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senate vote 2016-11-07#1

Edited by mackay

on 2016-11-19 02:29:11

Title

  • Bills — Plebiscite (Same-Sex Marriage) Bill 2016; Second Reading
  • Plebiscite (Same-Sex Marriage) Bill 2016 - Second Reading - Agree with the bill's main idea

Description

  • <p class="speaker">Stirling Griff</p>
  • <p>The Nick Xenophon Team will be opposing the Plebiscite (Same-Sex Marriage) Bill 2016. We are elected to this place to act in the best interest of our respective communities, and this bill does not do that. It is both a waste of taxpayer money and a mechanism that will provide intolerant people and organisations with a government-funded opportunity for hate speech. When the Prime Minister stood in the other place and said he would be spending $170 million of Australian taxpayer money on this plebiscite, I was incredibly dismayed&#8212;not just by the sheer amount of money the government was prepared to spend but the fact that they were willing to spend it at all when an alternative, far less costly and far less harmful option exists: a free vote in the form of a marriage equality bill.</p>
  • <p>Australians live in a representative democracy, and it is our job as parliamentarians to debate and deliberate legislation. We were elected to make decisions and not to outsource them. We did not need a plebiscite when Indigenous Australians were recognised as equal in the eyes of the law, or when we dismantled the White Australia policy, or when we advanced women's equality or even when we advanced disability equality. We certainly do not need it now. A quick look at the Australian plebiscite history shows that from the early 1900s there have only been three plebiscites held in Australia, the last of which was in 1977 on the choice of Australia's national anthem. It made me think, 'Surely we're not placing the question of equal rights on the same footing as the choice of Australia's national anthem?'</p>
  • The majority [voted against](http://www.openaustralia.org.au/senate/?id=2016-11-07.156.2) the main idea of the [bill](http://parlinfo.aph.gov.au/parlInfo/search/display/display.w3p;query=Id:legislation/billhome/r5728)'s main idea. In parliamentary jargon, they voted against giving the bill a [second reading](http://www.peo.gov.au/learning/fact-sheets/making-a-law.html).
  • This means that the bill is now rejected and won't continue to be considered.
  • ### What is the bill's main idea?
  • The [purpose of this bill](http://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Bills_Legislation/bd/bd1617a/17bd022) is to make it possible for the government to hold a national plebiscite to ask Australians *"Should the law be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry?"*
  • ### What is a national plebiscite?
  • The [bills digest](http://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Bills_Legislation/bd/bd1617a/17bd022) explains that:
  • > *a national plebiscite is a vote by citizens on any subject of national significance but which does not affect the Constitution. Plebiscites are normally advisory and do not compel a government to act on the outcome. There have only been three national plebiscites—two on conscription during World War I (both defeated) and one on the choice of a National Song in 1977.*
  • ### Why don't some supporters of marriage equality support this bill?
  • [Several parties and independents](http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-08-29/same-sex-marriage-plebiscite-explainer/7794070) oppose this bill for two main reasons: cost and concern that a plebiscite could [harm members of the LGBTI community](http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-10-12/same-sex-marriage-debate's-impact-on-lgbti-people/7924480).
  • <p>We have voted on legislation that begs moral questions in this place before. When John Howard amended the federal Marriage Act to explicitly state that marriage be between a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others he did not insist on a plebiscite; he took it to parliament. Our current Prime Minister could and should have put forward legislation, just like John Howard did in 2004, and allowed parliament to vote on the issue of marriage equality. This would have been the least expensive and least harmful way of ensuring all people, regardless of their sexual orientation, are equal under the law, but the reality is the Prime Minister does not want to alienate his far Right supporters.</p>
  • <p>Representative democracy exists because the model state is too complex to be run by a direct democracy. Important issues are not decided by a mass 'yes' or 'no' vote, because if they were we would spend all of our time voting on plebiscites and referendums. It is our job as community leaders to make decisions in line with community needs, aspirations and, indeed, expectations. It is completely unnecessary to go down the path that the Prime Minister has chosen, particularly when we know that two-thirds of Australians support legalising same-sex marriage.</p>
  • <p>The recent Irish marriage equality referendum is but one example of just how divisive and pointless a public vote can be. The end result was that a majority supported marriage equality in almost identical terms to opinion polls undertaken prior to the referendum. This further demonstrated that it was not at all necessary to waste taxpayer money and bring about the severe distress and prejudice LGBTI people experienced throughout the campaign. It affected people in all aspects of their lives: in their workplaces, in their local communities, in their schools and in their churches. People were even afraid to travel on public transport or walk to their local shops. We should not be putting Australians through such a divisive, hurtful process. It will hurt individuals, parents and children&#8212;all who want to do no more than love those they cherish. No child deserves to see their parents' relationship devalued on the national stage. No child deserves to be told that their parents' love for one another is not recognised or that their family is second-class. No family member or friend should have to see their loved ones subjected to hate and discrimination.</p>
  • <p>I worry about the impact this plebiscite will have on our young people&#8212;teenagers who are struggling with their sexuality and making the decision as to whether to come out or not. We know that young LGBTI people experience twice as much abuse and violence than their heterosexual peers. We know that more than four in 10 young LGBTI Australians have thought about self-harm or suicide. Why would we want to subject our young to more hurtful, derogatory and discriminative discourse? I fear that this plebiscite and the millions of taxpayer dollars that would be put towards any campaign will divide our great nation and give a licence to hate speech. We should not give air to those who already have the lungs to yell the loudest. Let's have a civilised debate here in this chamber, as has been done on many thousands of equally important pieces of legislation since our parliament was formed.</p>
  • <p>People are people, and LGBTI people are no different; they are just like everybody else. They live and work in the same community as all of us; they contribute to our diverse society. They are not a danger to society, as some would suggest; they enrich our society and have done so since the beginning of time. There would not be a field or community where LGBTI people have not made a significant contribution, and this will be the case until the end of time. Their desire to commit to their partners, like I have to my wife Kristin, is no different. They are equally good fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters and friends. They do not deserve to be vilified; they do not deserve to be treated differently. It is not my role nor the role of any other person in this place to tell a person that their relationship does not warrant equality before the law. The government should be there for the people&#8212;all people, regardless of gender, race or sexuality&#8212;and allow a free vote for marriage equality. This is what the majority of Australians want, and it is incumbent on us to deliver this in this parliament. This bill needs to well and truly be relegated to the history books and replaced by a bill that allows a free vote.</p>
  • <p class="speaker">Jenny McAllister</p>
  • <p>I rise to speak on the Plebiscite (Same-Sex Marriage) Bill 2016. In some ways, we are in the most amazing position in Australia in relation to marriage equality. I have had some involvement in this issue over some years, and it comes as a real surprise to me&#8212;a pleasant surprise; a joyful surprise&#8212;that the majority of Australians are ready to take this next step. The majority of Australians are ready to recognise that marriage equality is about removing discrimination and affirming love&#8212;that love between two people of the same gender is of equal meaning and of equal value and is entitled to equal respect.</p>
  • <p>As many speakers before me today and at other times have said, people in same-sex relationships should not be made to feel like second-class citizens. Members of the LGBT community should not be made to feel that theirs is a second-class love. On this question the community have fought so hard. They have had the courage to present their voices and their stories. They have endured the public judgement that comes with exposing your own personal relationships and families to scrutiny and the unkind comments of people who would oppose them for personal values and for political reasons, ignoring the deep personal hurt that is delivered when an individual's family and an individual's love are rejected and diminished.</p>
  • <p>The community have been amazing on this issue. They have fought so hard. It has been my pleasure and, I think, Labor's pleasure to be able to stand alongside and support that community over that long journey. I am proud of the role that we have played, while acknowledging that in fact this is something that is being delivered by a very big social movement right across our country. Labor have stood for marriage equality. It was a policy that we took to the election. We promised that we would introduce marriage equality within the first 100 days of the parliament if we were elected to government. Sadly, that was not to be. It built on a long history of advocacy, from decriminalising homosexuality through Labor state governments through to the attempts to introduce marriage equality when in government in the ACT.</p>
  • <p>On a smaller but I think symbolically important thing, for many years now in my home town of Sydney Labor have been honoured to be welcomed into the Mardi Gras parade. I am proud to have been part of that, proudly marching with my Labor comrades. It is a story that in my own small way I feel very honoured to have been allowed to contribute to. I was very pleased to see our leader, Mr Shorten, participate in the march earlier this year.</p>
  • <p>But this speech today in the parliament is not in fact the speech I would like to give about marriage equality. The speech I would like to give is the speech that we will give on the day that a bill for marriage equality is introduced into this parliament and when all members have a free vote on the question and the Liberal Party are allowed to vote with their conscience to deliver marriage equality as the majority of the parliament demands and as the community expects.</p>
  • <p>Sadly, that is not the speech for today because today we are presented with something very different&#8212;a proposition for a plebiscite. I want to be able to vote in favour of equality for those across the country in same-sex relationships. I do not want to vote for a plebiscite. The problem, of course, is that the Prime Minister wants a plebiscite because he fears the social conservatives in his party more than he wants change. This plebiscite was a ploy. It is recognised by everybody that this is so. It was dreamt up by the former&#8212;and perhaps future&#8212;Prime Minister, Mr Abbott, to delay marriage equality. It is a fig leaf. It is an attempt to look like you are doing something when in fact you are very deliberately doing nothing at all. If the Prime Minister wanted marriage equality, we could legislate for it tomorrow. Why has he changed his mind? He has changed his mind because a plebiscite was part of the price that he paid for the job.</p>
  • <p>The parliament has a responsibility to decide on issues. That is our system of government. That is why we are here. Labor take that responsibility very seriously. In 115 years of our democracy, 44 parliaments before us have declared war, negotiated peace, signed trade deals, opened our economy, floated our dollar and legislated several changes to the Marriage Act without recourse to a plebiscite. It is unnecessary. It is wasteful. It would be ineffective because it would be nonbinding. And it asks something of the gay and lesbian community that we do not ask of other citizens when we are considering issues relevant to them.</p>
  • <p>This is not a bill I can support. We stand on the cusp of a great opportunity for Australians to recognise the real love that exists between same-sex couples and the families they have built, including their parents, their children and their friends all around them. It is a very great shame that instead of acting on that today we are simply being asked to consider this unnecessary, wasteful plebiscite. I cannot support it.</p>
  • <p class='motion-notice motion-notice-truncated'>Long debate text truncated.</p>