Tuesday, 28 November 2017
Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Bill 2017; In Committee
I want to ask—whilst looking at you, Mr Temporary Chair—a question of Senator Wong, on behalf of the Labor Party, and Senator Siewert, on behalf of the Greens. And I repeat for Hansard and for anyone listening that I am looking at you, Mr Temporary Chair, not looking at them. Therefore, I'm not addressing them personally, and neither was Senator Abetz. I want to ask them what the downside of this amendment is. As many would know, this is not a debate that I've followed particularly closely. I've had people with me all day, and it's been hard to follow the proceedings in the chamber. But I listened to Senator Paterson's contribution earlier—and I'm not looking at Senator Paterson when I say that, I might say; I'm looking at you, Mr Temporary Chair. I heard Senator Paterson say that he hoped that this would be unnecessary, that it would never have to be accessed if it were passed into legislation, but just in case. And I've heard what Senator Rice, I think it was, and Senator Wong have said on the issue. What is the downside when putting this in? It might be superfluous, but it doesn't take anyone backwards from what I think Senator Wong and Senator Rice have indicated is the situation. Again, whilst looking at you, Mr Temporary Chair, I wonder whether the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate—and I'm not looking at her—could explain something to me. As I said, I haven't really been able to take part in this debate before. But she's talking about the Labor position—that the Labor position is this, that and the other. And I heard Senator Pratt say in a previous contribution that 'we' are saying this.
Now, I thought this was a conscience debate. Some of my colleagues in the Liberal-Nationals parties have been voting on one side of the argument and some of them voting on the other, because obviously they have a conscience vote. I've indicated twice already myself that, because of the way the amendments were put, it was a bit difficult for me. But I would have voted with Senator Smith's proposal on the definition of marriage—for reasons I won't go into, because that debate's been and gone. But I thought the other parts of that first amendment were things that I was in favour of. So I was prepared to vote for some of Senator Smith's bill and some of Senator Paterson's bill, to give them the common terms. So we on this side are exercising a conscience vote. But I haven't seen anyone in the Labor Party do that, yet I know personally—and I don't want to disclose any confidences—that a lot of people in the Australian Labor Party who have deep religious convictions are very uncomfortable with many of the positions that their leaders are stating: 'We in the Labor Party' say this, that and the other.
So I'm wondering: whilst the Labor Party in particular—I don't mention the Greens, because I don't know any of the Greens particularly well, and I don't want to, I might say—