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Sky News First Edition with Peter Stefanovic

Senator the Hon Amanda Stoker

Subjects: Lidia Thorpe, Religious Discrimination Bill, Greg Hunt, Christian Porter


PETER STEFANOVIC: Senator, thanks for your time this morning. I just want to start off with this report this morning, more allegations of bad behaviour in the senate. Greens Senator Lydia Thorpe has reportedly told Liberal Senator Hollie Hughes ‘at least I keep my legs shut’. Did you hear it?


PETER STEFANOVIC: And your reaction to it?

AMANDA STOKER: Shocked, my concern pretty quickly turned to checking in on Senator Hughes who, as you’d expect, was a little bit distraught.

PETER STEFANOVIC: How is she now?

AMANDA STOKER: Look, she is a tough nut. She’ll be okay but you know, it’s personal and it’s not nice. At least Senator Thorpe has apologised and you know, when people accept responsibility for mistakes then everybody should do their best to move on but you know, it does show that, in a week where we’ve had the Jenkins Report talking about the importance of improving the culture around this place, it’s important that we all lead from the top.

PETER STEFANOVIC: Yep. I mean that kind of rowdy behaviour – is this what we can expect on the final sitting day?

AMANDA STOKER: Gosh, I hope not. There’s still a lot of really important things to do and so the more time we spend getting down to business and less time on carry-on, the better we can deliver for Australians.

PETER STEFANOVIC: Okay well starting with the Religious Discrimination Act, I had Jacqui Lambie on the show earlier, she said it’s dead on arrival, the Religious Discrimination Bill. Is it?

AMANDA STOKER: I don’t think so, no. the Bill delivers really important protections for people of faith in a way that is balanced and that doesn’t encroach upon the rights of other people who have attributes protected by other acts. It responds to a real need that has been demonstrated by past cases in the media and elsewhere and it gets the balance right in delivering certainty for everybody; putting the last piece in the human rights puzzle for Australia. It would be – I think – something very troubling if our senate weren’t able to come at the idea that people were free to think for themselves, believe what they want, and respectfully, act accordingly.

PETER STEFANOVIC: Has it been watered down too much? Some have argued that it has been and others have even suggested well, was it even needed in the end?

AMANDA STOKER: Well, there’s plenty of evidence that it was needed in the sense that if you go to the Human Rights Law Alliance they can give you a report this think of examples of circumstances where people have been prejudiced in their jobs, dismissed, refused accommodation and the like because of their religious beliefs. So I don’t think that’s a real issue. I am happy to concede that there’s been a process of consultation and negotiation involved in making sure we get that balance right but I see that as the product of an effective law making process that genuinely hears out all the different pockets of our community and adapts to reflect those needs. That means it’s a good Bill, not that it’s a bad Bill.

PETER STEFANOVIC: Just back to the Jenkins Report which you referred to, which if any of the 28 recommendations do you have misgivings about?

AMANDA STOKER: Look, I don’t have misgivings about any of them but I think we should, as a Parliament, and across party lines, take time to soberly digest it to think through the practicality of how they’ll work in operation if implemented, and go through what should be as unifying a process as possible because this is something that’s here to protect everybody who works in this place and we want it to be enduring and effective for people, no matter which political parties, traditions they come from. So, I don’t have misgivings. I think it’s really important we get the culture of this place right.

PETER STEFANOVIC: Just a closing thought on the resignation of Greg Hunt, which seems to be coming, and also Christian Porter yesterday?

AMANDA STOKER: Look, I’ll be sad to lose two colleagues that I find really good to work with. Christian is a brilliant legal mind and obviously because we have similar policy interests, I have always enjoyed working with him on those; found him a very effective Member of Parliament and I think that’ll be a loss, though I can understand it given the year that’s just gone. As for Greg, well, he’s had twenty years doing some of the toughest jobs in this place and after two years of managing a really intense COVID crisis that means he’s been working 24 hours a day and more, I can’t judge him too harshly for wanting a break but I’ll definitely miss having his guidance around here.

PETER STEFANOVIC: Amanda Stoker, thanks for your time.