Thursday, 7 December 2017
Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Bill 2017; Consideration in Detail
by leave—I move amendments (1), (3), (5) and (6) together as circulated in my name. I might inform the House I'm doing my amendments in two sections. The first reason is, knowing that the Manager of the Opposition Business was going to give a speech that was going to bring down the parliament, I thought it was in our best interest to delay things a little bit longer and ensure we are in government a little bit longer. The second is because the two parts of my original amendments have two different distinct meanings and tackle two distinctly different things. If I can put this in a term, I would call this the Castle amendment, for those who have seen the movie.
Essentially, what you do in your own home is your own business and how you interpret your own beliefs in your own home is your own business. This, of course, broadens this principle across to a religious organisation that has facilities. What they do in their own facilities is their own business, and their beliefs should not be interpreted by a judge but should be consistent with the values they hold dear. I suppose you could put that in The Castle language as 'the vibe'. It's the vibe.
Essentially this amendment should ultimately, if it is lost here, be referred across to the Ruddock inquiry for consideration. This is borne out of the example of the Christian youth camp that had a belief structure. People had donated with their own money to build some facilities, and when those facilities were being sought to be used by people whose beliefs were contrary to that belief structure, the court took an onus of trying to interpret what that belief structure should be. I think people, if they think of the Australian way of doing things, hold very true to what is your own business is your own business and, if you paid for it, you should have the final say.
I notice in the Dean Smith bill that we're debating here, he draws on this principle very truly when it comes to the actual facilities for the marriage ceremony. This amendment seeks to broaden that when we think about the facilities a church or religious organisation might own. Recently a facility I know of, a church, was inquired upon by the Victorian education department in order to host an event. What the department failed to tell that church was the event it was wanting to host was the training for the local community for the Safe Schools program. This was in a town where there are many, many places where the department could have chosen to hold that event. It was, frankly, an affront to that church to have not been informed that the training for a state based education program was going to take place in the church facility without them knowing. It put the church in a very difficult situation. Do they refuse? Do they refuse and say, 'This is actually contrary to our beliefs.'? What we're saying in this amendment here is it gives some comfort. It also ensures that they don't have to have it defined in their belief but is actually reflective of their beliefs and values. I don't know what the church decided in the end, whether they chose to go forward and let the Victorian education department use their facilities. But I think there would be many Australians who would say that the approach by the Victorian education department was unreasonable, and that the church should have a right to be able to say, 'Look, frankly, can't you hold that event somewhere else,' without running the risk of having litigious encounters. So that is why I support this amendment.
If you can think about it, the values we hold dear, as Australians, are that you should be able to hold your values; you should be able to determine what happens in your own asset. This broadens across to churches, to campsites and to religious organisations that have been established with their own money to do what they want and they have the right to hold that value. That is not offensive, I think, and is a freedom that Australians should uphold.