House debates

Monday, 18 June 2012

Bills

Marriage Amendment Bill 2012; Second Reading

8:48 pm

Photo of Stuart RobertStuart Robert (Fadden, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Defence Science, Technology and Personnel) Share this | Hansard source

I rise to speak against the current bill before the House and to inform the House that the coalition will not be voting for the bill. The coalition will honour the policy it took to the 2010 election to maintain the Marriage Act as relating to marriage between a male and a female. We took that to the election and people voted for us on the basis of that platform. We will honour that commitment and we will vote on policy, en bloc, as one, as a coalition against this and a similar bill that I spoke on this morning introduced by the Greens deputy leader, the member for Melbourne.

Can I just get rid of some shibboleths that exist out there, the first being that this is an issue of discrimination—that we need to remove the discrimination that exists within the Marriage Act. Having been here in 2008 and having voted for the legislation that removed 85 pieces of discrimination from 85 bits of legislation, I can say with some authority that there is zero discrimination right now in the law with respect to same-sex couples. The Prime Minister pointed this out on ABC's Q&A on Monday, 11 June, when she made this same point. Family law expert, Professor Patrick Parkinson, in his submission to the Senate inquiry, said: 'In Australia, functional equality has already been achieved. I am not aware of any legal rights and obligations that arise from marriage that do not also apply to registered same-sex unions.' The so-called marriage equality campaign that some people have entered into and engaged with with the best of intentions, to their credit, unfortunately has been deceptively hijacked by an aggressive Left-Greens agenda.

The other way that this is unfortunately being hijacked is that it is now being aggressively pushed as an anti-freedom of speech issue. The campaign has depended on first driving alternative voices out of the debate by public demonisation and then filling it with a range of disinformation. The terms 'extremist', 'hater', 'bigot' and 'propagators of hate' are some of the labels used in the media recently against the Australian Christian Lobby and against other supporters of marriage. How is it that the debate has degenerated to such standards of speech? Victoria's deputy chief psychiatrist, Professor Kuruvilla George, was forced to resign as commissioner on the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission because he participated in a submission to the Senate's inquiry which supported retaining the definition of marriage. There were calls by numerous gay activists for tennis great Margaret Court's name to be removed from an arena at the Melbourne tennis centre because of her disagreement over same-sex marriage. The ACL submission to the Senate inquiry documents numerous other cases around the world of freedom of speech on this debate being infringed.

In every jurisdiction where marriage or something able to be described in law as the same as marriage has been given this situation has only worsened. Proponents of marriage equality have tried to assure that the church will not be forced to provide marriage equality to same-sex couples. Yet, Denmark, the first country in the world to recognise civil partnerships for same-sex couples, this month legislated to force the church to provide same-sex weddings. The rights of parents to determine what their children are taught in the area of sexuality has been dramatically curtailed in places like Massachusetts in the United States, where gay marriage has been legislated because it must be presented as equal once given the same status as marriage. Parents have been fined by the state for objecting to socialising even their preschoolers. This is almost certain to follow such legislation here in this country when the Australian Education Union already has in its 2006 policy on gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex people on page 3 that it is determined to teach that heterosexism is discriminatory.

With those sorts of radical forces at play in our community, this is not a debate about whether loving couples can marry. This has nothing to do with that. There are many genuine people who are seeking that debate but this debate has been radicalised. This is about reshaping the national conscience and the law in the image of some people who want to see a radical agenda in place. The coalition will have no bar of it. We went to an election promising that marriage will be between a male and a female. We actually honour and hold our election policies. We do not change them on a whim and we will not change this one.

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