House debates

Monday, 2 May 2016


Marriage Amendment (Marriage Equality) Bill 2016; Second Reading

11:45 am

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

I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

Yesterday in Sydney I joined my colleague the Member for Grayndler and a state colleague, Jo Haylen, the member for Summer Hill, and many other families and individuals, at a picnic hosted by Rainbow Families, a wonderful organisation that supports and empowers LGBTI families. At that picnic we met many wonderful parents, some with tiny babies and young children and some with children much older.

We talked about the usual struggles and joys of being a mum or a dad—the young baby that will not sleep through the night, the toddler taking their first steps, the teenager who gives you grief, the pride of a son or daughter graduating from university.

The way people at that picnic put it yesterday was: love makes a family.

And as we watched the kids running around the park, kicking a ball with their two mums or their two dads, love was, indeed, all that you saw.

I am deeply, deeply concerned about what the debate leading up to a plebiscite on marriage equality would mean for these beautiful kids and their families.

For kids who have got two mums or two dads, to hear for months, or possibly even years, that there is something not right about their families I just think is unforgiveable and unacceptable.

We do not need a plebiscite. The parliament can, and should, get marriage equality done.

Seven in ten Australians support marriage equality.

They recognise that the relationships—the love of their sisters or brothers, sons or daughters, colleagues, team mates, friends—are not lessened if that love is between two people of the same sex.

For all the campaigns, the efforts of those of us in this place and the tireless work of community activists, the groundswell of support for equality owes most to the courage of the men and women who have lived and loved openly—despite prejudice, discrimination and even danger.

I want to thank them for their bravery and determination. It has made Australia more inclusive, fairer and closer to the sort of Australia I want my kids to grow up in, where we are all equal.

I did think that we would be there by now.

At the beginning of this parliament, recognising that equality ought to be a bipartisan issue, I sought a seconder from the coalition parties for a private member's bill removing discrimination from the Marriage Act.

For more than a year, I waited for someone on the other side of the House to feel that they could put their name to ending legal discrimination.

When, last year, it became clear that waiting was in vain, Labor's leader, Bill Shorten, introduced a private member's bill to the same effect, and I seconded it.

The introduction of that bill finally did produce some action from the other side. When we heard that coalition MPs did not feel they could support a bill introduced by the Leader of the Opposition, we withdrew our bill to allow another to be put forward, sponsored by backbenchers from all parties.

Neither the Leader of the Opposition nor I cared whose name was on the bill, only that it would pass.

And for a while, with support from all sides of politics, it looked like it might.

But everybody knows what happened next. Everybody knows that the former Prime Minister Mr Abbott ambushed the supporters of equality in his own party and stacked the party room meeting to make sure that there would be no free vote and no marriage equality.

Instead he proposed a national plebiscite—expensive, divisive and meaningless, but a way of delaying equality for a little bit longer.

Members of his own party spoke publically against this 'captain's call', including the member for Wentworth.

So when the member for Wentworth became the Leader of the Liberal Party and the Prime Minister, it seemed that the moment had come when things might have changed, that we might be able to get this done, once and for all, that we might be able to finally leave behind discrimination against people because of who they love.

But this Prime Minister has been an enormous disappointment.

He sold out LGBTI Australians—traded away their right to equality—to become Prime Minister. He signed on to the plebiscite-delaying tactic to secure the support of the Liberal Party's right wing.

We know it is nothing but a delaying tactic because there is no sign of movement from this government.

In fact the Attorney-General was told to shelve work on the enabling legislation in March this year.

Because of the Prime Minister's tricky move to get a double dissolution election that saw the whole parliament recalled for just two days at a cost of more than a million dollars, the cross-party bill has lapsed.

That is why, today, we will try to put right some of that by reintroducing a bill for marriage equality.

Australians who have waited for decades to marry their lifelong partners and who fear they may not live to see marriage equality a reality have waited too long.

Young people who want their grandparents to be able to come to their wedding have waited for too long.

Australians of all ages who have been told that their love is not equal, that their family is not real, that their relationship is bad for their children or somehow bad for society have waited for too long.

The Prime Minister says he supports marriage equality. And we know that he supports a free vote, not a plebiscite, because he said so. It is time he did the right thing.

This week, of course, is budget week.

Quite rightly, our focus will be on the economy—on jobs, on health, on education and on the environment.

And, as we all know, it is almost certain that by the end of the week the Prime Minister will be going to the Governor-General and asking him to dissolve this parliament and to call an election.

So, sadly, it is unlikely this bill will pass this week. But our push for full equality is not going away.

Think of this bill as a marker.

More than that, think of it as a promise, a promise that Labor will introduce legislation for marriage equality in the first 100 days of a Shorten Labor government.

That is the clear choice: the Liberals' divisive and expensive plebiscite, a delaying tactic designed to stop marriage equality, or a Labor government which will make marriage equality law. Let's get this done. It is time.

Photo of Ian GoodenoughIan Goodenough (Moore, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Is there a seconder to the motion?

Photo of Andrew LeighAndrew Leigh (Fraser, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Treasurer) Share this | | Hansard source

I second the motion and reserve my right to speak.

Debate adjourned.