Tuesday, 28 November 2017
Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Bill 2017; In Committee
I want to add to Senator Fawcett's comments and expand on them about charities specifically. Senator Smith made the observation in his contribution that there had not been much comment about charities in this amendment. That's because this amendment doesn't deal with charities. It deals with charities in a tangential way, which I will go to. But, as Senator Fawcett said, there is a standalone charities amendment, on sheet 8329. I assure you we will be speaking at great length about charities during debate on that amendment and, particularly relevantly, about the ATO's letter and the ACNC's letter.
The way in which this amendment deals with charities is in one narrow sense. It's in section 88K, the anti-detriment clause, which protects individuals from unfavourable treatment. It says that, in the provision of economic benefits including grants, funding or subsidies, an organisation or individuals can't be discriminated against because they hold a traditional marriage belief. What that means is a government department, for example, which hands out grants cannot decline to provide it to an organisation or remove it from an organisation based solely on its view on marriage. As relevant and interesting as letters from the ATO or ACNC commissioners are, they have no power over the granting of government funding and it is not relevant to this part of the amendment. If you want to ensure that a government department or agency cannot take away a grant to an organisation—for example, a religious charity—because that charity has a view on marriage while also delivering services through that grant, then the only way to ensure that can't happen is by voting for these amendments.
The CHAIR: The question is that amendments (1) to (10) on sheet 8327, as moved by Senators Fawcett and Paterson, be agreed to.