The majority voted in favour of a motion that the words proposed to be omitted stand part of the question. In other words, the majority wanted the words of the motion to remain unchanged. Those words were: "That this bill be now read a second time".
Leader of the Opposition Brendan Nelson had proposed the following motion: "That all words after “That” be omitted with a view to substituting the following words: “whilst not declining to give the bill a second reading, the House: (1) affirms its commitment to the central importance of the institution of marriage to Australian society; (2) recognises that partners to permanent interdependent domestic relationships other than marriage (including, but not limited to, same-sex relationships) ought not to be discriminated against in relation to their financial affairs; and (3) notes that the Opposition will refer the bill to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee with a view to ensuring that, in removing discrimination against people in same-sex relationships: (a) the centrality of marriage is not devalued, whether by the use of inappropriate statutory language or otherwise; (b) the rights and status of children are properly protected; and (c) the rights and status of people in interdependent relationships other than same-sex relationships are recognised and properly protected”."
Background to the bill
This bill was introduced to amend the fourteen Acts governing and regulating superannuation schemes in order to increase coverage of same-sex couples and their children.(Read more about the bill in its bills digest. Its explanatory memorandum can be found here.) It comes following Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission's report Same Sex: Same Entitlements.