Tuesday, 2 April 2019
Questions without Notice
Anning, Senator Fraser
My question is for the Minister representing the Prime Minister, Senator Birmingham. In a liberal democracy, free speech is a fundamental pillar which promotes open public discourse. However, it has been reported that the Prime Minister has said that my views have no place in Australia, let alone the Australian parliament.
Opposition senators interjecting—
Emphatically, yes. With every right come responsibilities, and with the right to freedom of speech is the responsibility to use it in a way that brings harmony to our society, that brings peace to our society and that is reflective of the broader values of our society. Senator Anning, through you, Mr President, the way in which you have conducted yourself in the time since the massacre occurred in Christchurch—that terrible tragedy that this Senate and the other place came together earlier today to reflect upon, to mourn and to pay respect but also to strongly condemn the actions of a violent madman who undertook that—betrays the rights you have to freedom of speech and shows a lack of responsibility in the way you have conducted yourself. The lack of compassion you have shown demonstrates, frankly, a basic lack of basic humanity. Lives were lost, families were ruined, a community was devastated and, rather than rightly reflecting upon the terrible act that occurred and the loss of life that occurred, you instead acted in a way that was inflammatory, that was divisive and that, indeed, fuels, potentially, further acts of terror and violence. In doing so, Senator, you have shown a reckless disregard for your fellow Australians and many others around the world. In doing so, you have failed the test of character I would expect of anybody who is elected to this place. So, yes, Senator, we all have the right to freedom of speech.
I condemn, the government condemns and I am sure every one of the 75 other senators in this place condemns any act of violence against any individual. But, Senator Anning, to seek to compare the act that occurred, an act of protest in relation to an egg, with the comments you had made in relation to the loss of life that happened in Christchurch, is an appalling comparison to seek to make.
Of course everybody ought to uphold the law. But everybody in this place ought also to be able to show some leadership. Not only did you fail in terms of showing responsibility and thought around the freedom of speech that you carry as a member of Australian society, and, unfortunately, as a member of this Australian Senate; you also failed, indeed, to understand the relativities of the types of circumstances you were dealing with.
Based on your answer, is it not the case that it is the government's position that politically motivated violence is acceptable in circumstances where the cause is sufficiently worthy—that is to say, where the ends justify the means?
I refer you to my previous answer. Of course, this chamber will tomorrow deal with your actions through a bipartisan censure motion. I acknowledge and thank those opposite—and I'm sure those from elsewhere in the chamber—for their support that will come in relation to that censure motion. We also trust that the people of Queensland will deal with you as you deserve to be dealt with at the next election.