In the mid 1990s, Tasmania's Liberals screamed "state rights" when Canberra moved to override our law criminalising homosexuality.
Back then Tasmanian Premier, Ray Groom, blasted Canberra declaring "I want to see the states unite to stop the Commonwealth Government".
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But now Tasmania's Liberals are quietly acquiescing as Canberra prepares to override the state Anti-Discrimination Act to allow humiliation and intimidation against LGBTIQ people and others.
It looks like the Liberals never really cared about the right of the Tasmanian people to make our own laws. It looks like they only care about giving bigots and bullies a green light.
The stance of Tasmania's federal Labor members has also been disappointing.
They have maintained a blanket silence about the proposed override.
This is despite its adverse impact on the most vulnerable people in our community, and despite the Anti-Discrimination Act being one of the Bacon Labor Government's greatest legacies. How did we reach this frustrating state of affairs?
Last year the Morrison Government put forward a Religious Discrimination Bill that was meant to prevent discrimination on the ground of religion, which is something we can all support.
Instead, the Bill allows discrimination in the name of religion and has been condemned by everyone from the Australian Business Group and trade unions to the Australian Medical Association.
One of the Bill's biggest problems is that it allows employees to say what they want about each other even if it undermines workplace inclusion policies.
Another problem is the Bill allows health practitioners to refuse any treatment they have a religious problem with, from hormone or stem cell procedures through to selling condoms, even if that violates their professional obligation to care for their patients.
Those who will suffer most are people with disability, unmarried partners, women seeking health care, racial and religious minorities, LGBTIQ people, and whomever else falls foul of traditional religious dogma.
The state with the most to lose is Tasmania because the Commonwealth Bill directly overrides section 17 of our Anti-Discrimination Act which prohibits humiliating, intimidating, offensive, ridiculing and insulting conduct.
Worse still, the override will apply to such conduct if it is in the name of religion, so religious people will have special rights not available to others.
Section 17 must be kept intact because it has helped to create a more inclusive Tasmania by allowing people who traditionally suffer stigma and bullying to appeal against mistreatment.
Some examples of the many successful cases taken under section 17 include a complaint against the racist abuse of school children, a complaint against a flyer that declared homosexuals to be an ungodly health hazard, and a complaint against derogatory comments about young people with disability.
The majority of cases under section 17 are from people with disability, many of whom unfortunately still suffer humiliation and intimidation in the name of religion.
Section 17 has created so much social good it has twice been upheld by State Parliament.
It is so well designed to prevent bullying that it has been incorporated into dozens of Tasmanian Government anti-bullying policies from education through health care to police and emergency services.
As much as any other law, section 17 has helped replace Tasmania's old reputation as "Bigot's Island" with a new reputation for being friendly, accepting and inclusive.
The case against section 17 is built on lies and exaggerations.
It is said terms like "offence" and "humiliation" are ill-defined, however, there is an extensive body of local and national court decisions that clearly define what these words mean in law.
It is said section 17 violates the right to freedom of speech and religion, just as Tasmania's former laws against homosexuality also violated human rights.
However, the Tasmanian Supreme Court has declared section 17 does not breach basic freedoms while an inquiry chaired by former Liberal Minister, Philip Ruddock, agreed freedom of speech and religion are not under threat.
This is in stark contrast to the condemnation of our former anti-gay laws by everyone from the UN Human Rights Committee to Amnesty International.
It is also said section 17 was used to "haul" the Archbishop of Hobart, Julian Porteous, before the Anti-Discrimination Commission simply for distributing a booklet opposing same-sex marriage.
In fact, the case involving the Archbishop was about statements in his booklet suggesting same-sex relationships "mess with kids".
He was asked to attend a voluntary one-hour mediation which he later said was "valuable", and when he ruled out even the tiniest amendment to the booklet the case was withdrawn. It was hardly the Orwellian nightmare the Archbishop's defenders portray.
Yet, Tasmanian politicians from both major parties seem to have swallowed all these flawed arguments, or been ensnared by extremists in their ranks, or just lost their moral compasses. How else can we explain their failure to tell Canberra to back off?
My message to them is this: even if you aren't convinced section 17 is a good law surely you can agree Tasmanians should decide what human rights laws we have, not distant Canberra politicians who don't know or care about our Island's positive transformation.
The better place Tasmania is today, and the laws that helped us get here, must be defended by our political representatives.
Now is the time for them to stand up to the bullies, here and in Canberra.
- Rodney Croome, spokesperson for Equality Tasmania
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