Thursday, 7 December 2017
Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Bill 2017; Consideration in Detail
I rise to speak in support of these amendments. Of the five amendments put forward, this one is the most palatable to all. I actually find it quite difficult to believe that this chamber would not overwhelmingly adopt these amendments, which have no reflection at all upon the Marriage Act but ensure the institutions and bodies which we rely on to create the Australia in which we live. It is all very well for others to say that they are adequately covered at the moment, but there was a time when we believed that school chaplaincy was well covered by the protections within Australian legislation and the Constitution. One person took the funding mechanism to the High Court and it was overturned. It fundamentally changed the way in which the federal government was able to fund many organisations within Australia. I don't think we should take the risk with this.
I concur with the member for Menzies' comments when he said, 'I find it hard to believe that there is no-one that normally sits on the other side of this chamber that can support these very mild and well-constructed amendments.' I would've been able to name at least four and maybe half a dozen who I know have had serious reservations about the Marriage Act within itself. I would have thought that, had they been given a free vote, they would have come across the chamber at least on this occasion and backed these particular amendments.
I have been most particularly concerned about this debate on the proposal of marriage equality for a long time. I have had much representation to my office and myself, particularly from independent and religious schools. I find it difficult to believe that there will not be a challenge to the way in which they are funded. If they are not prepared to teach the tenet that same-sex marriage—marriage between two individuals, if you like, as opposed to between a man and a woman—is an equal and viable opportunity for their students, if it is not taught on exactly the same basis, then I think their funding will be attacked.
Given that those tenets go exactly to many of the core reasons for their existence—their dedication to their religion—this is a gross infringement on those rights. It runs the risk of deconstructing the fabric of the society in which we live. I may be completely wrong about it, but why would we take the risk? I predict that if we do not put these amendments into this act today we will be revisiting this space within a medium length of time. I think within 12 months there will be a challenge not, I must say, from the LGBTQ support network—those who are desiring change to the Marriage Act—but from a subversive element elsewhere in our community. They will use that legislation to undermine those institutions. I don't think we should take the risk. Absolutely I think we should not take the risk. Of all the amendments, this is the one that I think is most important and offers the greatest benefit to Australia. Without it, we run the risk of the most damage.
I respectfully ask all those who have genuine concerns within their hearts about what the change in the Marriage Act might do to the Commonwealth's relationship to charities, to schools and to the aged-care sector—and to other governments as well—to really examine within their hearts whether they think they're doing the right thing if they knock back these amendments.