4BC Drive with Scott Emerson - 8 February 2022


SUBJECTS: Religious Discrimination Bill; Jenkin’s Review Statement of Acknowledgement. 

SCOTT EMERSON, HOST: I'm joined by the Labor member for Oxley and former ALP State Secretary and strategist, Well, how are you Milton?

MILTON DICK, MEMBER FOR OXLEY: Hello, Scott. Terrified after hearing that, ah-

EMERSON: Milton, I've known you very well for a long time. Mate, you'd like a nice, solid real meat burger, wouldn't you?

DICK: It's got to be well done. And I just-

EMERSON: Now I have to say Milton, you might be a bit biased about that, because then you get one of the bigger abattoirs in your electorate.

DICK: I do, in full disclosure, have one of the biggest meat works, but I'm also the son of a butcher. So my old man would be spinning in his grave if he heard this conversation now so yeah, I mean, what's the world coming to? I might pass a law down here to look after that.

EMERSON: Well, as I said, A completely meat free Burger Joint.

DICK: Oh well, they won't be getting my dollars, got to tell you right now.

EMERSON: That's good on you mate, very good on you. Now, let's talk about what is happening in Canberra at the moment. The Government is trying to push through its religious discrimination bill. I did see that report coming through that it has, the amendments have passed the coalition party room, but obviously it's got to get into the floor of Parliament. What's Labor's thoughts on this bill?

DICK: Well, this has been about three and a half years on its way and we do support the extension of, I guess, a framework or anti discrimination framework to ensure that any Australian is not discriminated against because of their religious beliefs. Or if they don't have any beliefs at all, just as the current law prohibits discrimination around things like gender, age, race. For me, it's a fairly simple proposition. We want to make sure that people of faith - and I have a large number of my community that I've been engaging with, particularly our churches and faith leaders in the southwest suburbs of Brisbane and Ipswich. But we've got to make sure we get this right Scott, so that whilst we're protecting those people who have religion, and they have the right to practice their faith. That we're not also discriminating against another set of Australians as well. So, getting the balance right. Obviously, the Government has been going through a bit of tortured process around this very publicly as well. We want to play a constructive role and make sure that we get the legislation right. We'll be going to our processes now that the Government's finalised, and looking at what amendments they are putting up to make sure that they meet those principles.

EMERSON: All right. And so the passage of this bill, when do you think it will be voted on?

DICK: Well, there's nine days of Parliament left this week, and then the Senate doesn't sit next week with estimates and then we have one final week. So, it is a bit of five minutes to midnight with the Government with this. I really wish that we had done this probably a year or two ago, not on the eve of an election where there is so much pressure building for the Government. And they have been taking their time on this, I understand that Scott, but Christian Porter was the Attorney General and he passed it to Michaelia Cash. Look, I'm hopeful that the Government will bring legislation in with the amendments. We can have a good look at them. We want to obviously go through our processes. It is cutting it fine. But you know, this is what the Prime Minister has committed to, we want to have a good look at it. As I said, making sure that no discrimination - particularly kids, and your listeners would have been following the issue around the Citipointe issue week before last, which you know, common sense did prevail. I've got a lot of people of faith who have contacted me about this, and I want to make sure that we get this particularly right so that, you know, the Prime Minister has said that no kid or no school student will be discriminated against. I want to hold him to his word on that and make sure that we have the best protections for kids who, let's face it Scott, should be worried about their education not being discriminated against, but also that we give peace of mind to people of religion and of all faiths across Australia.

EMERSON: Now Milton Dick, in the House of Reps today, the Prime Minister and the Labor opposition leader, they both made significant speeches. This was a formal apology, and has been offered to all survivors of sexual assault, harassment and workplace bullying within the Australian Parliament House. As I said, Scott Morrison and Anthony Albanese, both gave speeches and we saw that Scott Morrison specifically gave an apology to Brittany Higgins as well. What did you think of the Prime Minister's speech today?

DICK: Yeah, look Scott I think it was - and I don't want to be too partisan here - I think it was, you know, long overdue for those survivors to be recognized. And I give credit to the PM and the Leader of the Opposition and basically all sides of the Parliament today, uniting as one to recognize what's happened with the Jenkins report, which showed some horrific statistics about former staff and former MPs, and all of the trauma that's been associated. With the likes of the bravery of Brittany Higgins, who really led the charge on this. I thought it was a unifying point for the Parliament. But words are only one part of it. Now, going through the report, making sure the recommendations and the processes are properly followed today was an important part for that healing process to begin, but also to make sure that the Parliament of Australia, which is the people's house, the Parliament of Australia, which decides and leads the nation is a safe workplace is one thing - but also that every other workplace in Australia is also safe for people as well. So a tick for, I guess, a unifying approach for Parliament today. But there still is a lot of work to be done on this issue. And I'm certainly keen to make sure that I play my role to make sure that we make the best possible workplace that we can in the nation's capital.

EMERSON: I hear what you're saying about those speeches today, both by Scott Morrison and Anthony Albanese, you say a unifying moment for the Parliament today on a very important issue. What do you think then of the former Australian of the Year Grace Tame, saying that - and this is a tweet from her - that it was just a band aid electioneering stunt?

DICK: Well, look, I think the Parliament had to come together to deal with that. I didn't see that tweet myself from Miss Tame. She will be addressing the Press Club tomorrow with Ms. Higgins. I won't be attending now because I will be in the Parliament, but I know a number of my colleagues and I think the Leader of the Opposition and hopefully a number of Government members will also go. I think these young women are very brave and I guess are leading the fight on this Scott, and it can't be business as usual. Whilst I understand the importance and the significance of today, as I said earlier, the actions and actually the outcomes are what really matters. And I can understand there'd be a lot of women, young and old, will have to put up with this harassment in all sorts of workplaces in all sorts of places right across the country, that are probably having a sense of relief now that the nation's  leaders have heard them, the silence that went along with the cover up and the shame that went along with this has now ended. So today is hopefully a new chapter and a new dawn to make sure that we get this right.

EMERSON: But Milton Dick, I'd say, and I am not at all trying to play down the the terrible events in Grace Tame's life, and also the efforts and she has made over the last couple of years in terms of bringing these issues to the public's attention. But really, was it an electioneering stunt today to make that apology to the Parliament? I mean, you just said a moment ago that was significant moment, a unifying moment, surely it wasn't electioneering stunt? 

DICK: Well, look, as I said, I don't really want to give commentary about what everyone is saying. All I can know is that I was sitting there listening to both our leaders and all sides of politics and the independent Zali Steggall for Warringah, who gave a very powerful address to the Parliament. I don't think it was an electioneering stunt per se, I saw it as a very practical and, I guess, beginning part of that process to look those victims in the eye, and it was a bit disappointing that we didn't have more people in the Parliament who've gone through that, it was good to have six people sitting in the gallery. All young women who have all told their story who began this conversation. And previously Scott, over the years, you know, we also have the apology to those people that weren't able to speak out, that were silenced. So I'll leave those comments for her to explain, but from where I sit, and certainly the comments I've had from a number of women have contacted me today and to my office as well, they are really happy that something has been done. That we've got a process and a roadmap forward, but it's up to all of us, me included, and every other Member of Parliament, who's been elected to Parliament who have that responsibility to make laws and pass laws for all Australians, the privilege that goes with that, to make sure that we're all stepping up to make sure that we keep this the safest environment to lead by example. And that's what I saw today.

EMERSON: Milton Dick, it's always good to have you on the show. We'll catch you again next week. See you then.