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Monday, 17 June 2013
Page: 5987

Mr SIMPKINS (Cowan) (18:35): I rise to speak on the Marriage Equality Amendment Bill 2012. It is 2012 and I wonder how long these bills hang around and why this one has not been brought to a vote—maybe it should have been settled in the same manner that the member for Throsby's bill was settled in the past.

As many speakers on my side have said in the past with regard to this matter, we had a position at the last federal election. We have a policy position that exists for the next federal election. We believe that it is important for Australians to know where we stand on things, to know that if they want to support us then they are getting a particular set of policies. The reality is that you are never going to make everybody happy with your policies and, ultimately, the voters in Australia will make their minds up as to what the really important issues are and what they would like to have but maybe cannot have.

What I always say to people is: 'You know where we stand on this. This is the position we are taking to this federal election. We will not support a change in the definition of marriage.' We have been very clear on this. It was the case before the last election; it is the case for this coming election, so people know where we stand.

The government can shift its position and change the definition of marriage from being between a man and a woman. I know they have changed their position. What they said before the last election isn't what they ultimately decided to do. Obviously, that is always a point for them, and the government will be judged on changing their position again on this matter as with other matters.

As I have said in the past, I have been approached by many people with regard to this issue. There are 95,000 voters in Cowan. People approach me—approach everyone—on a number of different issues. There is no doubt about that. I would never expect that we would find one issue where 95,000 people will express the same opinion. Despite what polls and newspapers might say, it is very hard to determine exactly what people believe on any particular issue. On this point, the issue of whether or not to change the definition of marriage, I say again that within Cowan, slightly fewer than 1,400 people expressed a view and made their views known to me at my office through emails. Of those, 178 out of the 95,000 have said that they would like a change in the definition of marriage. Almost, 1,119 have said that they believe the definition of marriage should stay unaltered: as between a man and a woman.

That is their perspective from the Cowan electorate. I do not profess to say that I know the minds of every person in the electorate but, of those that felt the need to raise this issue with me and make their views known, it is quite clear.

In any case, as I have said before, the coalition has a party position on this. Of course, ultimately, members of the backbench have the right to exercise a conscience vote, if they wish to. I think what is now required is that this matter be dealt with in the same manner that the member for Throsby's bill was dealt with. Let us settle this matter once and for all and move on to issues that, according to the figures that I certainly have within the Cowan electorate, a lot more people are interested in. I look forward to this matter being concluded at the earliest opportunity.