Senate debates

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Statements by Senators


1:46 pm

Photo of Dean SmithDean Smith (WA, Liberal Party) Share this | Hansard source

Last week was a good week for the parliament and, more importantly, for the Senate. We held up our end of that grand bargain and carried out the will of the Australian people, as reflected in the national result, by legislating for marriage equality. We witnessed the best of this place and what can be achieved when parliamentarians work together for the people they serve. Our hope is that the other place can emulate the respectful and efficient manner in which this place carried out the passing of historic reform.

While many of us will be acknowledged for pushing marriage equality forward, millions of Australians, whose names and faces we will never know, had a hand in this significant chapter in our nation's great history. Their energy, passion and commitment not only gave the path to marriage equality its trajectory; it imbued it with force. Someone once said there is nothing greater, nothing more human, than 'thank you'. I'd like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to those who helped pave the way on this significant reform.

When the Australian Marriage Law Postal Survey was announced, the Australian Electoral Commission added more than 98,000 new people to the electoral roll; 65,000 were aged 18 to 24. What an achievement! Thank you to all those Australians, however you voted, for participating in this democratic process, which resulted in the biggest electoral mandate our country has ever seen. The Equality Campaign was already in full swing before the postal survey forms were mailed out. The team delivered an upbeat, precise and inclusive campaign based on those cherished Australian values of equality and fairness. What I was most proud of was that the 'yes' campaign ran on a platform of positivity. They ran a campaign that connected people and started honest, heartfelt and, at times, difficult conversations and reassured Australians they had nothing to fear from marriage equality.

Many hands make light work, so I say to the countless campaigners who made phone calls, knocked on doors and spoke to relatives, friends, neighbours and colleagues, we cannot say 'thank you' enough. Thank you to those involved in the Equality Campaign, especially. Many thinks to Tim Gartrell. I know of Tim from the other side of politics, but he played a straight bat and steered the 'yes' campaign in the most positive of directions. To the co-chair of Australian Marriage Equality, Alex Greenwich, and to the co-chair of the Equality Campaign and Director of Legal Advocacy at the Human Rights Law Centre, Anna Brown, your advocacy and your trust throughout this campaign has been remarkable, and I'm grateful. Thank you for being the voices of a community that needed to be heard. Janine Middleton, Co-chair of Australian Marriage Equality—your experience, professionalism and compassion gave this debate a new perspective.

Thank you to Professor Kerryn Phelps and Jackie Stricker-Phelps for fighting for marriage equality over many, many years. Thank you to Tom Snow and Brook Horne for the generosity of your precious time and resources over many years—you helped keep our spirits buoyed and kept gas in the tank of the campaign. Thank you to Corey Irlam and Lee Carnie for providing the highest quality of legal insight and support and, again, for your trust, day in and day out.

Thank you to Claire Dawson, who led the coordinated parliamentary campaign across the political divide; Clint McGilvray, who carried the winning message for the campaign; and Adam Knobel for being the brains behind one of the country's best digital campaigns. Thank you to Paddy Batchelor, who directed one of Australia's largest volunteer field efforts, with more than 15,600 volunteers phoning over a million homes and knocking on over 100,000 doors. Thank you to Helen Ross-Browne and Kirk Marcolina, creators of the moving imagery that helped tell so many impactful and important human stories to other Australians. Thank you to Chris Pycroft, who brought so many LGBTI and mental health groups together for marriage equality; Ashley Hogan, who managed tens of thousands of inquiries and provided quality control for all material; and Francis Voon, who supported so many faith and multicultural groups to demonstrate that marriage equality is a key faith and multicultural value. Thank you to Shane Lloyd, who set and ran all the merchandise for the campaign and personally managed the campaign shop in Sydney.

Now, you might wonder what a sprightly Irishman might have to do with marriage equality in Australia. Tiernan Brady was responsible for the successful 'yes' result in the Irish referendum on this very issue. Tiernan's leadership, focus and ebullience kept the 'yes' campaign on track, and he found and shared human stories that changed attitudes of people throughout our country. From Carnarvon to Cairns, Bunbury to Balmain, Tiernan travelled to almost every corner of this great land to get the message out: if Australia legalises marriage equality, the sun will come up the next day and the only thing that will happen is that more people in loving, committed relationships will be able to have those relationships recognised. Thank you, Tiernan, for guiding us through this marathon, always with a smile on your face and a spring in your step.

One of the fundamental values of the Liberal Party is that of freedom of choice and freedom of the individual. Our party's president, the Hon. Nick Greiner AC, argued movingly several months ago about marriage as a classic conservative issue, reflecting on his family and how one of his children could marry but the other could not. From one Liberal to another, thank you, Nick, for your courage and forthrightness during this debate.

Former acting federal director of the Liberal Party, Andrew Bragg, leapt into action and led the Libs and Nats for Yes campaign to encourage those within the coalition to vote yes. We owe Andrew a debt of gratitude for his commitment and his leadership. I'm so glad I've made a trusted friend in Andrew.

To all those Liberals and Nationals who represented the coalition at rallies, forum and booths, I thank you for your devotion to and advocacy for the 'yes' vote.

Christine Forster is a tower of strength and a force to be reckoned with. In the face of such public scrutiny, she still held the conviction to stand up when it counted. Christine and Virginia, we cannot acknowledge your role in this national conversation enough.

Thank you to Ian Thorpe and Magda Szubanski, who put their private selves into the public sphere and showed tremendous courage, showing their authentic selves and advocating for marriage equality.

Western Australia is my home state, and, as I've previously noted in this place, my home state recorded a clean sweep in the postal survey: 16 federal seats out of 16 federal seats. This wouldn't have been possible without the tenacity of West Australians who drove the WA equality campaign. The WA 'yes' committee was instrumental in ensuring the coordination and action in the West for those who supported marriage equality. We thank Ian Kortlang, Ian Campbell, Paul Everingham, Deidre Willmott and Steve Harris for their organisation, steadfastness and enthusiasm during this campaign. Thank you for rallying the troops across Western Australia.

I would also like to recognise the invaluable work of Emma Gibbens, Paul Benson, Suzette Morris and Bevan Marwick, whose energy and eagerness for change propelled West Australians to get out and vote. And I give a very special acknowledgement to those Young Liberals who showed the real courage of their convictions: Jack, Joshua, Francois, Matthew and Julian. I salute you for your bravery.

To Mick Skender from Worldwide Printing, many thanks and appreciation for your agility and efficiency, especially with those last-minute printing requests.

When the parliamentary 'yes committee' was formed to ensure the integrity of the observation process, it was heartening that so many of my parliamentary colleagues put their hands up to help. I'm grateful that they chose me to be the convenor of that group. It was imperative that we worked diligently and expeditiously to ensure that the observation process was fair and accurately reflected the attitudes of Australians in relation to marriage equality. I would like to acknowledge the work of my parliamentary colleagues Tim Wilson, Trent Zimmerman, Terri Butler, Julian Hill and Senators Derryn Hinch, Louise Pratt, Janet Rice and Skye Kakoschke-Moore.

The observation process was long and at times exhausting. Despite endless hours and the often monotonous nature of the work, over 600,000 coded survey forms were observed by both 'yes' and 'no' official observers. While our views may have differed on the issue of marriage equality, I was happy to see that any differences between those observers could be put aside to ensure that our democratic process was quality controlled. From team 'yes', I'd especially like to thank our 62 observers, many of whom gave up precious time or travelled great distances to do their part. We cannot repay the hours, days and weeks you gave up to make sure that this important aspect of the process was executed properly—but I hope the result alone was worth it.

The observation process would not have been possible without our lead observer, Jarrod Lomas. Jarrod spent week after week wrangling excited 'yes' voters, emailing updates, filling in rosters, making calls and observing survey forms himself to uphold the integrity of the postal survey process. He set the bar from our side and led by example—professional, calm under pressure and always courteous. What a fantastic job you did, Jarrod. We thank you for your exceptional leadership and stability. Everything you did worked.

I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge and sincerely thank the most important of institutions, this Australian parliament, who in some measure played an important role in this very important historic reform. On behalf of everyone involved in the 'yes' campaign, I pass on our congratulations on a tremendous outcome.


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