Attorney-General Take Note of Answers

My colleagues on the other side started off so well, particularly Senator Watt. I would like to support his comments and also those of my colleague Senator Reynolds in thanking the many people who make this place work; clearly, the Clerk first and foremost amongst them. Unfortunately, the comments then descended into what you could only call an imputation on the character and conduct of Senator Brandis, when the question was actually around the government and what it has achieved around economic progress and stability.

One of the things I think Senator Reynolds mentioned that is really important is that much of what is occurring in this nation that is positive and good often goes under the radar. We have the headline things. We have seen the $20 billion of savings, the super tax reforms that have saved $6 billion, and the securing of the borders and the fact that we have stopped people drowning at sea. We have closed down detention centres and we have got children out of detention. Many of those things are in the headlines, which is great. But there are other things that never quite make the headlines.

A lot of the work that goes on in this place, as Senator Reynolds pointed out, does occur in a spirit of bipartisanship. Just today, for example, we passed the Criminal Code Amendment (High Risk Terrorist Offenders) Bill 2016, another measure to secure our nation. The bill was referred to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security, which I am pleased to be a part of. The committee worked in a very bipartisan manner to deal with a range of difficult issues and with concerns that were raised by stakeholders. We worked diligently to come up with a solution which is balanced and which provides the options needed by government and agencies to deal with those who present unacceptable risks in our community, but with appropriate safeguards so that we remain the kind of nation that we want to be.

That leads me to another committee, the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade, which I have the privilege to chair. The Human Rights Subcommittee, chaired by my colleague and friend in the other place Mr Kevin Andrews, has just received a reference to look at human rights, particularly article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which looks at freedom of religion and belief, and that is particularly appropriate as we come into this Christmas season.

As we get to enjoy Christmas here in Australia and everything that goes along with it, I would ask members in this place and those who are perhaps listening to the broadcast or reading the transcript to bear in mind that, right at the moment, members of the Australian Defence Force are engaged in a war in northern Iraq to free the city of Mosul. In that region, the world has seen one of the worst genocides that have occurred in many years. Yazidis, Christians and some Muslim minorities have been systematically persecuted. Men and boys have been arbitrarily killed and women have been sold off for slavery on the basis—the discriminatory point—of their religion. In fact, Christians—it may surprise many people to hear it—are now the most persecuted group in the world. Where there is religious based persecution, Christians are the most persecuted group in the world.

As we come into this Christmas season, one of the central parts of which is remembering the birth of Christ and the start of the Christian faith in the world, can I encourage those of you of that faith to be open about what you are celebrating. Do not feel constrained by political correctness to talk about ‘Xmas’ or to not sing Christmas carols. Be open. Celebrate the freedom that we have in this country, that men and women in uniform have fought and died for over the years so that we have the freedom to have faith and belief and conscience. Whether you have a faith or you do not, or whether you want to change your faith, we have those freedoms here, which people in other countries do not have.

As we enter this Christmas season, not only should we reflect on the achievements of the government and not only should we thank the members who work in this chamber, as well as Hansard and Broadcasting and the people who make the place run; can I ask you to think on those big things—those significant things about our globe, about the global population and the values that we hold dear and should be prepared to argue for in this place and, where necessary, to fight for, literally, in global conflict. With that, I take note of the answers given and I wish my colleagues and staff a very merry Christmas.