I start my contribution by urging all members in this place to speak on this issue with respect. We recognise that not everyone shares the view that most of you have on the other side and that I have: that the Marriage Act should be amended so that same-sex couples can marry. What we have seen in this debate today—and I must say it was led by the Leader of the Opposition—was a lot of vitriol and a lot of abuse. I do not think that is appropriate on this topic in this place.
I will be the first to condemn hateful, vindictive, offensive words that are said in this debate. We have already heard some hateful words in the Australian community, but can I make a very important suggestion to members opposite: please do not bring those hateful words, which might be watched by a small television audience of 3,000 or 4,000 Australians, into the national parliament.
Do not highlight those words. Do not give them any sense of promotion, because that causes more distress. I am saying to members opposite—we saw it from the Leader of the Opposition yesterday and we’ve seen it again today—do not restate hateful words and cause more grief amongst those who want to see change. I do condemn the bringing of hateful words into this parliament. That is absolutely, frankly, unacceptable. That’s a contribution that you can meaningfully make to this debate.
I am very disappointed by the Leader of the Opposition’s change in position in relation to a plebiscite. A postal plebiscite was not our preferred option as members opposite know, but we are sticking with our commitment to all Australians. We are giving them a say. I remind members opposite of what the Leader of the Opposition said in 2013:
I would rather that the people of Australia could make their view clear on this, than leaving this issue to 150 people.
We have made this decision because, on such a deeply personal issue as this, we believed it was important that every Australian had their say. This was a view previously held by the Leader of the Opposition and, like so many issues of policy, we see him flip-flopping on this one. The Leader of the Opposition’s hypocrisy is compounded by his announcement that he’s going to hold a plebiscite on a referendum, which is not required for constitutional change. He is going to hold a plebiscite in relation to moving to a republic, when only a referendum is required. We have already seen sheer and gross hypocrisy from the Leader of the Opposition.
We understand this is not a perfect pathway. There are some people in the community who do not want to see this postal plebiscite. But we are doing this, and I believe that we will see a majority ‘yes’ vote arise out of this plebiscite. If that occurs, I will be voting, ‘yes’ to change the law to allow same-sex couples to marry.
There has been some reference today about the Commonwealth Electoral Act. We have seen it doesn’t protect Australians from lies, from misleading statements because we saw the Labor Party in action at the last federal election. We saw the myriad lies, the ‘Mediscare’ campaign and the absolute joke of deception from Labor in the last federal election. That’s very disappointing.
What hypocrisy from Labor, urging a free vote because, as from 2019, Labor’s position is: there will be no free vote. The ALP’s policy is that all members must vote for marriage equality and if they don’t, they will be expelled from the Labor Party, meaning some members currently in this House and in the Senate will not be allowed to be members of the Labor Party. Let’s not forget all those members back in 2012, including the members for Watson, McMahon, Hunter, Chifley, Blair, Lilley and former member for Griffith, Kevin Rudd, and former Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, who voted against same-sex marriage. We are getting on with the business of putting this before the parliament. I believe in a change to the Marriage Act and I very much hope it will happen.
10 August 2017