Senate debates

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Bills

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

7:59 pm

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

It's funny, Mr Temporary Chair, that when I invited Senator Wong in exactly the same terms as I invited Senator Siewert there was no objection from the chair. I wonder why that might have been? Oh! Because this was a request of a Greens senator. Could I just invite you, Chair, to ask the President—

The TEMPORARY CHAIR: Senator Abetz, are you making an accusation of bias against the chair?

No. What I'm making is an observation that when I did exactly the same thing in relation to Senator Wong you remained deathly silent in the chair. I then turned my attention—exactly the same wording—to Senator Siewert and all of a sudden there was an eruption from the chair that this was against standing orders. I am just observing.

The TEMPORARY CHAIR: Just a moment. Senator Abetz, when you were talking to Senator Wong you were facing me. When you were talking to Senator Siewert you were facing the other end of the chamber. It's a fairly obvious point of order.

Senator Abetz interjecting—

The TEMPORARY CHAIR: I would ask you to reflect on that, Senator Abetz. Yes, it is.

Right. I'm looking at you, Mr Temporary Chair.

The TEMPORARY CHAIR: Thank you.

I invite Senator Siewert—is that in standing orders now, because I'm looking at your eyes rather than Senator Siewert's? Really! This is—

The TEMPORARY CHAIR: What is your point of order, Senator Abetz?

It's not a point of order. I am making a contribution.

The TEMPORARY CHAIR: You just asked me a question, Senator Abetz. Do you have a point of order?

Yes. What is the difference? You said I had to look at you when I was asking—

The TEMPORARY CHAIR: I said to direct your comments through the chair. I didn't say you had to look at me. I said when you were looking at Senator Wong you were also facing my direction. There is nothing complicated about that.

What's the relevance of facing in your direction or anywhere else? Look, let's get on with the substantive issue and not this sort of interference that has unfortunately occurred.

The TEMPORARY CHAIR: Sorry, Senator Abetz, take your seat. You have just made an accusation that I'm running interference when I'm trying to actually chair the committee. On what basis are you making that accusation?

Can I rephrase: delete the word 'interference' and insert the word 'intervention'. Now, the situation is that we were accused of having a baseless fear in relation to what might occur to charities. If that is a baseless fear, I invite those who are representing the Labor Party and the Greens in this debate, who happen to rejoice in the names of Senator Wong and Senator Siewert—and I will be looking at you, Mr Chairman, when I say the name 'Senator Siewert'—to tell us whether they believe that it is good public policy to allow the continuation of public funding to go to charities that are faith based and believe in marriage as being between a man and a woman. If we get that assurance from Senator Wong and Senator Siewert, on behalf of the parties that they are representing here this evening, then that would be a good indication of their good faith in this matter. But the studious way in which this request has been ignored by both party representatives is indicative to me of a very real concern that this is just a brush-off of the issue, hoping that people will not ask that fundamental question. So I invite Senator Wong and Senator Siewert, the representatives of the ALP and the Greens, to indicate to us what their position is in relation to the ongoing funding of faith-based charitable organisations that hold to the view that marriage ought be between a man and a woman.

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