Wednesday, 13 May 2020
Marginalisation of Ethnically Diverse Communities
Before moving general business notice of motion No. 562, I inform the chamber that Senator Griff will also co-sponsor the motion. I, and also on behalf of Senators Faruqi and Griff, move:
That the Senate—
(a) notes with serious concern the further marginalisation of ethnically diverse communities in Australia during the COVID-19 pandemic;
(b) recognises that:
(i) anti-Asian racism has spiked during COVID-19, and there has been a sharp increase in reported cases of racist incidents in the public and racial discrimination complaints made to the Australian Human Rights Commission, and
(ii) the Asian Australian Alliance's COVID-19 Incident Report Survey found that 81% of the respondents said recent racist incidents they experienced were a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic;
(c) celebrates Australia's cultural diversity as essential to who we are as a nation; and
(d) calls on the Government to:
(i) fund an ongoing national anti-racism campaign through the Human Rights Commission,
(ii) establish a charter of rights that ensures everyone in Australia is treated equally with guaranteed access to essential services, and that the Government cannot discriminate against anyone based on the colour of their skin or their visa status,
(iii) take a stand against racism by adding hate speech to the Criminal Code Act; and
(iv) ensure that ethnically diverse communities are not left behind in the nation's recovery from COVID-19.
The government condemns racism in the strongest possible terms, particularly in the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, paragraph (d)(ii) of this motion calls for a charter of rights. This is a proposal that has been publicly debated, and for good reasons, including diminishing democratic decision-making and politicising the judiciary, after full public debate it was roundly rejected. It is not supported by the government, because it is not the best way to protect rights in Australia. The provision further equates racism and visa status, which is an entirely false equivalence. The government also considers paragraph (d)(iii) is incorrect. The paragraph calls for adding hate speech to the Criminal Code. It fails to recognise that sections 80.2A and 80.2B already criminalise the urging of violence against groups and against members of groups. For those reasons, this motion cannot be endorsed.
As outlined by Senator Urquhart, we have asked that this question be voted on separately. We don't support subsection (d). We don't believe that expanding the Criminal Code, which already criminalises incitement to violence, or establishing a charter for access to government services provide effective means to combat racism. What we need is for every member of this parliament to lead by example in rejecting racism and encouraging mutual respect.
The question is that all of the motion except clauses (d)(ii) and (d)(iii) be agreed to.
On that basis, I don't think I can put the next vote, because it would stand alone and not make sense without the covering clause.