I rise to speak on the Marriage Law Survey (Additional Safeguards) Bill 2017.
THE HON MARK DREYFUS QC MP
SHADOW MINISTER FOR NATIONAL SECURITY
MEMBER FOR ISAACS
Marriage Law Survey(Additional Safeguards) Bill 2017
WEDNESDAY, 13 SEPTEMBER 2017
I rise to speak on the Marriage Law Survey (Additional Safeguards) Bill 2017.
It's with a heavy heart that I speak on this bill today, because the Labor Party regrets that this bill is necessary at all.
It is so sad that the Prime Minister and the government have put LGBTIQ Australians into this position of having their rights voted on by other Australians.
It's sad that we have to propose safeguards against the hate speech that has already been unleashed by the Prime Minister and the government's decision to hold a postal survey on marriage equality.
None of this bill, none of this legislation, would have been necessary if the Prime Minister had demonstrated leadership and allowed a free vote on marriage equality in the parliament.
Nevertheless, I am pleased that the government, in particular the Minister for Finance and Acting Special Minister of State, Senator Cormann, has worked with us in good faith to reach agreement on this bill.
Importantly, Labor has been able to secure an acceptance by the government to ensure that LGBTI Australians are protected as far as possible against vilification and hate speech.
I'd like also to acknowledge the work of my colleague Terri Butler, the shadow assistant minister for equality, for her hard work on this bill.
Back in 2016, when the government attempted to introduce a bill for the plebiscite, I made it clear that Labor rejected the false choice that it was either a plebiscite or nothing when it comes to marriage equality in Australia.
It was always clear that the plebiscite, when it was devised in August 2015 by the member for Warringah and others in the right wing of his party who are opposed to marriage equality, was an attempt to delay marriage equality and, if possible, derail it.
The plebiscite was never intended to progress marriage equality, and as a delaying tactic it has been very successful.
Prime Minister Turnbull had the opportunity to show leadership on this issue, but instead he disappointed all Australians by going down this destructive path.
His complete lack of backbone on marriage equality has been obvious throughout his time as Prime Minister.
Need I remind the House that the Prime Minister was vehemently opposed to the idea of a plebiscite when it was first proposed.
He knew that the argument for a plebiscite has never been grounded in principle.
It goes against the principles of representative democracy and the role of this parliament to legislate.
Holding a plebiscite is not the way Australia is governed.
That's why the Senate rejected the plebiscite.
This should have been a clear message to the government that their method of going about this was all wrong, but instead they've doubled down on their divisive tactics.
And now they're subverting what the decision of the legislature has already been in rejecting the plebiscite bill by now turning to the Australian Bureau of Statistics to conduct a postal survey.
The postal survey will ask the question: should the law be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry?
This postal survey will cost Australian taxpayers an unnecessary $122 million and it is a waste of their time.
We should be voting on marriage equality in this parliament right now, instead of this unnecessary waste of time and money and the harm that it will cause.
Labor are still vehemently opposed to the government's wasteful, hurtful $122 million postal survey, just as we were opposed to the plebiscite.
We know that the postal survey not only is unnecessary but will inflict hurt and suffering on the LGBTI community in Australia.
The debate on marriage equality in this country has already taken a turn for the worse, with disgusting arguments being raised by opponents to marriage equality, arguments that have nothing at all to do with the actual issue.
I'll give an example that's just arrived today from the Marriage Alliance, who are one of the key groups in the 'no' case.
They've written with this amazing phrase: “It's crucial that all Australians understand the serious consequences of making such a radical change as they prepare to vote.
Consequences such as radical LGBTIQ sex and gender education programs being made compulsory in every school classroom.”
That's not about vilification.
That's just a false and dishonest statement.
What we need to hear from the Prime Minister and the government is the calling out of false and dishonest statements from either side in this campaign.
But it is already apparent that those on the 'no' side of this debate are putting forward irrelevancy piled on irrelevancy, engaging in dishonesty and untruthfulness, and misleading Australians about the possible impact of what is, in fact, a simple change to the Marriage Act in this country to make marriage equality a reality.
It is very unfortunate that this postal survey is going ahead.
I say again: this safeguards bill does not legitimise the survey.
We can't stop the survey from going ahead because, unfortunately, the High Court challenge failed, but we can seek to minimise the hurtful impact that it will have on LGBTI Australians—and that's what this bill sets out to do.
That's why Labor's supporting it.
The postal survey has been foisted on Australians at a massive cost, but we can't simply pretend it's not happening. We're not.
We're getting out there and campaigning for 'yes'.
We've also got to ensure that we do everything possible to make sure that there is as little harm as possible to Australians in the course of this debate.
The government has clearly recognised that the process that we are already embarked on will be hurtful to many Australians.
That's, of course, why this bill is needed.
The purpose of the provisions which have been outlined by the minister are to stop LGBTIQ Australians and their families, as well as those with religious convictions, from being vilified and attacked, and to make sure that the campaign is conducted in an orderly manner.
We fought hard for the additional protections that are now included in this bill over and above what the government initially proposed.
We do thank the government for working cooperatively with Labor throughout our negotiations on this bill. I'm not going to take up the time of the House in going through the purpose of the provisions or what the contents of the bill are, because the minister has done this.
I want to conclude by saying that this bill does not cancel out the hurt that is already being felt.
It cannot cancel out the hurt that is already being felt.
We in Labor will continue to call out hurtful and divisive speech.
We will stand with the LGBTI community throughout this survey process.
We will do everything we can to prevent hurtful and hateful speech, intolerant speech and speech that demeans our fellow Australians throughout this debate.
We are going to do that and we will continue to hold Prime Minister Turnbull responsible for hateful, divisive, demeaning speech and things that are said throughout the course of this campaign.
The Prime Minister should not think that this bill is enough.
He needs to get out and campaign.
He needs to call out dishonesty.
He needs to call out misleading statements.
He needs to call out vilification when he sees it and when we hear it.
We need to have the Prime Minister doing much more than simply saying, 'I'm going to be voting yes.'
We need to have the Prime Minister lending the authority of his office to making sure that this debate is conducted with kindness, with grace, with acceptance and with tolerance.
We urge all Australians on both sides of this debate to conduct themselves well in the remaining weeks of this campaign, while this survey is ongoing.
The whole parliament is here sending a message to the people of Australia that this debate is to be conducted as well as we can manage—as well as all of us, looking to the best sides of our natures, can manage.
I say again: the whole parliament is here drawing a line, sending that message to Australia, inviting Australians to conduct this campaign, to behave in this campaign and to speak in this campaign with kindness, with grace, with acceptance and with tolerance.