A missed opportunity

February 17, 2022

Parliament missed a valuable opportunity last week. We let slip the opportunity to protect all Australians from discrimination. Parliament failed to protect people of faith, all faiths—Christians, Hindus, Muslim women who are scared of being attacked for wearing a hijab, Sikh men worried about having their turbans ripped off in the street, Jewish people, and so many more people of faith. On Prime Minister Morrison's watch, this parliament missed the opportunity to protect people in the LGBTIQ community. Parliament missed the opportunity to protect children, all children—straight children, gay children, trans children. Children, whoever they are. The parliament failed. Instead, Prime Minister Morrison deliberately and cold-heartedly chose division and discrimination. He talked of unifying but walked away when it mattered most. This sinister Prime Minister used trans children as a divisive tactic in a cold-hearted attempt to score political points. Just let that sink in. He used children in the hope of improving his electoral fortunes.

The parliament had a chance to extend protection from vilification to people of faith, particularly minority religions, like my Muslim and Sikh communities, who have been telling me for years they need this protection. Parliament could have stepped up last week. Instead, the Prime Minister stepped down to the gutter. Labor moved an amendment to achieve protection, but the Morrison government made the decision to deny people of faith that protection.

Last week this parliament had a chance to extend discrimination protection to all children. The Morrison government made a decision to leave trans children open to discrimination. The damage of that shameful stance by the Morrison government—not all—has already been felt in the trans community. That low road should never have been a direction for this parliament. All children should be protected, always.

Sadly, the Greens political party were just as bad as the coalition last week. They abandoned people of faith in that important debate. In their desperation for relevance, and to always attack Labor, the Greens failed to protect all Australians. They had the social media attack ads ready to narrowcast to certain groups who they think will help their electoral chances, when they should have actually been seeking to protect all Australians from discrimination. I want to make Labor's position crystal clear: we want to extend protection from discrimination to people of faith without removing existing discrimination protections for other Australians. We want all children to be protected from discrimination, and this is achievable. It was achievable last week, but the Morrison government decided not to protect religious people from vilification and not to protect all children. The Morrison government opened their old and desperate playbook last week to divide the parliament and to divide Australians, pitting religious communities against LGBTIQ communities, pitting the rights of one group of children against the rights of another. It's a hard path to unite the country, and this government is not up to it.