Senate debates

Tuesday, 28 November 2017


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

9:18 pm

Photo of Matthew CanavanMatthew Canavan (Queensland, Liberal National Party, Minister for Resources and Northern Australia) Share this | Hansard source

I'm happy to put 38 or 62 into the calculator for you, Senator Hinch, through you, Chair. We can work that out because we have 25 different independent trials, apparently, with a probability of roughly 0.62, according to Senator Hinch. You get an outcome of 0.0000234. That is the probability that 25 independently minded Labor senators have all come to the same conclusion—0.0000234! That's one possibility. It's a pretty slim possibility. That's one potential outcome, by using the well-established Bernoulli distribution. I should say that that conclusion assumes that all of the trials—in this case, all of the decisions—are independent of each other; they're not dependent on each other.

If that assumption fails, there's the other outcome: maybe the decision over there was dependent on other people's decisions. Maybe all 25 weren't independent trials. Then it would be a much more likely outcome. I think that what we can really see over there tonight is that there have not been 25 independent decisions made by the Labor caucus. They have come together as a lot, they have been dependent on each other and, unfortunately, once again, whether it's a minority view or not, the Labor Party do not allow the freedom of expression of individual senators into this place. In my view that is an unfortunate narrowing of our democratic debate.

The debate tonight, I think, would have been a lot richer for contributions from some Labor senators who I know have certain conscientious viewpoints on many of these issues. It would have been a richer debate to hear from that rich tradition within the Labor Party that would otherwise normally stand up on these issues. I actually don't believe that there's been this random event with a probability of well under point zero zero something per cent where they've all independently come to the same decision. I think what's actually happened is that the Labor Party has enforced its traditional discipline on its members and, unfortunately, deprived the Australian parliament and the Australian people of the viewpoints of individual senators in their party room on these very important and weighty issues.


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