The announcement today by Tasmanian Premier Will Hodgman that his Government was considering changing the State’s Anti-Discrimination Act to ensure freedom to express different views ahead of the marriage plebiscite, has been welcomed by the Australian Christian Lobby.
ACL Managing Director Lyle Shelton said the fact that the Tasmanian Government deemed it necessary to change the Anti-Discrimination Act in order to provide the platform for a free discussion ahead of the marriage plebiscite highlighted the shortcomings in current anti-discrimination laws.
“Anti-discrimination laws of course play an important role in protecting human rights but a re-balancing is needed so the human right of freedom of speech is not supressed,” Mr Shelton said.
“Democracies thrive on free debate but sometimes anti-discrimination laws are used to close this down.
“The ACL believes the action by Tasmania should be considered by other states,” Mr Shelton said.
“While Tasmania has a very low threshold from which to trigger a legal action, other states also needed to consider law reform to protect freedom of speech.
“This is not about facilitating hate speech but simply striking a more sensible balance so anti-discrimination laws are not used by activists to silence discussion on changing the definition of marriage.”
Mr Shelton renewed his call for State-based anti-discrimination laws to be set aside during the marriage plebiscite in order to facilitate free debate.
“Even the Australian Law Reform Commission in its most recent report has recommended changes to anti-discrimination laws to facilitate greater freedom in Australia,” Mr Shelton said.
Speaking in budget estimates today Premier Hodgman said: “We are considering potential changes to the Act to the end that people will be able to participate in the debate on same sex marriage or indeed on any other matter. We want people on both sides of the debate to have the right to have their say.”
“It is good to see an acknowledgement by the Premier and the Tasmanian Government that the current anti-discrimination laws need rebalancing,” Mr Shelton said.
“That unfairness was recently played out when the Tasmanian Archbishop Julian Porteous was hauled before the anti-discrimination commission simply for defending the church’s teachings on marriage.”
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