Thursday, 7 December 2017
Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Bill 2017; Consideration in Detail
I rise to support the amendments moved by the honourable member for Corangamite, and I do on this basis: if, as we are being assured collectively by the Labor Party and by others in this place, there are no adverse consequences of making this change to the legislation—and it's been the assertion that has been put repeatedly during the long hours of this debate today that there are no adverse consequences—then they should support clause 1 of the amendments from the member for Corangamite. There are no explanatory memoranda and there's no reference to international instruments, so this can be read and interpreted simply on the basis of the words that appear in the amendment itself:
Nothing in this Act limits or derogates from the right of any person, in a lawful manner, to manifest his or her religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching.
If there are no adverse consequences, as we are repeatedly assured, then surely that provision can be supported. Otherwise, the words that we hear, contrary to the fact of how people vote, are basically worthless and meaningless so far as this debate is concerned.
Earlier in the debate, we had assertions about the protection of organisations that are advancing religious causes, and yet the point put—that many of these religious organisations operate under other clauses within the Charities Act for other charitable purposes; namely, advancing health, education and social welfare—has not been answered in this debate. So the suggestion that is made that there are no adverse consequences of these changes is simply wrong. It is a bland assertion that has no basis to it, and if there was some basis for answering that, it would have been properly answered. We are asked instead to trust in a process that will occur next year, a process, as far as I'm aware, for which there is not even terms of reference at this particular point of time. In other words, there are no adverse consequences but, if there should happen to be so, well, trust in a process that might come along next year.
I think there's been a major mistake, if I may say so, on the part of the Labor Party. Effectively, failing to allow a conscience vote—and we all know members on the other side who have grave reservations about this; I'm not going to name them but we all know who they are—will, in the eyes of many Australians, actually reduce the legitimacy of this outcome, and that is something which I don't think is very desirable.
But I finish on the point that if the negative consequences that many people have warned about, who genuinely are concerned about them, come to pass, then I hope that those who have asserted boldly and blandly here that there are no such negative consequences will at least have the grace and humility to accept that they were wrong.