All changes made to the description and title of this division.

View division | Edit description

Change Division
senate vote 2017-11-29#7

Edited by mackay staff

on 2017-11-30 17:29:06


  • Bills — Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Bill 2017; Third Reading
  • Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Bill 2017 - Third Reading - Pass the bill


  • <p class="speaker">Eric Abetz</p>
  • <p>Marriage as a social institution pre-existed the nation state. Therefore, it was appropriate to give the Australian people as a whole the opportunity to debate, discuss and vote on whether such a fundamental foundational institution of our society ought be changed. As we know from the postal survey result, the Australian people voted for change. But let's not forget what the question was. The question very simply was: should the law be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry?</p>
  • <p>The polls taken in relation to that question indicated very closely what the actual survey result was: that the Australian people want change. The interesting thing is that those same polls when asking the question, 'Do you think parliament should provide guarantees in law for freedom of conscience, belief and religion if it legislates for same-sex marriage?' showed that the Australian people, by a margin of 62 per cent to 18 per cent, answered yes. Sadly, I believe, in a rush of hubris, this Senate has voted to deny those fundamental rights that the Australian people actually do hold dear just as much as they hold dear the idea of changing the definition of marriage.</p>
  • The majority voted to pass the bill in the Senate. In parliamentary jargon, they voted to read the bill [for a third time](
  • The bill will now be sent to the House of Representatives for their consideration.
  • ### What does this bill do?
  • This [bill](;query=Id:legislation/billhome/s1099) will allow same-sex couples to marry under Australian law. However, it will also:
  • > *enable ministers of religion, religious marriage celebrants, chaplains and bodies established for religious purposes to refuse to solemnise or provide facilities, goods and services for marriages on religious grounds; and make amendments ... to provide that a refusal by a minister of religion, religious marriage celebrant or chaplain to solemnise marriage in prescribed circumstances does not constitute unlawful discrimination.*
  • Read more in the [bills digest](
  • <p>This Senate had the opportunity to ameliorate and alleviate the concerns not of some nasty fringe of the Australian community but of 38 per cent. In anybody's language, that is a significant number of our fellow Australians. That's the sort of support, with respect, that the Greens, One Nation and, at the moment, even my side of politics would dream about having in a primary vote. This is a substantial body of men and women of Australia who are entitled to have their voices heard in this place and also in the division that is about to occur. It should be noted that those of us on the 'no' side at no stage sought to filibuster and did not vote against the second reading of the bill because we were conscious of the fact that the Australian people had voted. But the Australian people did not vote to block freedom to charities to continue to hold their views in relation to how marriage should be defined. The Australian people did not vote to restrict people's freedom of speech. The Australian people did not vote to restrict people's conscientious beliefs. The Australian people did not vote to restrict people's freedom of religion. All of those, might I add, are fundamental freedoms guaranteed under international law. They are written into treaties and covenants and signed off around the world. They are human rights that now have been diminished by the establishment of a new right, which is to allow people of the same sex to marry and for people of variations of gender to marry as well, something which, I repeat, the Australian people did not vote for.</p>
  • <p>In relation to charities, for example, last night, we were told, 'Just trust the experts.' When the Senate had the opportunity to put the situation of charities beyond any doubt whatsoever, the Senate, regrettably, voted against protecting those charities that represent hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of our fellow Australians engaged in good work in the service of the community of Australia for those who are less well off. We are prejudicing their capacity and their ability to continue to deliver those services on the basis of an unfortunate vote which saw that amendment for protecting charities defeated. I repeat: when asking the Australian Labor Party and the Greens whether, in principle, they supported such a proposition&#8212;that charities should be allowed to continue with their views in relation to marriage&#8212;they remained silent, not once, not twice, but three separate times. Here was an opportunity for the Senate to bring the Australian people together and say to the 38 per cent that voted no, 'You are decent Australians; you do count; you are important to the body politic.' Sadly, what we have had with this debate is the railroading of this particular bill without consideration for the other 38 per cent of our fellow Australians, all of whom are good, decent individuals. Can I say to the 'no' campaigners all around Australia, to the men and women who committed themselves to the 'no' campaign: I continue to salute you and I continue to acknowledge you as good, decent Australians.</p>
  • <p>The taste of defeat is always bitter, and nobody likes it. When the survey result was announced, I indicated that I regretted the decision but respected the decision. That's the way our democracy works. But if we want to have social cohesion then I believe it would have been of very real benefit for this place to have considered some of the amendments. It is my hope that the House of Representatives in considering this bill, which I assume will soon be passed, will seek to ameliorate and alleviate the very real concerns of nearly five million of our fellow Australians. They deserve to be heard. They deserve to be listened to. Their concerns can be incorporated into this legislation without in any way diminishing the right of same-sex-attracted people to marry, as the Australian people have voted for.</p>
  • <p>Having indicated that I would be guided by what the people of Tasmania thought on this issue, I believe, especially in a house that is based on proportional representation&#8212;not a winner-takes-all house&#8212;that it is important that that 30-plus per cent of my fellow Tasmanians be given a voice and a vote, knowing that I will be in the minority. But it is important, I think, in public life to acknowledge that on some occasions you're in the minority and stand by that position. That is what I intend to do in solidarity with those over 100,000 Tasmanians who voted no.</p>
  • <p class="speaker">Louise Pratt</p>
  • <p>I feel enormously privileged today to have been a voice for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer Australians in this debate. It has been an enormous privilege to be your agent in this place. We are here at this moment in time because of decades of activism by our community. Without those activists who stood up against terrible adversity and the criminalisation in our laws to fight discrimination and stigma in our community, we would not be here today passing a law that signifies that the status of our relationships is equal to all others.</p>
  • <p>From that activist movement, there has been a campaign of more than 15,000 volunteers attached to the 'yes' campaign. There have been a million phone calls and 100,000 doors have been knocked on, creating a movement where we've had millions of Australians resoundingly support the right of our relationships to be equally recognised before the law. Our relationships have existed for a long time. Our families have existed for a long time. Our love is true. Our children are cherished. Our families are precious. It is time that we were equal.</p>
  • <p class="speaker">David Leyonhjelm</p>
  • <p>( I'll be brief. Libertarians, in which I include Liberal Democrats members as well, have always said the government has no right to tell us who we can marry. My view is the plebiscite was always going to win. I don't think the campaign changed anything. Australians are very fair and decent people. I don't think a free vote prior to the plebiscite would have passed. That raises the question of whether this parliament is sufficiently representative. Nevertheless, this is a day of joy because we are winding back the powers of the government. But let's not forget that marriage is an important institution to many people. It is an important institution full stop. Let's respect the fact that, just as we do in this chamber, most of the time, we can agree to disagree with civility and tolerance.</p>
  • <p class="speaker">Barry O&#39;Sullivan</p>
  • <p>My contribution, too, will be short. I voted no in the plebiscite and will vote no here in the chamber today, but that's not in conflict with me as an individual acknowledging the courage of those people who have campaigned for this change in our national law, in our social structure, for so many decades. I always admire the courage of people who pursue their conviction. I can disagree with them but I admire their effort. I want to congratulate our chamber&#8212;I think we have dealt with this debate in a very respectful manner. I was one of the people instrumental in lobbying, eventually successfully, for a plebiscite, which eventually was a postal plebiscite. I do think it aided our parliament by indicating to us the will of the Australian people on the fundamental and substantive question of marriage equality. I have always said that I would be guided by that vote and would vote yes to the eventual legislation subject to, I felt, moderate protections, if you like, or adjustments to the legislative environment brought on by a significant change to fundamental and longstanding law in this country.</p>
  • <p>I'm not going to labour this because I know so many people are waiting to get to the point with the third reading; I just didn't feel, myself, satisfied that those protections had been put in place. I, too, have the courage of my convictions and that will drive me to vote no for the bill, even though, and I underline this, I want to recognise the change in the law and all those millions of Australians who will be affected positively by this and just call out to Australians on both sides of this debate and say it's up to us to now go forward respectfully. I said in a previous speech that we need to behave in a way that will bring our nation back as one around this social change rather than divide it. I say to those on behalf of whom I have pursued my conviction in this that they ought to go steadily forward and pay due respect now to these circumstances that I anticipate will be carried by this parliament.</p>
  • <p class="speaker">Pauline Hanson</p>
  • <p>My comments are mine alone and are not a reflection of the views of my colleagues. The party stance was that we have a conscience vote. I didn't agree with the plebiscite; I have always said this issue should have gone to a referendum and been addressed under section 51 of the Constitution. But the people have had their chance to vote and overwhelmingly they have voted in the affirmative for the proposal: 'Do you agree with same-sex marriage?'</p>
  • <p>I said then that I would respect the vote. I have also said that I do believe that it was putting the cart before the horse because people were not told about the legislation and what it would mean.</p>
  • <p>During the debate that has gone on in this chamber, with reflection on marriage celebrants, charities and other areas, I have seen the views of the opposite side&#8212;Labor, the Greens and other political parties, but especially Labor. Senator Wong said no-one had asked for a conscience vote. I noticed that in every vote, even though we've heard that some people in this chamber in the Labor Party actually are very Christian minded and possibly against this bill, that people have not been allowed to have a conscience vote. I think that's a shame.</p>
  • <p>This bill is going to have a huge impact on the country. Let me just say that I do believe that people of the same sex should be married. I have no problem with it. I have homosexual friends and people who work for me. So I always believe that people have a right to live their life as they want to and to be happy. But what I'm reflecting on now is that I do not believe there has been enough tolerance in this chamber of the nearly five million people that did not vote for this. Those people were not forewarned what impact this will have on them, and I believe that should have been taken into consideration. If only the chamber had passed some of the amendments to this bill and allowed marriage celebrants to decide whether they want to marry a same-sex couple&#8212;that it would be their choice. Section 116 of the Australian Constitution clearly states that there cannot be religious observance forced upon people, and that is exactly what we are doing in this chamber. Because of that, I will be abstaining from voting. I am torn because I do agree with marriage for same-sex couples, but, on the other hand, I do not agree with the impact of the legislation.</p>
  • <p class="speaker">James Paterson</p>
  • <p>Despite my own failure to achieve any amendments to Senator Smith's bill, I will be voting in favour on the final vote in a few moments' time. I will be voting yes not just because I respect the will of the Australian people, clearly expressed in the survey, but because I have long believed that gay couples deserve the freedom to be married. I will be proud to support that here in this chamber, just as I was proud to vote yes in the postal survey.</p>
  • <p>I genuinely hope that the fears and concerns I've aired in the chamber during this debate do not come to pass. I hope that those concerns are misplaced and misguided and that we don't see them in reality after this law changes. But if they do come to pass, as I fear they might, I suspect we will be back here in the chamber dealing again with the issues of religious liberty, freedom of speech and freedom of conscience, and I will be the first to say that we will need to put in place stronger protections for the individual freedoms of all Australians.</p>
  • <p>But today is a day for celebration, and my heart goes out to all the gay couples who have been waiting for too long to get married. I look forward to seeing your joy at being able to finally do so.</p>
  • <p class='motion-notice motion-notice-truncated'>Long debate text truncated.</p>