House debates

Monday, 8 February 2016

Private Members' Business

Marriage Legislation Amendment Bill 2015; Second Reading

1:06 pm

Photo of Tanya PlibersekTanya Plibersek (Sydney, Australian Labor Party, Deputy Leader of the Opposition) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to speak on the Marriage Legislation Amendment Bill 2015.

More than 20 countries have now legislated for marriage equality. These are countries that are a lot like Australia—New Zealand, the UK, the United States, Canada, France, Argentina—countries that we find that we have a lot in common with. The question, of course, is: why not Australia? A lot of people thought when the member for Wentworth became the Prime Minister that his stated support for marriage equality would lead us quickly to a position where Australia could join these more than 20 other countries that have legislated for marriage equality. But the new Prime Minister dashed the hopes of his constituents and the many Australians who are supporters of marriage equality by kicking this issue off into the never-never by adopting the policies of the previous prime minister to delay this decision into some time into the future.

We know that this plebiscite that the government has signed up to is a $160 million waste of money. I am certain that members on this side could think of many things that they would rather spend $160 million of taxpayers' money on than a divisive plebiscite. But what is even worse about this plebiscite is that we now have members of the government who are saying that even if the plebiscite is overwhelmingly in favour of marriage equality they will not be bound by it. What is the point of a plebiscite that will not even guide members of the government—people like Senator Cory Bernardi, who said he will not be bound by it, and Senators Bridget McKenzie and Eric Abetz—who say that they will not be bound by a plebiscite?

A government member: Will you be bound by it?

It is not our policy. We think it is stupid.

A government member: Will you be bound by it?

We think that there should be legislation in the parliament within the first 100 days.

An opposition member: When are you going to plebiscite the GST?

Labor policy is for legislation within the parliament in the first 100 days. If these people opposite were serious about how this is a great expression of democracy then they would have a plebiscite on the GST. They would have a plebiscite on the cuts to health and education. They would have a plebiscite on all of the policies that they have introduced that hit ordinary Australians in their hip pockets. But they will not have a plebiscite on that.

I will say something else: this issue is about love and family. John Challis, a constituent of mine who was briefly in the member for Wentworth's electorate and is now again a constituent of mine, has been campaigning for equality for same-sex couples for his whole life. He is 87 years old, and what does he say about the 50 wonderful years he has had with his partner? He says, 'I will not live forever.' He wants to marry the love of his life before he dies. He should have that right.

What do you say to the father, Mick Kyriacou, who wrote to the Prime Minister about his daughter's marriage? He said, 'We celebrated the marriage of my daughter and her partner on Saturday in Sydney, then they had to fly to New Zealand to be officially married.' He also said: 'As a father, my love is unconditional, unwavering and strong. My daughter and many others have a right to be loved, respected and hold the same legal rights as every other Australian.' He is a coalminer from Wollongong. He understands that this is about love and family and the respect that people have for one another.

And what do you say to the fact that we have not had plebiscites on removing discrimination against any other group in society? Did we have a plebiscite on removing discrimination against women when we introduced the Sex Discrimination Act? Did we have a plebiscite on the removal of racial discrimination against people of different ethnicities in this country? Of course we did not need that, because we know, as an advanced country, that every step we take towards the removal of discrimination emboldens us as a nation. It makes us stand prouder because we are doing the right thing. We do not need a plebiscite to tell us it is the right thing to do to remove this last piece of discrimination against gay and lesbian Australians.

We removed 86 discriminatory laws when Labor was last in government. This is the last piece of outstanding discrimination that is legal against same sex couples in this country. We know that across Australia there are families, couples, same-sex couples who have children, and their children are being told that their family is second-rate, not as good as the other kids at school. They do not deserve to get that message, and young Australians do not deserve a damaging plebiscite that will tell them there is something wrong with being gay or lesbian.

Debate adjourned.

Proceedings suspended from 13 : 11 to 16 : 00