Thursday, 7 December 2017
Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Bill 2017; Consideration in Detail
Mr Deputy Speaker, I would like to thank you for the opportunity to make what I think will be a brief contribution to this debate. It's pertinent that I do it on this amendment. Being a long-time member of St Vincent de Paul, I think it's imperative that we enshrine their capacity to also adhere to their faith. It's very important because no-one would argue with St Vincent de Paul's right to help those who are most in need, from Matthew Talbot Hostel to Night Patrol. It does, obviously, draw on people predominantly of the Catholic faith, and these people should be allowed to continue on with their charitable work unimpeded by what might be tangential effects of this legislation.
I think it's also important to put on the record—I think it's cowardice not to—that I've said from the start that I would accept the view of the Australian people. I would never vote against the view of the Australian people. I do support the current definition of marriage as it stands. I am concerned in this debate that we should have a sense of the result of the plebiscite, in which roughly 60 per cent of people said yes—congratulations, that's a win—but 40 per cent of people said no. There should also be acknowledgement that absolute victory is absolute tyranny if you don't take into account some of the views of those who disagree. I know that, had the vote had been the other way around, that would be exactly the same argument used.
I don't come to this without a view of people in same-sex relationships. Warren Entsch noted before that it was a lonely old fight to try and get people equal access, especially through the dissolutions of superannuation and property rights. I actually supported those people in those relationships having equal rights and access. I don't come to this debate pretending to be any form of saint, but I do believe in the current definition of marriage, which has stood the test of time. Half of them fail; I acknowledge that—obviously, I acknowledge that I'm currently separated, so that's on the record. People should respect the views and the relationships of people's parents or grandparents. It is a special relationship between a man and a woman, predominantly for the purpose of bringing children into the world—if you are so lucky, noting that many people aren't.
As we go through this process and what I believe are conscience issues, I am somewhat perplexed that on none of these amendments have we had any support from any members of the Labor Party. I think if they were truly allowed to exercise their conscience there would be an occasion from time to time when there would be Labor Party members who no doubt have the same views as those who have occupied this side of the chamber on the amendments put forward, noting full well that we absolutely respect people's right to occupy that side of the chamber on the issues they find incredibly close and important to themselves. One of the reasons I say this is that on a debate where things had a 60-40 split, the probability that every person in the Labor Party would occupy that side of the bench on every issue is about three in a billion. So I just don't concur with the argument that this is something that people have done of their own free will. I think that there's a form of coercion in this.
That is unfortunate, to be honest, considering that after this part of the debate this piece of legislation will go through—as it should; that's the will of the Australian people—because on some of the issues there should have been more grace put into acknowledging those who have different views and who have rightly raised concerns with us. This issue of St Vincent de Paul is not a red herring. It's an issue that has been brought up in New Zealand; people have been taken to task in St Vincent de Paul in New Zealand. So on this issue if on no other, on behalf of the organisation that I love and cherish and for which I have worked for so long, I'd like to see this supported.