Senate Motion

1 July 2024

It’s fair to say that all of us in this place are a bit shocked but not surprised by the reaction of the Australian Greens political party. You would have thought that the one thing that would bind all of us in this place would be coming together in memory of the sacrifices that each and every man and woman of our very proud ADF have made to protect our country and its values and freedoms so that people like Senator Steele-John and others in this place can actually say the very things that he and everyone else in this place have been able to say today.

Yet we have senators in this place who come in and don’t do the right thing of backing our veterans, who are hurting because they have had to go through a very painful process through the Royal Commission. This is one opportunity that’s been put before senators, and you would have thought that every single senator in this place would say: ‘Yes, we’re on your side. We condemn the actions—the violent actions, the abhorrent actions—by those who have taken a decision to vandalise one of the most sacred places in this country.’ But, no, the Australian Greens political party chose to do the opposite thing and back those people who have vandalised and made a mockery of the fine men and women who have stood up for this country and paid the ultimate sacrifice. They are trying to conflate the debate by talking about some private contractors or some sponsorship.

Australians have a right to peaceful protest, but they do not have a right to vandalise, spray paint, desecrate or otherwise deface our memorials, particularly those to the men and women of our veterans community and the ADF. What Senator Steele-John and those in the Australian Greens are saying, and I hope they’re wrong, is that it’s okay. Is it okay now to go to cemeteries? Where do you draw the line? As someone who is the very proud husband of a member of the ADF, I can assure you that your comments are totally out of order and offensive. I bet you that every single one of her comrades in her unit watching today will be absolutely disgusted by your comments and the Australian Greens today.

Anzac Parade is there for all of us to honour those who have died. We don’t get to cherry-pick and say, ‘We’ll back that person and we won’t back them.’ It is for all of us to honour the service and the sacrifice that the men and women of the Australian Defence Forces have made. Whatever your position is, their service and their sacrifice deserve respect from everyone in our community. All the other stuff that’s going on at the moment, all the other debates around other issues, can be done in an appropriate, mature and adult manner in this place but not when we have things like Senator Lambie’s motion before the chamber today, which deserves respect and mature discussion. But, again, are we surprised by the Australian Greens?

It’s an absolute kick in the guts to wake up some mornings to find out that memorials have been defaced. Whether they be the Australian War Memorial here in Canberra or other memorials in my home state of Victoria, it is a real kick in the guts to wake up to that news. What is the message that those protesters are trying to send? Is it that somehow they’re winning? Quite frankly I think it’s the opposite. The people in the community are saying: ‘Enough is enough. Stop your childish behaviour. Grow up, be adults and actually have a proper debate about the issue, rather than relying on vandalism and breaking the law, because we’ve had enough of that.’ We’ve seen that some of our colleagues’ offices have been vandalised, subjected to violence and firebombed.

As community leaders in this place, we have an obligation to say, ‘It’s okay to have a peaceful protest, but it is not okay to resort to violence.’ Every senator in this place, including Senator Steele-John and every member of the Australian Greens, has that same responsibility. The responsibility that we have here as senators, as community leaders, is very powerful, and people are watching. We need to be able to set good examples, as role models in this place, for the rest of the community and say, ‘It is not okay to resort to violence.’

We need to remind the community that while peaceful protest is part of a healthy democracy, criminal acts are not to be tolerated at all. I’m disgusted to hear about the latest acts. These are sacred sites and must be treated as such. We’re a very proud nation of many people, and we’re very proud of the men and women of our ADF, people who’ve fought for our freedoms. These acts of vandalism have no place in society and we need to condemn them in the strongest possible terms. That is why everyone in this place, bar the Australian Greens, will be supporting Senator Lambie’s motion about those people who have defaced our war memorials. I want to congratulate you, Senator Lambie, for moving the motion. On that note, I look forward to the Senate supporting Senator Lambie’s motion.