Tuesday, 28 November 2017
Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Bill 2017; In Committee
Can I quickly correct Senator Smith. He indicated there was a government exposure draft. I think the bill to which he refers never went to cabinet, never went to the backbench committee for approval and never went to the party room for approval. Was it an exposure draft? Yes. Did it have the imprimatur of the government? Absolutely not. Let's get that clear. That is why one suspects it had a number of defects, including failing to deal with the issue of charities.
I come back to the point that if these are baseless fears of no consequence whatsoever—yet we are accused of putting, I think the wording was, 'a further hurdle' in the way of same-sex marriage—and if there had not been any opposition, this amendment could have been waved through on the voices and we would already be discussing the next tranche of amendments. So why is it that people around this chamber are digging in to ensure that this amendment, which, according to them, is worthless, will be of no value because charities are already protected? Why spend all this time digging in so desperately to ensure that this amendment does not get carried? Again, I ask the representatives of the Australian Labor Party and the Australian Greens: do you believe that with a change in the definition of 'marriage' all charities that are religiously based or, indeed, have a view in relation to what the definition of 'marriage' ought to be should continue to receive public funding, support and, for example, the right to foster our children and provide a whole range of services? Sadly, the deathly silence, the refusal, the folded arms and the looking away all indicate to me that these alleged baseless fears are things that they are actually hoping will occur. If they're baseless fears of no consequence whatsoever, I would have thought they would have waved this amendment through on the voices and we could have moved on immediately. But this digging in—not wanting this amendment—highlights the problem and the very real need for this amendment.
Can I just remind Senator Smith that paragraph 3.140 of the committee report he refers to outlines the concerns of a Mr Mark Fowler, especially on the situation in relation to the common law and, as Senators Fawcett and Paterson have so eloquently described to us, the situation in relation to the various state laws and the matters that Senator Paterson referred to. Assurances are good. So I say to the Australian Greens and the Australian Labor Party: why not give the assurance now that, should anything of the nature that has been suggested occur, you will assist in ensuring the passage of emergency legislation through the parliament to overturn any such decision that would prevent these very valuable charities from being able to do their work and from obtaining public funding?