Wednesday, 18 March 2015
This is a motion relating to a free conscience vote on marriage equality by all members in this place and the other. I move:
That the Senate agrees that all members of Parliament and senators should be granted a conscience vote on the issue of equal marriage in Australia.
The government will be opposing this motion. There is a sense in which for the Liberal and National parties every vote is a conscience vote in the sense that all members of the Liberal and National parties are always at liberty to vote at variance from their parties' agreed position. If they happen to be members of the front bench then they are expected to retire from the front bench if they wish to exercise that right, but that is a right they undoubtedly have. So it is inappropriate to describe what Senator Hanson-Young has in mind as conscience vote, though she did say in moving the motion a 'free' vote.
Whether or not a political party grants a free vote—in other words, gives its members liberty to vote at variance from the party's position—or indeed does not adopt a party position is entirely a matter for the domestic management of the political party. It is inappropriate and, frankly, not the Senate's business to interfere with the domestic management of a political party. (Time expired)
I thank Senator Brandis for his government retort on this. I think it is absolutely important and totally in line with representing the views of my constituents in this place. Overwhelmingly Australians believe that their members of parliament should be able to vote freely on the issue of marriage equality. That has been heard loud and clear by many people in this place. I must say that I understand Senator Brandis has to follow Tony Abbott's line on this, but I was just trying to let him free.
Question agreed to.