Thursday, 7 December 2017
Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Bill 2017; Consideration in Detail
So much for the conscience vote! We were told there was going to be a conscience vote on this, but what we've heard repeatedly at the dispatch box from the member for Isaacs and the member for Griffith is 'we will', 'Labor will'. We know that there are people on their backbench who have the same concerns about religious liberty that we do over here. But they are not letting them have a conscience vote. That says a lot about Labor. The amendments that have been put forward by the member for Mallee go very much to the heart of religious liberty, which we have seen voted down again and again today in this House. And we've had cheers from the gallery—cheering for the erosion of religious liberty! There they go, cheering again. When I'm specifically saying 'eroding religious liberty', they support that. That is the voice of tolerance today! I am absolutely disgusted that we are going down this track.
These amendments, which no doubt are going to be opposed like every other thing today, are about ensuring that a church hall, a church property or a church service, or a business run by a church—it may be selling flowers for weddings that might be held in that church—is going to be protected from activists trying to take some sort of stand, which we know they will do because they have done it in the past. They have done it before and they will do it again—and there will be no protections for those churches. The member for Griffith and the member for Isaacs issued a statement in the press saying they were opposed to the draft exposure bill that Senator Brandis, the Attorney-General, put out on the question of same-sex marriage. In that draft exposure bill there were protections for churches, church-run halls, church-run schools, church-run businesses, church-run services and all the rest of it. There was quite comprehensive coverage for churches.
What we're talking about here is a similar sort of thing—protecting churches, church-run businesses and church-run services from activists who are going to want to litigate. There will be no protection for a commercially run church hall from being used for either a same-sex wedding ceremony or reception. There will be no protection for a church-run florist business who sells flowers in the foyer of a church as a side business to make income for the church when someone goes in to purchase those flowers. Those protections are not going to be there. There is laughter and tittering about that up in the galleries and down here. But, mark my words, something is going to happen—and, when it happens, people on this side of the chamber will be saying, 'We told you so!'