Tuesday, 13 September 2016
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Prime Minister. This morning I met 13-year-old Eddie, who is visiting Canberra today with his two mums, asking parliament to block a plebiscite. Eddie said to me:
Why should people who barely know us make an assumption on our families and vote on how we can live?
Can the Prime Minister explain why Eddie should have to put up with a $7½ million dollar campaign, by people who have never met him, telling him that there is something wrong with his family?
Mr Sukkar interjecting—
Ms Burney interjecting—
We all welcome Eddie and his parents to the House today. We are pleased that he is here. Eddie will understand that everything we do here in this parliament is designed to ensure that Australia becomes an even better place for him to grow up in and realise his dreams. In this respect, everything we do is about him and his generation.
I am very disappointed that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition would use Eddie—take advantage of Eddie's presence here. I am very disappointed, because what she has said is that people who do not know Eddie are not entitled to express a view on the Marriage Act. That is what she is saying.
Ms Plibersek interjecting—
The member for Barker will cease interjecting. Can I say to all members interjecting on the subject of the question: Eddie has come here to listen to the answer as well. The question has been asked. The Prime Minister is entitled to address the House without constant interjections.
Eddie will know, and Eddie will certainly come to know in the years ahead as he gets older, that laws are made in this place that affect all Australians. They are made in this place that affect all Australians. Australians make choices in elections. They make choices in referendums. They will make a choice in this plebiscite that potentially affects every Australian.
Ms Chesters interjecting—
That is the nature of our democracy. There is no greater democracy than ours. We have a great, respectful political tradition. Despite some fireworks in the chamber, by and large we debate big issues respectfully and civilly, and we will do the same on the issue of same-sex marriage. We will do the same on the issue of same-sex marriage. What the Labor Party is saying now—this, of course, is a party that is led by a man who advocated a plebiscite only three years ago, who said he was very comfortable—
Government members interjecting—
He is on tape doing that, apparently. But he is entitled to change his mind. I am not holding it against him. He is entitled to change his mind. But the truth is that we will ensure that every Australian has a say. Australians will have that say, they will have a debate—it will be respectful; it will be civil—and then the nation will respect the decision. But above all I want to thank Eddie for being here today with his two mums. As the Deputy Leader of the Opposition said, we respect them, we respect their family and we respect the love they have for their boy.
Following that answer, my question is to the Prime Minister. Lyle Shelton from the Australian Christian Lobby has said that the push for marriage equality 'is causing unthinkable things to happen, just as unthinkable things happened in Germany in the 1930s'. Is your hold on power really so slim that you will spend over $7 million of taxpayers' money so bigots like these can spread their hate speech during a plebiscite instead of letting MPs just get on with a free vote in parliament?
Just before I call the Prime Minister, there is no doubt that the first part of the question was not in order. The second part went to a decision to expend funds on the plebiscite. The Prime Minister can address that aspect. I caution the member for Melbourne on his language in the question. The Prime Minister has the call.
Thank you, Mr Speaker. The decision to provide funding to 'yes' and 'no' committees is on all fours with the method that was used in the republic referendum in 1999. It is a very well-established precedent. I want to thank the Special Minister of State and the Attorney-General for crafting a design that reflects very closely the mechanism that was used in 1999 by the government to provide funding for both sides. I note that during the Gillard government there was a proposal to have a referendum on the recognition of local government and, indeed, the Labor government then proposed I believe $20 million of funding to be shared between the two sides advocating the case. So what is being proposed is a conventional approach. It has a precedent in the republic referendum. It is thoroughly fair.
I want to say to the honourable member: when the plebiscite comes he and I, despite all of our many differences on other issues, will both vote yes. That is true, so we will agree with that. But I have to say to him, as somebody who would like the 'yes' vote to be successful, he does his cause no service by insinuating that those who oppose same-sex marriage are homophobic or bigoted.
Mr Gosling interjecting—
The honourable member knows very well that as Prime Minister I am not responsible for what that gentleman says, any more than he is responsible for what advocates on the other side of the debate say. The bottom line is this. What he is afraid of is a debate. What he is afraid of is speech. He does not trust the civility—
Mr Bandt interjecting—
Yes, you do not trust the civility of the Australian people, the people who elected you. What the honourable member is saying to the electors of Melbourne is: 'I don't trust you to have a respectful, civil conversation. I don't trust you to be anything other than bigots.' The reality is we put our faith in the Australian people. This is a great democracy. The plebiscite is a proposal we took to the election. We won the election. We have a mandate. We are asking the Leader of the Opposition to work with us to ensure that on 11 February every Australian gets their say.
Mr Buchholz interjecting—