Tuesday, 28 November 2017
Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Bill 2017; In Committee
I thank Senator Smith for answering the questions I actually put to Senator Wong and whoever happens to be running this for the Greens political party. I appreciate Senator Smith's explanation—although, having been convinced of that, I then heard Senator Fawcett explain that it doesn't cover the wide field. So I repeat my previous call: maybe there's no upside but if there's no downside why wouldn't we support this? If it's overreach, so be it; we can get this done and then move on to other amendments.
As I recall, Senator Wong was sort of saying that those who were promoting this amendment were ignoring or going contrary to the process set up by the Prime Minister—chaired, as I understand, by former colleague Mr Ruddock—which is looking into protections for charities. Should I take it from Senator Wong's comment that, if that inquiry comes up with a series of recommendations, the Labor Party will support those? My take on it is that Senator Wong is accusing those proposing these amendments of going against the Prime Minister's process. I assume she's saying, 'Let the process happen and that'll be the way it is.' Apparently Senator Wong speaks for everyone in the Labor Party, even though they are supposed to have a conscience vote and an individual view—and I know that's not the case in this particular bill, but, anyhow, that's another question. So will the Labor Party, for whom Senator Wong apparently speaks in this conscience vote, now commit to whatever Mr Ruddock's report comes up with?
I guess the Labor Party may say, 'We can't commit to something we haven't seen.' That didn't worry Mr Shorten a few years ago when he said, 'I haven't seen what the Prime Minister said, but I support it entirely.' I know the Labor Party has a bit of form on that. But, from Senator Wong's comment, I assume she's saying, 'We trust this committee that Mr Ruddock's leading, we trust the resolutions that will come up, and as we deal with these issues in another bill, or in another way, the Labor Party will support them.' Perhaps that could be confirmed. Whilst I do take an independent view on this, I appreciate what Senator Smith said in answering the question I asked of Senator Wong and the Greens political party. But Senator Fawcett has made what I think is a very telling response to that—that it doesn't cover the breadth and extent of possibilities in this. So if Senator Smith is able to comment on that, that might help the process.