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Pages tagged "Attorney General and Democracy"

Strangers Gallery Renaming

22 February 2023

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I rise to speak in favour of this motion on behalf of the Greens. As the honourable Leader of the Opposition has noted, many of the traditions in this place serve us well, are important and worth maintaining, but it is also important that we evolve as an institution. The students have rightly identified that the term 'stranger' is quite alienating in terms of its use here within the parliament.

This is a very, very simple change we can make that demonstrates that the parliament is, in fact, open to the whole community and accessible to the whole community. It is possible to have discussions around simple changes to standing orders whilst dealing with the myriad complexities we face here in our state, so I do not think that dealing with this is a distraction from ramping, the cost-of-living crisis or the other important issues we are dealing with here in this parliament.

I would caution the Hon. Ms Bourke though. Late last year, I proposed a very simple change to standing orders when I suggested that we might want to revisit the Lord's Prayer, and the front page of The Advertiser in response was, 'Greens ban God'. I am very concerned that the Hon. Ms Bourke may wake up to a headline tomorrow morning that says, 'Bourke bans strangers', so I do warn her she should be prepared for that.

I do think that as a parliament we are able to deal with these issues as well as the myriad other challenges that confront our state. Of course the Greens are supportive of this. It is a commonsense change.

Statutes Amendment (Civil Enforcement) Bill

9 February 2023

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I rise briefly to speak on the Statutes Amendment (Civil Enforcement) Bill. This is a new version of a bill that, as the Hon. Ms Lensink has pointed out, was first brought before us in 2021. Some honourable members may recall back then that the Greens were supportive of the bill, and we also supported a proposal from the then Labor opposition to make some changes to the bill. The bill before us today aims to address a concern the Hon. Kyam Maher, I believe, had at that time, which was regarding the implications of this reform for people on low incomes and looking at how garnishee orders could result in them not being able to meet their financial needs.

The new clause, which aims to protect low income workers, could have some adverse effects for those who have inconsistent incomes. The Greens are concerned that there may be people who work as a casual employee or work seasonally who could be impacted. Indeed, as the Hon. Connie Bonaros pointed out, a submission from the Law Society raised these concerns about the implementation of the clause, given that a seasonal or periodic worker may earn significantly more than the national minimum wage in a short period of time and then may earn nothing for the remainder of the year.

In such circumstances, when averaged over a year, it is possible that a garnishee could earn less than 90 per cent of the minimum wage but then still be required to pay in those weeks where they earned a greater amount. I recognise, of course, that was not the government's intent, but that could have been an effect.

We have worked with the government to improve the bill and to ensure that it is fairer for people who live on inconsistent incomes. I understand that the government will be advancing an amendment to address that concern that has been raised by the Greens and others and we are certainly supportive of that.

The other issue that the Greens had some concerns about was the protection of personal information supplied under investigation notices. In the last year, we have seen multiple examples of data breaches that have resulted in personal information being compromised and we know that that has significant implications for our community. Most recently, there has been the Medibank saga, the Optus saga and others.

The Law Society raised concerns about personal information being obtained under an investigation notice and the need for this to be protected from uses other than that for which it was intended. We will therefore be moving an amendment to ensure that these protections are in place. The Greens will be supporting the bill with the amendments that I have outlined.

Human Rights Abuses in Qatar

30 November 2022

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: In starting, I really want to commend the Hon. Mr Hunter for the speech he has given and also recognise his decades of service as an advocate and a campaigner in the space of LGBTI rights and human rights more broadly.

I want to take this opportunity to condemn the decision of FIFA to hold the World Cup in a country that has a reputation as a human rights abuser. The human rights record of Qatar is well documented, and the Hon. Mr Hunter has detailed that history of abuse. Qatar has a history of abusing LGBTI people, women and workers. Indeed, The Guardian has reported that up to 6,500 South Asian migrant workers have died in connection with building infrastructure for the World Cup.

In its human rights report on the country in 2021, Amnesty International reported, and I quote from the report that is on their website:

Women continued to face discrimination in law and practice. Under the guardianship system, women remained tied to their male guardian, usually their father, brother, grandfather or uncle, or for married women, to their husband. Women continued to need their guardian's permission for key life decisions to marry, study abroad…work in many government jobs, travel abroad…and receive some forms of reproductive healthcare.

Family laws continued to discriminate against women by making it difficult for them to divorce. Divorced women are unable to act as their children's guardian.

This is in Qatar in 2022. The Human Dignity Trust provides information on the human rights abuses of LGBTI people in Qatar. It states, and again I quote from their website:

Qatar criminalises same-sex sexual activity between men and between women. Sentences can involve a possible maximum penalty of death by stoning.

Same-sex sexual activity is prohibited under the Penal Code 2004, which criminalises acts of 'sodomy' and 'sexual intercourse' between people of the same sex…Both men and women are criminalised under this law.

The Human Dignity Trust goes on to note:

The Constitution of Qatar designates Islam as the state religion, and Islamic law as the main source of legislation. As such, in addition to the Penal Code, Qatar operates an interpretation of Sharia law which criminalises sexual activity between men, under which it is possible that the death penalty can be imposed.

I know that the government of Qatar has argued that these things are not used in practice. Well, we know that is not the case because Human Rights Watch has reported on what has been occurring in Qatar as recently as October. Indeed, Human Rights Watch has revealed that the government of Qatar even goes as far as to monitor people's social media, their online activity, their behaviour on dating apps. They use this as a way to track and monitor LGBTI people, in particular gay men. It is reprehensible.

On 25 October, Reuters reported Human Rights Watch's concerns for the welfare of LGBTI Qataris in the lead-up to the World Cup. I quote from their article:

The organisation—

that is, Human Rights Watch—

said it had interviewed six LGBT Qataris, including four transgender women, one bisexual woman and one gay man, who reported being detained between 2019 and 2022 and subjected to verbal and physical abuse, including kicking and punching.

They were detained without charge in an underground prison in Doha, and one individual was held for two months in solitary confinement—two months. 'All six said that police had forced them to sign pledges indicating that they would cease immoral activity,' the article said, adding that transgender women detainees were mandated to attend conversion therapy sessions at government-sponsored clinics.

One of the transgender Qatari women interviewed by Human Rights Watch told Reuters on condition of anonymity that she was arrested several times, most recently this summer when she was held for weeks on end. Authorities stopped her due to her appearance or for possessing make-up, the woman said, adding that she had been beaten to the point of bleeding and was forced to have her head shaved—this shameful human rights abuse happening in Qatar in 2022.

Recently, Qatar's World Cup ambassador Khalid Salman referred to homosexuality as 'damage to the mind'. This is the view of Qatar's World Cup ambassador. It is hardly surprising, then, that LGBTI sportspeople around the world have spoken out against Qatar holding this event. SA's own out soccer player, Joshua Cavallo, whom the Hon. Ian Hunter and I have had the opportunity to meet with, has been outspoken in his critique. I certainly, like the Hon. Mr Hunter, support his comments.

As one of two out and proud gay men in this place, I want to add my voice to those opposing Qatar hosting the World Cup. I am appalled that LGBTI soccer players and fans are being put in this situation where their human rights are potentially at risk. I am appalled that a country with such an appalling, despicable human rights record is being given the honour of hosting this event and being given the opportunity for a social licence that comes with hosting an event of this nature.

I am appalled that so many workers have died, had their very basic human rights trampled, in an effort to host this event and to make money. Money has literally been made off the backs of some of the world's most desperate and vulnerable people. Surely, we have reached a point where the international community and international organisations like FIFA have to show some moral leadership.

We cannot simply turn our backs on these people. We cannot continue to condone what is despicable human rights abuse. I really do hope that FIFA reflect on their appalling lack of leadership. I hope that they reflect on what has been a despicable moral failure on their part and that they change their policies and processes to ensure that this kind of sportswashing is never allowed to happen again because it is truly despicable.

Israel-Palestine Conflict

30 November 2022

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I also rise to put on the public record my support for this very important motion, and I thank the honourable member for putting it forward. I certainly reiterate the comments made by my colleague, the Hon. Tammy Franks. Yesterday marked the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. The Greens stand in solidarity alongside the people of Palestine and have continually called for an end to Israeli occupation. There are over 600,000 Israelis living in illegal settlements on occupied Palestinian land, and, as the motion states, this occupation has occurred over 50 years.

According to Amnesty International, over a hundred thousand hectares of land have been occupied by Israel, with over 4.9 million Palestinians facing daily restrictions on their movement. The Greens believe that human rights need to be at the forefront of foreign policy. Palestinians are being denied their basic rights, as they are unable to move freely to work, to be educated or to protest, and in some cases they are unable to even access clean water and electricity.

Violent attacks on the people of Palestine, their places and their cultural sites are devastating. Over the last 50 years, we have seen surges of violence related to the occupation. Last year saw the highest number of Palestinian deaths resulting from confrontations with Israel since 2014. The Greens oppose violence in any form and we call for an end to all violence in Palestine. We demand an immediate end to the occupation and call on Israel to withdraw its military presence.

Both Israelis and Palestinians should be able to live in peace and security. Just as Israelis are entitled to their own state and to live in peace and security, so too are Palestinians. The United Nations Secretary-General has recommended that Israel immediately cease all settlements in occupied Palestinian territory, and the Greens support that. The Greens will be supporting this motion, to add our voice to the calls to end the conflict in Palestine, and, as indicated by my colleague, we will not be supporting One Nation's amendments.

Dog Theft Amendment Bill

17 November 2022

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I rise today to indicate the Greens' support for this bill that will create separate penalties for the theft of dogs. Over recent years, as the Hon. Michelle Lensink has observed, the price of dogs has skyrocketed. People are regularly paying up to $5,000 for a dog. The new offence in this bill aims to be a deterrent for dog theft, given there is real potential for financial return in theft and then the resale of dogs.

The Greens have long been on the public record advocating for the welfare of animals. My colleague the Hon. Tammy Franks has been a leader in this space in the parliament and has been campaigning for many years to ban puppy farms in South Australia. Indeed, as far back as 2011, the Hon. Tammy Franks presented a petition requesting that this council stand up for South Australian puppy farm dogs and ban the sale of dogs and cats in pet shops, and in this place the Hon. Ms Franks has regularly called for reform to ban puppy farms.

Again, the Greens reiterate our calls for the Malinauskas government to urgently progress their election promise to ban puppy farms. Rather than pushing often piecemeal reform such as this, the government should be stepping up and taking real action on animal welfare, and we do hope to see urgent action on all of the reforms that they promised in their election policy document to ensure that animals are not needlessly suffering.

I do observe there is an inconsistency between the penalties that have been applied for dogs and other animals. I am reminded of that famous phrase in George Orwell's Animal Farm where all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others, and it seems that there is a different penalty that is being applied to dogs that is not being applied to other animals, and I would like to delve into that a little bit further during the committee stage of the bill. But the Greens are supportive of this reform, and anything that sends a clear message to the community that exploitation of animals is not acceptable is something that we are supportive of.

Question: Conditions in Youth Detention Centers

17 November 2022

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I seek leave to make a brief explanation before addressing a question without notice to the Attorney-General on the topic of raising the age of criminal responsibility.

Leave granted.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: On 14 November of this year, the ABC's Four Corners program reported on restraining practices used in youth detention facilities in Western Australia and the Northern Territory. The ABC has reported that young people in those places are being locked in their cells for unacceptably long periods of time using the folding up position, where they are restrained by being folded into a position that has been linked to risks of suffocation.

On 4 November, the South Australian Training Centre Visitor report was tabled. It revealed that 80 per cent of day shifts were unstaffed at the Kurlana Tapa youth detention centre, and children were given fast food in an effort to placate them. The report also stated that microwave meals were often served when they were not properly thawed.

A coalition of South Australian organisations has called for the age of criminal responsibility to be raised to 14 in South Australia. These organisations include the Public Health Association of Australia, the Australian Health Promotion Association, the Rights Resource Network, Amnesty International Australia, the Aboriginal Legal Rights Movement, the Commissioner for Children and Young People, the South Australian Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisation Network, SACOSS and Change the Record.

My question to the Attorney-General is: is the Attorney-General concerned about the welfare of children in detention here in South Australia, and what steps are being taken by the Malinauskas government to protect children who are caught up in the criminal justice system?

The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector): I thank the honourable member for his question and his interest in this area and acknowledge that he has brought this matter to the chamber a number of times, including in legislation that he has drafted and put before us. A basic answer to the question is: I am concerned about the welfare of children, whether that is in relation to contact with the criminal justice system, youth detention or more generally.

Although the youth detention system falls under the ministerial responsibility of my colleague the Minister for Human Services, the member for Hurtle Vale, the Hon. Nat Cook, it certainly touches upon my portfolios in relation to broader justice issues as Attorney-General, and also given the dramatic over-representation of Aboriginal children in the youth detention centre, but also coming into contact with all facets of the criminal justice system in my role as Minister for Aboriginal Affairs.

The organisations that the honourable member talked about—Change the Record, SACOSS, SAACCON, ALRM, Amnesty and many others—have raised concerns not just in South Australia but around Australia about the minimum age of criminal detention, and I certainly thank them for their advocacy. I have met if not with all of them certainly with most of them, not just in my time as minister but in my time as shadow minister in relation to this area.

As I have outlined to this chamber before, it is a matter we are looking at in South Australia. We haven't made a commitment in relation to what we may or may not do in relation to the minimum age of criminal responsibility, but it is something we are looking at. We are looking at what other jurisdictions have done in relation to this area—countries that are similar to Australia, such as New Zealand, Scotland, Ireland—and are also looking at some of the proposals in other jurisdictions in Australia: the ACT, the NT and Tasmania, who are not raising the age of criminal responsibility but a minimum age for detention. It is not exactly the same solution but certainly one that has the potential to make an impact. That work is continuing.

We are evaluating what the other jurisdictions have done, bearing in mind the sort of prism that we are looking at this through is looking for ways, at the end of the day, to make the community safer by looking to see if there are therapeutic interventions that may be more successful than contact with the criminal justice system in terms of helping young children and their families who would otherwise come into contact with the criminal justice system.


Reply received 7 February 2023:

The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector): The Minister for Human Services has advised:

The Department of Human Services continues to implement a range of measures to improve outcomes for children and young people at Kurlana Tapa. Some of these measures include:

Improving feedback and complaints processes to increase children and young people's access to mechanisms to raise complaints and to improve resolution of complaints.

Rolling out staff body-worn video cameras to improve child safety and staff transparency and accountability.

Improving the collection, analysis, sharing and reporting of data and information about children and young people in custody.

Delivering a capital works program that includes a 12-bed accommodation unit to better support children with complex needs, expanding the education and visitor centre spaces and an eight-bed police custody unit.

Introducing the Enhanced Support Team, a team of allied health professionals who support Kurlana Tapa youth workers to therapeutically respond to children and young people displaying complex behaviours.

Implementing the Child Diversion Program to divert Aboriginal children and young people from entering custodial youth justice.

Question: Religious Exemptions

16 November 2022

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I seek leave to make a brief explanation before addressing a question without notice to the Attorney-General on the topic of religious exemptions.

Leave granted.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: In 2020, the former Liberal government held a public consultation on draft legislation via YourSAy on proposed changes to the Equal Opportunity Act. The aim was to create a better balance between equality and religious freedoms for organisations that provide services.

The draft legislation was to remove the provisions for religious organisations to discriminate on the basis of sex or LGBTI identity when providing preschool, primary or secondary education, health services, aged care, disability support services, foster care placement, emergency accommodation and public housing. The consultation summary has been removed from the YourSAy website.

My question to the Attorney-General is: what is the progress of these reforms to the Equal Opportunity Act to remove religious exemptions to equal opportunity laws, and what is the expected time frame for this reform?

The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector): I thank the honourable member for his question. It's not an area that I am aware of where it's up to in terms of what the previous government had put forward or where it was up to in terms of the public consultation process and whatever followed on from that.

The Labor Party certainly doesn't have a policy in relation to the matters that the honourable member has raised, but as always I am happy to talk further to the honourable member about this or any other thoughts he has, but I am happy to take it on notice to see if there is—it's not something I have a briefing on or have any information in relation to.


Reply received 7 February 2023:

The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector): I have been advised:

The draft Equal Opportunity (Religious Bodies) Amendment Bill 2020 was an initiative of the former government. It was not introduced to parliament.

I have had representations from a number of stakeholders regarding possible amendments to the Equal Opportunity Act1984. I am considering these proposals, as well as recent reforms in Victoria, and recently proposed or recommended reforms in Queensland, the Northern Territory, the Australian Capital Territory and Western Australia.

Monitoring Orders Bill (Bushfires)

15 November 2022

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I rise to speak in relation to the monitoring orders bill. The Greens are supportive of this bill. We have seen the devastating effects of bushfires on our South Australian community. Over the last 20 years, we have had major bushfires on Eyre Peninsula, Kangaroo Island and Yorke Peninsula, and in the Adelaide Hills and the Barossa. All of these fires have resulted in loss of life and property and have left lasting impacts on each of these regions.

The most recent bushfires that swept across South Australia, New South Wales and Victoria were in 2019 and are referred to as the Black Summer bushfires. Over 270,000 hectares of land were burnt in South Australia and resulted in more than 1,180 homes and buildings being destroyed or damaged, and three people tragically lost their lives. The recovery efforts continue, as people are still rebuilding their homes, fencing and their lives. I had the opportunity to travel to Kangaroo Island last year and met with a number of members of that community who are still trying to rebuild their lives after the bushfires that ravaged that community.

Our climate is changing, and it is widely accepted in the scientific community that bushfires will, unfortunately, increase in frequency in coming years. It is absolutely appalling that some bushfires are deliberately lit, particularly on days of high fire danger. That is a despicable thing to do and this is a view that I am sure is shared by all members of this place.

By monitoring people who have already been convicted of a bushfire offence, we can reduce incidences of fires being purposely lit during fire danger season. The Greens consider this to be an important protection for areas at risk of bushfires, and we believe this will help our emergency services stay ahead of any potential threats, particularly as we head into the bushfire season. I therefore indicate that the Greens will be supporting the bill and we recognise the government's efforts to try to reduce the risk of fires being purposely lit.

Matter of interest: Removing the Lord's Prayer from Parliament

2 November 2022

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: The matter I rise to speak on this afternoon will be important to all those who believe that this parliament should be inclusive and representative of our community—that is, the status of the Lord's Prayer in our parliamentary sessions. It is my view that this should be abolished in favour of a non-denominational statement.

Tradition is important in this place. Many of the rules and traditions we observe ensure that the business of the parliament runs smoothly, and they are essential to the maintenance of our democratic institutions, but others are in need of urgent review or replacement. I submit to you that reciting the Lord's Prayer at the start of every parliamentary sitting is an anachronism that serves no democratic purpose.

Fundamentally, our parliament is a workplace. There are few other workplaces in our state or indeed our nation that begin their working day with a mandatory prayer. Indeed, prior to joining this parliament I worked in the university sector. I did not have to stand at my desk and recite the Christian prayer before getting into the business of the day or turning my mind to my emails. It really is out of step with community expectations in 21stcentury South Australia.

This tradition simply serves to alienate the parliament and parliamentarians from the community that we seek to represent. The Lord's Prayer has been part of procedures of this parliament, I understand, since 1918, but South Australian society has changed considerably since then. According to the latest census, more people in our state now identify with no religion than with the Christian faith. Indeed, almost 46 per cent of our population identify as holding no religious view versus 40 per cent of those who identify as being Christian. A further 7.8 per cent identify with other religions.

Given our duty to serve the interests of all South Australians, why on earth do we begin our parliamentary session with a prayer that is associated with the religion not observed by a majority of our constituents? As well as being out of step with community opinion, the practice fails to reflect the diversity of this parliament itself. Parliament, like society, should respect various faiths and various perspectives. Why, as an atheist, should I be required to recite a prayer that does not reflect my values or reflect my worldview? Other jurisdictions around Australia have considered secular pledges or statements as alternatives that cause members of parliament to reflect on our vital role—a role that is fundamental to our democracy. I believe, Madam Acting President, it is time for South Australia to join those other jurisdictions.

This is not the first time that this matter has been raised in this place. I note that back in 1986 the then President of the Legislative Council, Anne Levy, who I must say is a truly wonderful South Australian, said that she would consider it inappropriate for her to read the Lord's Prayer at the beginning of each day because of her personal beliefs. It was suggested by some in debate at that time—and Hansard reflects this—that the standing orders should not be amended to allow someone else to read the prayer in the President's place, because she should have known that this was part of her responsibilities when she assumed the office of President of this chamber.

It is a very curious thing to compel members of parliament to observe religious traditions that they may or may not share in our democracy. Across the country, there is growing mood for change on this issue. Indeed, a petition has more than 6,000 signatures to date. In New South Wales, my Green's colleagues are leading the charge for change. In Tasmania, Central Coast Council has recently abandoned the prayer, and South Gippsland Shire Council voted to replace prayers with a secular statement, while in Mildura their council has developed a more inclusive affirmation. Surely it is now time for our parliament to better reflect the diversity of our community. This is a matter that I intend to pursue during this term of parliament, so watch this space.


Question: Premier's Delivery Unit Report

1 November 2022

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I seek leave to make a brief explanation before addressing a question without notice to the Attorney-General on the topic of the Premier's Delivery Unit.

Leave granted.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: Shortly after the March 2022 state election, the Malinauskas government announced the establishment of the Premier's Delivery Unit, with an annual budget of $2 million. The purpose of the unit is to ensure the government is upholding their election commitments. When asked about the purpose of the unit in an estimates hearing on 20 June 2022, the Premier stated:

In terms of public accountability of the government, clearly we stand to be held to account on our election commitments…That is a good thing.

During the election, Labor announced a heritage policy document outlining their election pledge to:

…legislate to require proposed demolition of state heritage sites are subject to full public consultation and a public report from SA Heritage Council.

In February, the then Labor opposition supported my private member's bill to add the Adelaide Parklands to the state heritage list, and they reversed that position last sitting. My question to the Attorney-General therefore is: will the Premier's Delivery Unit provide a report on the status of the government's policy commitments on heritage and Parklands protection and, if so, will that report be tabled in the parliament?


The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector): I thank the honorable member for his important question. As the name suggests, the Premier's Delivery Unit sits in the portfolio area of the Department of the Premier and Cabinet, but I am very happy to take that question on notice as it pertains to the particular element of the operations of that unit and bring a reply back to the honorable member.


Reply received on 30 November 2022:

The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector): The Premier has advised:

The Premier's Delivery Unit reports to the Premier and to Cabinet. The unit provides updates on the status of election commitments to the Government Performance Cabinet Committee. It is for cabinet to decide whether those updates are tabled in parliament.