House debates

Thursday, 7 December 2017

Bills

Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Bill 2017; Consideration in Detail

5:32 pm

Photo of Sarah HendersonSarah Henderson (Corangamite, Liberal Party) Share this | Hansard source

In summing up the first amendment, I want to reiterate and emphasise that nothing in this bill before the House in any way prevents or limits the rights of people to practice their faith, to preach their faith or to teach the doctrines, tenets, beliefs and observances which underpin their faith. I reject the arguments against this amendment and I say to the member for Sturt, respectfully, that he is not correct. Legislation frequently includes provisions which clarify the operation, breadth and scope of such legislation. As legislators, we must ensure that acts of parliament are interpreted as intended. That is why this amendment is important. And to the member for Goldstein and other members: there's absolutely no reference to any international treaty. It should be read on the face of the amendment.

In relation to the second amendment, this enables marriage celebrants other than ministers of religion to refuse to solemnise marriages on the basis of the celebrant's religious or conscientious beliefs. The bill before the House does not currently provide for these rights. It is right and proper that a celebrant who holds religious or conscientious beliefs should not be compelled to conduct a marriage or otherwise face recriminations, legal action or worse as a result of not complying with the Sex Discrimination Act. It is important to make the point—I make this point strongly—that the Sex Discrimination Act does not apply to anything done by a person in direct compliance with the Marriage Act. Already members opposite have agreed that there should be a proper exemption in relation to the Sex Discrimination Act in the bill before the House. I certainly am proposing this should be extended.

In conclusion, I'm very proud today to stand on this side of the House with each of my Liberal and National colleagues who are exercising a genuine free vote. I respect each person's right to vote in accordance with their conscience. It is absolutely disappointing that Labor members opposite have not been granted a free vote. A free vote on the original bill and not on any of the amendments is no free vote at all. Members know it. In fact, if a member were to cross the floor, it is likely that he or she could be expelled from the Labor Party, because that's how the Labor Party works. So today I am particularly proud to stand here as a Liberal to put these amendments to the House. I commend these amendments to the House.

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