Tuesday, 28 November 2017
Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Bill 2017; In Committee
I want to make some brief comments in response to observations by Senator Smith and Senator Wong. The first point is one that Senator Smith will know well but perhaps not all senators know well, and that is to go back to the Senate select committee inquiry that took place in January and February this year to examine these issues. As Senator Smith knows, like him, I was a member of that committee and participated in the inquiry and the committee's report, and Senator Fawcett was the chair of that committee. To say that Senator Smith's bill is a product of the work of the committee is absolutely true. It is equally true to say that the bill that I produced and the amendments that I'm moving today with Senator Fawcett, which are based on my bill, are equally a product of the committee. Neither can be said to have the endorsement of the committee because both of them were produced after the committee handed down its final report. Neither bill has been put to the committee; neither bill has been discussed by the committee. The committee's report, if you read it, is silent on both bills because the bills did not exist at the time the committee reported. It's been said by some in this debate that Senator Smith's bill is the consensus of that committee. It could not be, given that the committee didn't consider it, and it certainly cannot be, given that at least two members of that committee, in myself and Senator Fawcett, disagree with it.
On the question of whether the amendments I'm moving and the bill that I released are Liberal or not—with the greatest respect, I will not take advice on what is Liberal or not from Senator Wong, the leader of the Labor Party in the Senate. Although I respect her as perhaps a scholar on social democratic values, I don't respect her as a scholar on Liberal values. There are many areas from which we can draw our inspiration for Liberal values, and I respect that, within our party, each of us applies those values in different ways. As it is always said, the Liberal Party is a broad church, and we can come to different conclusions on policy issues, even if we broadly share the same values. But one source we can consult to inform ourselves about what Liberal values are and what they constitute is the We Believe platform of the federal Liberal Party, which all Liberal members and senators seek to uphold. In the second point—and I think it is significant that it is the second point of We Believe—after stating that we believe in Australia, its people and its future, the federal platform of the Liberal Party, which is mirrored in broadly similar language by the state platforms of the party around the country, states that we believe:
In the innate worth of the individual, in the right to be independent, to own property and to achieve, and in the need to encourage initiative and personal responsibility.
It goes on to say in point 3:
In the basic freedoms of thought, worship, speech, association and choice.
Any bill or any amendment which seeks to protect freedom of thought, worship, speech, association and choice—as my bill did, and as these amendments drawn from my bill do—is, I think, the heart of liberalism.