Senate debates

Tuesday, 13 February 2018


Finance and Public Administration References Committee; Report

5:25 pm

Photo of Jenny McAllisterJenny McAllister (NSW, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

I present the report of the Finance and Public Administration References Committee on the postal survey concerning same-sex marriage, together with the Hansard record of proceedings and documents presented to the committee. I move:

That the Senate take note of the report.

I will keep my remarks brief. I wish to start by congratulating all of those people who worked so hard to bring about marriage equality for Australia. Many people put their personal stories on the line and were most courageous in standing up to discrimination and pressure to keep quiet about the reality of their lives. People fought bravely and the outcome was well deserved. I really look forward over the coming decades to attending weddings of friends and colleagues who, for the first time, will be allowed to have their love recognised in the way that's been available to the rest of us for so long.

However, this committee was not concerned with the substantive question of marriage equality; it was concerned with the process established by government to determine this question. The committee is disappointed, to say the least, in that process. The government's approach, from the outset, was more concerned about resolving internal political problems than it was about delivering a good policy result for any of the affected groups or for the Australian community as a whole.

The government was warned repeatedly about the problems that might arise if a plebiscite was initiated and, indeed, if the survey was initiated, and specifically about the problems that would arise in terms of hateful material being directed at the LGBTIQ community. And so it came to pass. All of the warnings proved to be correct, and many people reported to our committee the hurt and distress that they and their families experienced from having hateful material propagated throughout their communities, outside their schools, in their shopping centres and on the walls of local buildings and hateful mail in their letterboxes. This process was entirely unnecessary because, at every stage in the process, the parliament needed only to do its job. The parliament needed only to take the opportunity to vote on legislation to bring about marriage equality. The parliament, under the leadership of Malcolm Turnbull, chose not to do so.

Our committee makes just three recommendations: We recommend that questions of human rights for minority groups should never again be resolved by public vote. We recommend that, given the evidence of harm done to the LGBTIQ community, the government consider how further funding and support could be offered to mental health and LGBTIQ communities and organisations to help address the consequences of the postal survey. And, given the evidence around participation in remote areas—and particularly Indigenous participation—we recommend that the AEC act urgently to engage with those communities to increase the number of enrolled people in remote areas and to increase the participation of those enrolled people in local, state and federal elections.

I know other senators wish to contribute on this same matter. I will leave my remarks there. I thank my fellow senators for the serious and sober way that they approached this question and the diligence with which they applied themselves to it.


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