26 January. This is a very heavy-handed way to deal with a very, very sensitive issue of concern to many in our community. Fascism reigns when you do this.

The issues underlying this are well known and have been for many years. We live in a democracy and people should have the right to debate matters of concern in their communities and in this nation as a whole. Labor are not calling, as you've heard, for a change to the date of Australia Day, but we understand that, for many people, including many first-nations people, 26 January represents dispossession and sadness—a legacy we struggle with in this nation and in this place, constantly, to get social policy settings right. We cannot behave in an idiotic manner when serious discussion is required, and we cannot afford to ignore this matter. It is some three months since the Referendum Council placed its report and recommendations in the hands of the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition.

Debate interrupted.