Monday, 2 December 2019
That the Senate—
(a) notes with deep concern that:
(i) the 2019 report on anti-Semitism in Australia, published by the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, found a 30% year-on-year increase in reported incidents of anti-Semitic verbal abuse, harassment and intimidation,
(ii) the rise in anti-Semitic and Nazi sentiment is seen even more clearly online, especially on sites used by the far-right, white supremacists, Nazis and other racists, and
(iii) racism, more broadly, is on the rise in Australia, being fed by irresponsible sections of the media and extremist politics; and
(b) urges the Australian Government to introduce an Australian Charter of Rights, recognising that we are the only western democracy that does not protect the basic rights and freedoms of its people in either legislation or the Constitution.
The government deplores all forms of anti-Semitism, including from the far right and the far left, as demonstrated by our support of motion No. 279 from Senators Griff and O'Neill. This government has been a global leader in addressing anti-Semitic content online through its legislation on abhorrent violent material, which was effective recently in preventing the use of social media platforms to amplify the anti-Semitic attacks on synagogues in Germany. Preventing anti-Semitic discrimination is exactly the reason the government is working towards introducing a religious discrimination bill.
However, part (b) of this motion calls for a bill of rights. The proposal has been publicly debated and—for good reasons, including the diminishing democratic decision-making and politicisation of the judiciary—was roundly rejected in that public debate. It is not supported by the government because it's not the best way to protect rights in Australia.
Labor agrees with the first part of this motion, condemning anti-Semitism and all forms of racism. When we were last in office we established a set of policies called Australia's Human Rights Framework. The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights was established by statute, charged with the responsibility to scrutinise legislation for compliance with human rights standards as set out in the human rights treaty to which Australia is a party. In addition, Labor mandated that all new legislation introduced to the parliament be accompanied by a statement of compatibility with human rights. These important measures remain in place today. I would ask, when this motion is put, that the question be split so that we can consider part (a) and part (b) separately.
Senator Gallagher has asked for the question to be split. The first part of the question is that part (a) be agreed to.
Question agreed to.
I advise senators that we're dealing with general business notice of motion No. 285 which, at the request of Senator Gallagher, has been divided into part (a) and part (b). We are now dealing with part (b). The question is that general business notice of motion No. 285, standing in the name of Senator Di Natale, part (b) be agreed to.