- Parliamentary Business
- Senators and Members
- News & Events
- About Parliament
- Visit Parliament
Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee
- Parl No.
- Committee Name
Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee
Hanson-Young, Sen Sarah
Abetz, Sen Eric
Pratt, Sen Louise
- System Id
Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Table Of ContentsDownload PDF
Previous Fragment Next Fragment
Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee
(Senate-Friday, 4 May 2012)
CHAIR (Senator Crossin)
Dr van Gend
- CHAIR (Senator Crossin)
Content WindowLegal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee - 04/05/2012
ALEX-BAILEY, Ms Sophia, Co-Chair, Coming Out Proud Program, Rainbow Tasmania Inc.
BROWN, Ms Anna, Co-Convenor, Victorian Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby Inc.
GARDINER, Mr Jamie, Adviser and Honorary Life Member, Victorian Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby Inc.
HART, Mr Duncan William, National Convenor, Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association Members for Equality
TEGELJ, Mr Stefan Peter, Melbourne Convenor, Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association Members for Equality
CHAIR: Welcome to this public hearing of the inquiry of the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee into the Marriage Equality Amendment Bill 2010. We have the submission from the Victorian Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby. Your submission we have numbered 188 for the purposes of the website. From the Members for Equality under the SDA we have submission No. 354. Rainbow Tasmania has lodged submission No. 2 with the committee. I am going to ask each of you to give us an opening statement of maybe three minutes max, and then we will go to questions.
Ms Brown : For those members of the committee who do not know, the Victorian Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby is a community based lobby group. We represent lesbian, gay, queer, bisexual and same-sex attracted Victorians. We work towards equality for these groups and work closely with transgender, bisexual, intersex and other organisations that share our vision and mission. Marriage equality is a critical issue for our members and those Victorians we represent. The lobby has long campaigned for ending marriage discrimination and is a proud partner of the Marriage Equality Matters campaign, which is a joint campaign between state and federal LGBTI groups from across Australia.
We strongly urge the committee to recommend to the Senate that a bill in terms similar to that before the committee be passed by the parliament as soon as possible. As you have no doubt heard already, marriage is a civil institution governed by secular laws of general application. The Marriage Act currently legalises and entrenches unacceptable and unjustifiable discrimination against the LGBTI community. This exclusion denies us a legal right that is afforded to all other Australians and, as I am sure many of us have said before, it is a stain upon our legislation, our statute books and, indeed, our collective conscience as a nation.
The importance of this issue to the hearts and minds of the LGBTI community and our many supporters—families, neighbours, colleagues—is evidenced by the unprecedented number of submissions received by the committee on this issue. Not surprisingly, the vast majority of submissions, like the majority of Australians in major polls, as we have seen, support this change to end discrimination. Our colleagues who work with school students tell us that this issue is raised time and time again. Young people question how they can expect to feel normal or accepted in society if they are not allowed to marry the person they love.
If children get it, with respect to the committee, we think it is time that parliament got it too. Indeed, the insidious effects of this discrimination on the self-worth and wellbeing of same-sex attracted and gender-questioning young people and LGBTI adults will no doubt be canvassed by other witnesses before the inquiry today. However, I make the simple point that excluding LGBTI people from marriage, treating their relationships as somehow lesser, abnormal or inadequate, is not merely shameful in principle but reflects and reinforces homophobic attitudes which have much farther reaching and more damaging consequences.
CHAIR: Thank you very much.
Mr Gardiner : One of the things that I want to urge the committee to do is to help your committee and the parliament as a whole to avoid distractions in this matter. As we know from reading on your website, you must be just about drowning in a sea of submissions. As Anna has remarked and your website shows, a substantial majority support equality or are opposed to discrimination. But in that sea are swimming a large number of red herrings. The biggest, most troubling and most distracting red herring is the attempt by some religious groups—not all—to claim that this parliament should carry on like a synod, a conclave or a grand meeting.
The parliament has no role in legislating for religious observance. You know that. It is section 116 of the Constitution. I sometimes wonder whether some of your colleagues have actually remembered that. The whole religious question is not relevant to the parliament's consideration in looking at a law of general application in a country that prides itself on the rule of law and obeying the rule of law. There are no arguments against equality in marriage that are not fundamentally an attempt by religious bodies to impose their particular observance on members of other religious faiths or people of no religious faith at all.
One of the attempts to make an argument of a non-religious character about marriage equality is the self-serving, circular dictionary argument—which, of course, modern dictionaries refute—which is that marriage by definition means discriminatory marriage, or marriage between persons of opposite sex. This forgets two things. One is that it has not always meant and no longer does mean that, and another is that not everyone, in fact—and this is particularly a concern of our transgender and intersex communities—fits into a binary, one-or-the-other mode. It is very important that the law should catch up with the understandings of science.
Really this is about social policy and not even about dictionaries. But if you want to argue the dictionary—and some people clearly do, as they labour on about it at great length—you have to look at marriage in its broader sense. In the last 12 years, the years of this millennium, almost every year—in fact, slightly ahead of the game—country after country, including countries with heavy religious traditions, have legislated for marriage equality. It started with the Netherlands in 2001. Then came Belgium. We had Canada, a British Commonwealth country, and South Africa, another British Commonwealth country, both of which derive their laws from the same source as ours. There were Spain, Norway, Sweden, Portugal—so the two very Catholic countries of the Iberian Peninsula. There were Iceland and then Argentina. Those are 10 nations that have successively made it clear that marriage can and does mean equal marriage in the first 10 years of this century. In fact there are an 11th and 12th for all practical purposes: Mexico and Brazil have acknowledged marriage equality. And in many states of the United States, though it is an ongoing battle there, of course, where courts have considered it, they have said, 'Where we have a constitution that enshrines equality'—and all the states do—'then equality must apply to marriage too.' Finally in the list of contradictors to the notion that the dictionary should rule the parliament's conscience, the 14th country is Denmark, which has legislation before the parliament which is to come into force on 15 June, around the same time as you make your report.
So marriage does mean equal marriage in many parts of the world, including parts of the world with very similar legal origins to our own. Marriage is a historically dynamic institution, as I am sure you have heard from others. Marriage has changed. This is one of the other pseudo-non-religious arguments. Marriage changed when married women ceased to be the chattels of their husbands. Marriage changed when divorce became by mutual agreement. Marriage changed when women could no longer be lawfully beaten with a rod no thicker than the chancellor's thumb by their husbands. Marriage changed when women were no longer subject to rape in marriage with a husband exempt from the law. All of those things were big social changes. This one is merely fixing something which was perhaps not recognised some years ago, although it has been recognised in the past and is recognised now: that laws of general application should not discriminate without just reason—and there is no just reason to discriminate against us.
Mr Hart : SDA Members for Equality arose out of the public pronouncements of the SDA leadership in November 2010 that they were committing the union to opposing marriage equality and that they would be publicly campaigning against this. We have seen many statements since then, particularly by the National Secretary, Joe de Bruyn, to that effect. The main points that SDA Members for Equality were founded upon and campaign upon are that the SDA leadership does not actually represent the opinions of the membership on this issue and that we, the membership of the SDA Members for Equality, believe that the federal ban on marriage equality does constitute discriminatory policy which legitimises homophobia and, as well, damages the union itself.
On the first point—the representation of the membership—the national leadership of the SDA and Joe de Bruyn have argued that they are actually representing SDA members. They claim that they have consulted membership on this issue at an unspecified past date that, as far as I have seen, has never been mentioned or specifically pointed out. Even though attitudes have been changing since 2004, when the ban was created, the SDA have been challenged a number of times to survey their membership and have declined to do so. From what we can gather as members of the SDA who often talk with our fellow members in workplaces and at other union functions as well as what we can gather from statistical evidence from the surveys that are conducted of the general public, the SDA membership is in favour of marriage equality.
People would be aware of the polling which shows that a majority of Australians support marriage equality. On the breakdown of that polling, something in the vicinity of 80 per cent of people under the age of 24, 70 per cent of people under the age of 30 and 65 per cent of all white-collar workers support marriage equality. Those are the overlapping constituencies which the SDA overwhelmingly represents, and yet the SDA leadership has come out with this policy. So we are putting forward that the membership of the SDA would not agree with this if they were actually adequately consulted. There has not been any mention of this policy in any publication the SDA has put out to its members. In fact, the submission the SDA made regarding its opposition to the bill proposed has never been argued to membership. At the one members meeting in Brisbane where it was raised after an opposition challenge to their position, it was argued rather on the basis of political convenience for the Labor Party and not on the basis of the ideological basis of human society, which is the way Joe de Bruyn put it in his submission.
The secondary point is that we do believe this is a discriminatory policy, unlike the submission put forward by the SDA. This is the general perception amongst young people and from what we can gather anecdotally by talking to other members in our workplaces, but we know from what other unions are doing that in a number of other unions such as the ones you might expect would not necessarily support marriage equality—those that represent a blue-collar constituency such as the CFMEU, the Plumbers Union and a whole range of other unions—have all come out in support of marriage equality, acknowledging that unions have been about standing up for the rights of their members, not trampling upon them. We agree with that. We think that the unity of the membership of a union requires opposing these sorts of discriminatory policies which see people put down in their work, the reduction of their confidence to stand up against discriminatory policies and, of course, create divisions amongst workers. The unions should first and foremost be about overcoming those divisions in order to strengthen the union.
I think those are the main things coming from Members for Equality.
CHAIR: Thank you. Mr Tegelj, did you want to add anything to that?
Mr Tegelj : Just a little bit about some of the anecdotes. From personal experiences in my own workplace, where I have sent petitions out to my workmates on the question of marriage equality and whether or not they support it and to challenge the SDA leadership's stance on marriage equality, the vast majority supported it. Only three did not. There is the fact that unions have had a proud tradition of standing with those who are oppressed. This is also a time in which the SDA should be siding with those who are oppressed right now, who are actually being discriminated against by the government. It should stand on the side of the LGBTI community.
CHAIR: Thank you for that.
Ms Alex-Bailey : I would like to talk to you today about Rainbow Tasmania. When I first got involved with Rainbow Tasmania I decided I would sit down and do a lot of reading. One hundred and twenty pages of statistics for marriage equality later, I decided I would just get real and go speak to other people. It really became quite simple. I put forward to you today that this is no longer a minority want. Gay people across the country, especially in Tasmania, know that they may have been a minority once, but we now are surrounded by so many supporting people.
As we all know, the written submissions reflected majority support. That was just in written submissions; the sentiment in the whole community is much greater. I think we are all in the one place where we can say that the time for this is right now, and the LGBTI community has a history of never falling silent on matters of inequality, discrimination and lack of action on these matters. Australians want this. They have always wanted freedom. It is one of the core values of this country. Shackling LGBTI community members into autocratic governance without a fundamental right breaches most of what makes this country a fair and reasonable place to be.
Our submission states that, while marriage may not have been an aspiration for all gays and lesbians, this is the result of long-term rejection by law in Australia. This painful exclusion, it is contested, has led to a deep seated cynicism about the celebration of marriage by same-sex couples and the value of it in our community to have it be recognised, acknowledged and celebrated the same as it is for everybody else. Yes, we have civil ceremonies. Yes, we have lists of us on government registers. But, when it all comes down to it and you want to tell your mum and dad and your extended family something, you do not want to sit down and say: 'You know what? I'm having a civil ceremony.' You want to say, 'I love someone and I'm getting married.' I spoke to a couple that was taking it as something they were doing after afternoon tea on a Saturday. Mum turned up and was not even very well dressed for the occasion. She was heading to do groceries afterwards. It does not have the same value in the community if you cannot say the word marriage.
I think somebody has this idea out there that we want something great. We just want something that is the same. It is actually quite boring in reality. I just want the same as everybody else; and, if I cannot have that, if I cannot be on the same level playing field as everyone else I spend my time mixing with, then give me a special card—maybe a discount voucher!—to prove it.
Also a huge issue to us is people who have married overseas and then come to this country and found that it is not recognised here. They have come from tolerant communities. They have thought they were coming to one that is the same. They get here and are told: 'No, sorry. You're not equal in our community.' Given that the previous, Rudd government estimated 66 million in the first year when it introduced legislation to remove over 100 areas of legal and financial discrimination against gay and lesbian partnerships, the only just law the government can make is to recognise them with the same values of heterosexual marriages. Thank you.
CHAIR: Thank you very much. We will go to questions.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I thank all of you for appearing today and for your submissions. The question I really want answered—I guess this is the opportunity—relates to how this bill is only going to pass the parliament if members on the coalition side are able to be given a conscience vote. How do you feel about that? I cannot see the Liberal Party changing their policy any time soon. The Labor Party have been given a conscience vote despite the fact that they have changed their policy, and there are still members within the Labor Party who disagree with this bill—and, indeed, the other two bills within the House. What is your main message to other members of parliament? We now the community overwhelmingly supports this; but, unfortunately, this issue needs to be won in the halls of parliament. What do you say to coalition members and what do you say to Labor Party members who are yet to make up their minds?
Ms Alex-Bailey : On the conscience vote issue: as you know, in Tasmania we had a vote in our state. It was quite an amazing day for us. I did not think it was going to be anything like it was; but, at the end of the day, everyone in the parliament that day turned around, looked at us in the public gallery and waved. It was this moment where it was okay and people were actually standing by us. I think, with regard to the whole idea of the conscience vote, that it must be terribly fearful for the coalition to realise that toeing the party line is not going to work on this one. This is going to overwhelmingly go through at some point; it is just a matter of time. People do want this. They should have their conscience vote put forward. We live in a country where majority rule on most things works. We do it with kids in sporting events. We do it on the playing field. We do it in the houses of government. Yet we have majority rule on this and it does not seem to be working for us. I do not see how party politics can govern my life on a daily basis. That is how I think on it, anyway.
Mr Gardiner : I would suggest that every member of parliament—senators and members of the House of Representatives—is a representative of their constituents. Where conscience comes in, the issue really is always to be, 'Am I properly representing my constituents?' The opposite of that is, 'Am I being swayed by special pleading or my own personal benefit in some sense or another to things which are not representative?' That is the conscience issue. Every member of parliament is representing an electorate in which a majority of people think that marriage laws should be equal. Every member of parliament should look into their consciences and think: 'Should I represent my electorate? Should I vote in accordance with Australia's legal obligations under international law, which are for equality?' As you know, I am sure, Australia freely signed the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in 1972 under Prime Minister Gough Whitlam and freely ratified it in 1980 under Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser. There was bipartisan acceptance from Australia of the obligation of equality in article 26. Every member of parliament is, in fact, in conscience bound, like the parliament itself, in international law—but not actionable in Australia—to the standards set by that international standard.
I do not think I should, so I am not going to, buy into party political matters which, in a way, always deflect members of parliament from considering the deep conscientious question: 'How do I best represent my constituents?' Different members will come to different conclusions, but every member should aim to come to a conclusion that represents the electorate, not special pleading by other organisations or interested parties. This inquiry has received a huge number of submissions, with the majority favouring equality, as international law and the Australian ethos of the fair go does and as public opinion does. The inquiry being conducted in the lower house has attracted more than 200,000 submissions. These are expressions of great interest and concern by hundreds of thousands—I am certain there is a large amount of overlap between your 75,000 and their 200,000 because momentum gets going—who have said that marriage equality is an important issue, and the majority of them say marriage equality ought to be law.
A minority are opposed for a variety of reasons. I suspect with most of them that the main reason—as the Catholic bishops in Victoria made very clear—is that they are expressing views about what their religious faith should do and what they as members of that faith should do. I know you have received submissions from people of many faiths, leaders of many faiths, saying, 'We are in favour of equality.' But, as I said at the start, you and your colleagues are members of a civil institution governed by a constitution which says you must not enact laws which impose religious observance. In 2004 I think parliament did enact a law which imposed a religious observance, and it should not have done so. Your task now is—and, as you said, Senator Hanson-Young, each member of each party, whatever their party position is, has a duty to do this—to work to undo that error and to embrace equality as proud individual members responsible to their electorates.
Mr Hart : Obviously, SDA Members for Equality has a particular purpose as a group within the SDA, but there are some things to be drawn out from the SDA experience. There are claims of members of parliament, and particularly this affects Labor members, that their constituencies are affected more by bread-and-butter economic issues and so forth. Then they do not really care about marriage equality. I feel that the polling, as well as our organisation, is an indication that this is a 'straw man' sort of argument. Actually, as other speakers have mentioned, it is the case that in almost all polls the support for marriage equality is about twice as high as the opposition, with about 10 per cent of people saying that they do not really care either way.
The main point to be made is that every person within parliament should vote for equality. There is no reasonable basis to oppose equal rights, particularly when this is not a controversial topic amongst the community. It has made a controversial topic by certain political leaders, such as the SDA leadership and members of parliament, but among the community the indications are that the vast majority of people are in support of marriage equality, including the trade unionists of the SDA.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: My final question is in relation to the experience in the UK, where we are now seeing the Conservative Prime Minister, David Cameron, spearheading the push for marriage equality right from the top of the leadership of the Conservative government, which seems to be in such stark contrast to what the conservative leadership in this country is doing. Yet David Cameron says that he supports marriage equality because he is a conservative. He wants to strengthen people's ability to participate in the institution of marriage because it is good for society. What is your response to that?
Mr Gardiner : He is right.
Ms Brown : We would commend his comments and his approach and hope that the conservative members of the Australian parliament take a leaf out of his book.
CHAIR: Mr Hart, I want to ask you a question. We have had a further submission from the leadership of the SDA saying that they have not heard of you or your group and that this issue was debated and a resolution was put at their last equivalent to national council meeting in late 2010. Therefore, their view is that as it was a resolution of their national body that is now the policy of the union. Do you have a response to those statements?
Mr Hart : I thought of something quite ironic when I heard that first lie—the response basically saying that he had never heard of our organisation. I would counter that most members of the organisation have never heard of Joe de Bruyn and he is very far removed from the concerns of the membership of the SDA. He claims to be democratically accountable but, in fact, he has never been elected by members. He is one step removed. He is elected by the people who are elected. It is the state officials, who are elected by members, who then go on to elect the national leadership, including Joe de Bruyn. Most members would not have heard of Joe de Bruyn, ironically.
It is the case that the national council in 2010 did vote against marriage equality. But, as I said, this is a vote that was done without consulting the members. It was never raised in a members' meeting by the leadership, it was never publicised in any SDA publication and it might never even have been raised or prosecuted as an argument within the membership. The first time that members heard about this, outside of maybe a general familiarity with what Joe de Bruyn's record has been and other leaders of the SDA on social issues, was in November 2010 when he did an interview with the ABC and said that his committee was opposing marriage equality.
Senator ABETZ: First of all, to our Victorian friends, how many countries are there in the world and then, on that basis, how can we assert in our submission that Australia lags behind the global shift?
Mr Gardiner : A shift has to start somewhere. A shift has undoubtedly started in the Netherlands and we are lagging behind. We used to pride ourselves on our progressive commitment to a fair go, workers' rights and human rights—although we seem to have lagged sometimes on that— but on the whole we have done well. We claim, often—to use that horrible metaphor—to punch above our weight and I think we should take no joy in the fact that we are lagging in a pool which, though large, as you point out, is occupied either by countries that—think about who is not in. They are countries like the former Soviet Union, many third world countries, countries like Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia—
Senator ABETZ: New Zealand.
Mr Gardiner : Sure.
Senator ABETZ: Let us keep this short, because we can just swallow up the time listing all the countries in the world. But you would agree that there are only 14 that have shifted out of how many countries in the world?
Mr Gardiner : There are 190-something.
Senator ABETZ: Time is so short that I will move to the next submission of the SDA, Mr Hart. You say that despite repeated requests the SDA has refused. By whom and when were all those requests made?
Mr Hart : Via letters, emails, communications with senior officials of the union, by phone calls—
Senator ABETZ: Are you able to provide us with evidence of that because, in fairness to you, you assert you have done it and the national office says, 'No, we don't even know who Duncan Hart is' whereas if your name appears on the bottom of a few letters or emails it would stand to reason that they should have known about you, irrespective of the merits of the argument. If you could do that for us, on notice—
Mr Hart : Yes, and there are online submissions available that we have made to the SDA requesting surveys to be conducted.
Senator ABETZ: A lot of organisations tend to come to Senate hearings with great titles like national convenor and Stefan is the state convenor but how many people do you actually convene?
Mr Hart : As a rank-and-file organisation it is a very informal group of people. Our organisation has about—
Senator ABETZ: That tells me enough, that it is a very informal organisation.
CHAIR: Hang on, let him continue. I am chairing this.
Senator ABETZ: It is just a time factor.
Mr Hart : It is a very quick answer.
CHAIR: Mr Hart, finish your sentence.
Mr Hart : I would say we have about 25 people who are active around us and about 300 supporters.
Senator ABETZ: On what do you base that?
Mr Hart : On networks of communication.
Senator ABETZ: Before, you said that every member of parliament should vote for marriage equality.
Mr Hart : That is right.
Senator ABETZ: In a democracy, if there is a body of opinion, even 30 per cent, who might be against it, why shouldn't they be given expression on the floor of the parliament?
Mr Hart : Basically because we live in a representative democracy; it is not the case that we have a proportional democracy. So I do not think it is the case that we need necessarily represent that particular proportion. But I think the main argument is actually one of equal rights and opposing discrimination.
Senator ABETZ: I can understand your argument.
Mr Hart : Yes, so our elected representatives should represent—
Senator ABETZ: So you would have all of those people that oppose the change voiceless on the floor of the House of Representatives. Democracy is not two wolves and one sheep voting on what is going to be for dinner tonight. We do actually try to look after other groups as well and allow people to give expression. Indeed, the Greens would be in all sorts of trouble if we said, 'Because there is only 10 per cent of the community of a particular persuasion they should not actually be given voice to in our democratic system.'
Mr Hart : I think that the parliamentary representatives of Australia need to set a good example and stand by equal rights rather than support discrimination.
Senator ABETZ: That is a different argument. Can I, then, quickly finish with a fellow Tasmanian. I think you asserted that the majority of coalition members want a conscience vote. Not being a member of the coalition party room, I would be very interested to know where you get that view from.
Ms Alex-Bailey : I think we have seen coalition members come forward to say—
Senator ABETZ: That is different to a majority. I fully agree that there are some. But, if I heard you correctly, you asserted that a majority of coalition members wanted a conscience vote.
Ms Alex-Bailey : Yes, I am a great believer that if this was actually put to a conscience vote our coalition people would get their majority through. They are mainly toeing the party line.
Senator ABETZ: No, your assertion was that a majority of coalition members wanted a conscience vote. Where is the factual basis for that assertion?
Ms Alex-Bailey : No, what I was talking about was our community members that I have spoken to, when I told you about that. Our GLBTI community members want the coalition—
Senator ABETZ: To have a conscience vote.
Ms Alex-Bailey : That is right. A majority of—
Senator ABETZ: Sorry, I will check the Hansard. I thought you said a majority of coalition members wanted a conscience vote, but I am more than willing to accept that I misunderstood, and I will reread the Hansard.
Senator PRATT: Ms Alex-Bailey, in your submission you raise the Rudd government's removal of discrimination in 100 legal and financial areas and you noted that with that came some extra responsibilities and, if you like, liabilities for same-sex partners when it comes to supporting their spouses for the purposes of social security—Centrelink can now declare people dependent on their spouses. I assume here you are trying to point to the inequities of the fact that same-sex couples now have all the same obligations as heterosexual couples but without all the privileges.
Ms Alex-Bailey : Absolutely. For a long time we did not have equal rights—and that went both for and against the argument. But everything has been put in place now so that we do pay the same. We do not get any discounts on anything. We are doing everything that everyone else is doing except getting married.
Senator PRATT: Mr Hart and Mr Tegelj, I wanted to ask you this question. Clearly the SDA as a union has a significant influence over a number of members of parliament. I would be interested to know how you would characterise that relationship and, I suppose, what you think that relationship might look like if the union were to truly represent the views of its members.
MrTegelj : To truly represent what the membership would want? Specifically on this issue I think it would actually be the issue of listening to its constituents—its membership—and supporting equality; to listen and allow them to have a say. It is the rank and file workers having a say in how the union is run and its opinions.
Mr Hart : I think that specifically we can look to the national conference of the Labor Party that was conducted last year, where the SDA was an extremely important block in voting against a binding platform for marriage equality for the Labor Party. I think that if the SDA had actually represented the views of its members then it would have been one of the most stalwart defenders of marriage equality, and argued for the binding vote for marriage equality.
CHAIR: We do not have any other questions, so thank you. Ms Brown?
Ms Brown : Senator Abetz seemed to end the discussion on his point about the representative nature of this issue and we just want to make one short point in response, which is that we think his analysis is flawed. Just because you have a certain proportion in the community that do not support a particular policy change does not mean that each member of parliament could not necessarily still reflect the majority support within their constituency and then vote in favour of the marriage amendment bill in parliament. It was just that simple point.
Mr Gardiner : And if I could just add a couple of words to that? The assertion that every member should vote for equality is a statement of what the logical conclusion would be, and it does not in any way trample upon the individual ability of each member to make their own decision. The fact that their decisions are wrong is for their conscience, not ours.
CHAIR: Okay, thank you. I thank the five of you for your submissions and also for making yourselves available this afternoon; it is appreciated.