Thursday, 10 December 2020
COVID-19: Church Services
I add Senator Ryan to the motion. I, and also on behalf of Senators Antic, Stoker, McKenzie, Fierravanti-Wells, Van, McDonald, Abetz, McGrath, McMahon, Molan, Paterson, Davey, Scarr, O'Sullivan, Askew, Rennick, Small, Brockman, Hughes, McLachlan, Chandler, Bragg, Henderson, Dean Smith and Ryan, move:
That the Senate—
(a) notes that:
(ii) most state governments maintain restrictions on church attendance,
(iii) some states prohibit singing at church, yet attendees at stadiums can cheer and shout for their teams,
(iv) the freedom to express one's religious views is a fundamental right for all Australians,
(v) Christmas Day is one of the most important days on the Christian calendar, and
(vi) this year, during a time of uncertainty, Australians want more than ever the opportunity to come together to celebrate the birth of Christ; and
(b) calls on all state governments to ease restrictions on church attendance, and other restrictions, before Christmas so they are no more restrictive than those pertaining to football games, and allow more Australians to express their religious rights this Christmas.
Labor supports most of this motion in principle but will not support the government on its call in part (b) for state and territory governments to ignore the advice of health professionals. That's why we ask the President to call for separate votes on part (a) and part (b) this evening.
Labor wholeheartedly supports the freedom to manifest one's religious views. Indeed, it's a fundamental right for all. Australia is a pluralist democracy. Christmas is an important religious event for people of faith and people of no faith alike. It's a season that stretches out across the entire population and calls us to gather with family and friends to give thanks for the many blessings of each year and to share reflections of the year past in the season of peace, hope and love. Many Australians will be keen to attend religious services. The first night of Hanukkah will be celebrated tonight. On 25 December—and for those of the Orthodox traditions who will celebrate Christmas twice by gathering again on 7 January—we urge all state and territory governments to support the largest safe religious gatherings possible in line with health advice in those jurisdictions. Paragraph (b), however, we cannot support, as it will force state and territory governments to ignore health advice.
Senator O'Neill, I will separate, then, at your request, paragraph (a) and paragraph (b). The question is that paragraph (a)—including all the Roman numerals—of motion 949 be agreed to.
Question agreed to.
The question now is that paragraph (b) of that motion be agreed to.