Senate debates

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Bills

Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Bill 2017; In Committee

5:34 pm

Photo of Eric AbetzEric Abetz (Tasmania, Liberal Party) Share this | Hansard source

Check the Hansard. Yet again the Australian people will be able to say that often the honourable senator speaks and does not know what she is saying. I think that has now been confirmed. I took notes, Senator. I took notes of what you said. But, if you deny that you said it, I won't have to contradict what you said. I won't have to contradict what the honourable senator said.

But we have literally case after case. There is the academic Dr Stephen Chavura, in New South Wales, who has been confronted because of his views in relation to the issue of marriage. If we celebrate diversity, if we allow people to hold alternative opinions—just as for, what, a decade certain people continually said that the definition of 'marriage' ought to be changed to include same-sex couples; were they ever denied the right to be able to say that? No. They should be allowed to say it. In a free, democratic society, these issues will ultimately be determined by debate—robust ideas being sharpened off each other—and then the view of the people will be made known.

Similarly, shouldn't people who still hold to the view of marriage as being between a man and a woman today be afforded the same freedoms as those who advocated for a change in the law? Shouldn't people—as of tomorrow or whenever this legislation might get passed—have the right to argue that the law ought to be changed back? We might disagree with that view, we might agree with that view, but that is a fundamental freedom that we should have in our society, that we should celebrate in our society. If the view is, 'We've changed the law; therefore you are now no longer able to hold that point of view or advocate that point of view,' we are, sadly, moving into an era of Australian politics that I must say is not the sort of Australia that I would like to see.

I would like to see an Australia where we do have the capacity to have that diversity of views. People voted to change the law to allow same-sex couples to marry. That has already been extended and taken a liberty with by Senator Smith's bill, which takes it a lot further than what the actual question was on the postal survey form. Then to say that somehow that vote is indicative of the will of the Australian people to deny these fundamental freedoms is just so very, very sad. There is the case of the students at Trinity College that Senator Paterson referred to. They are being denied the right to practise their career as lawyers, not because their degree was deficient, not because their advocacy skills were wanting—no, nothing to do with that. It is on the one ideological ground that they were part of an institution where they were of the view, if I recall correctly, that sexual activity should not be engaged in until after marriage. That's a vow they signed up to. And, in a diverse society, shouldn't that be allowed? Why should somebody of that view be denied the capacity to represent the men and women of Canada in the courts of law? It's like a foster family in the United Kingdom—a wonderful Christian family, according to all of the reports, who had fostered many, many children, with great outcomes. Everybody said: 'How great is this? What a wonderful, loving family unit, doing this for children that need foster care.' All of a sudden, because of the change of law in relation to marriage, the couple were denied any more foster children because they mightn't teach them about the homosexual lifestyle or gender fluidity. Children in desperate need of a loving mum and dad in a foster family are denied that capacity for that one sole reason.

Let's make no mistake: when people were advocating for the 'yes' vote and claiming there would be no consequences, they knew what was happening around the rest of the world. Those of us that argued the consequences knew what we were saying. We want to protect Australia from some of those travesties—to protect the law students in Canada, for example, and to protect the foster carer family in the United Kingdom. The list around the world, sadly, is very, very large. Another example are the, I think, 19 Catholic adoption agencies in the United Kingdom that have had their charitable status changed or denied for one simple reason: they believe that children are best placed with a mum and a dad.

Whilst I accept that same-sex marriage will become part of the law of this country by the end of these two weeks of sitting, I am still very fundamentally of the view that, all things being equal, children are best brought up knowing the biological certainty of their parents and having the diversity of a male and female role model. Why else do people argue that we should have more women in parliament or on the Supreme Court benches? If all of a sudden women were no different from men, why EMILY'S List for the Australian Labor Party? There is a fundamental difference. In fact, the scientists tell us there are, I think, a thousand or more chromosomal differences between men and women. It's a biological fact that there are differences. The reason that people argue we need more women in parliament is that women are different and make a different contribution. They provide, dare I say the word again, 'diversity' for parliament, for the boards of companies and for the Supreme Courts. But, for the most important role in society, the socialisation of the next generation, that diversity is, all of a sudden, no longer required. I say that I believe, if at all possible, it is desirable, and that is why people that want to express those views should be protected. For the sake of the children and the next generation, I fully support the amendments.

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