Senate debates

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Bills

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

10:12 pm

Photo of Nick McKimNick McKim (Tasmania, Australian Greens) Share this | Hansard source

I'm usually really pleased to talk about rights. After all, the bill that's before the committee at the moment is at its heart about the right to marry for some people who are currently denied that right under Australian law. But now is not the time to be debating the right of religion or the right to freedom of religion. The Australian people were not asked in the survey to vote on whether we should enshrine religious freedoms in law. They were simply asked to vote on—and voted overwhelmingly in favour of—the proposition that we should enact marriage equality in Australia. And that's what we should be doing here: enacting marriage equality in Australia.

The Australian Greens are very happy to entertain a conversation about the right to religion and to religious beliefs and religious practices, and we're very happy to entertain a discussion about enshrining those rights into statute. But those rights, like most rights, need to be balanced with other rights, and that's why we need to discuss how to balance those rights and a range of other rights in a discussion about a proper charter of rights, because Australia remains the only Western liberal democracy that doesn't have a charter of rights either in our Constitution or on our statute books. That conversation needs to be had carefully and in a considered way, because balancing often competing rights is very difficult and can lead to significant unintended consequences if it's done hastily.

These amendments are a hasty attempt. We know that these amendments arose because of a deal that was done in the LNP to get Senator Paterson to withdraw the marriage equality legislation that he had drafted. The cost of that was this amendment and the others that are being proposed by Senator Brandis today. So we need a broad, careful and considered approach to how we balance rights—

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