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Monday, 18 June 2012
Page: 6838

Mr ROBERT (Fadden) (12:06): Thank you, Madame Deputy Speaker. I rise to oppose the bill in its entirety. I rise to speak against the bill and to reaffirm my long-held and firm views that marriage is between a man and a woman. I rise also to acknowledge the coalition's view that we will vote on this issue as a matter of policy. We went to the last election with a firm view expressed to the Australian people that we would not be looking to change the definition of marriage and that we believe a marriage is between a man and a woman. More importantly, we believe in holding our election promises and keeping our word. Our word was that we would vote on it as a matter of policy and, despite the remonstrations of the member for Melbourne, we will not be changing our view on that. We will not be altering our view that this is a matter of policy. In line with our firm commitment to the Australian people that we made solemnly at the last election, we will adhere to the view given at the last election and we will vote against this bill and against any bills that seek to achieve the same thing by watering down in any way the fact that marriage is between a man and a woman.

The marriage equality campaign has been driven by elements of our society including—and not the least being—the Greens, of which the member for Melbourne is the deputy leader. That marriage equality campaign has, deceptively, given the public the impression that discrimination still persists in Australian law for same-sex couples. Let me categorically make a statement: it does not exist; there is no discrimination at all. As family law expert Professor Patrick Parkinson said in his submission to the senate inquiry:

In Australia, functional equality has already been achieved.

I am not aware of any legal rights and obligations that arise from marriage that do not also apply to registered same-sex unions, other than the right to call the relationship a marriage. Certainly that is so in federal law. For example, there is complete equality in rights in relation to the division of property and the payment of maintenance on relationship breakdown. The Prime Minister pointed out on Q&Aon Monday, 11 June that there is no practical discrimination against same-sex couples. In 2008 I was here, in the House, and I voted for the removal of 85 laws. That was supported unanimously by both sides of the House and it removed all discrimination against same-sex couples from Commonwealth law. State law was generally ahead of the Commonwealth on this, as a matter of interest, and relationship registers or their equivalents existed in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania and the ACT to ensure there was no discrimination at a state or territory level. The issue that has been disingenuously pushed in our community—that this is somehow about discrimination—is patently and utterly false. No discrimination currently exists in law against same-sex couples: all have been removed.

I am equally concerned about the freedom of speech aspects that have been driven by the Greens and others in this campaign for marriage equality. It has been driving a whole range of alternative voices in the debate. There has been public demonisation. People have used a whole range of dreadful labels against the likes of the Australia Christian Lobby and other supporters of marriage. In fact, Victoria's Deputy Chief Psychiatrist, Professor Kuruvilla George, was forced to resign as a commissioner on the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission because he simply participated in a submission to the Senate inquiry which supported retaining the definition of marriage. There were calls by gay activists for tennis great Margaret Court's name to be removed from an arena at the Melbourne Park tennis centre because she disagreed with same-sex marriage. In every jurisdiction where marriage or something able to be described in the law as the 'same as marriage' has been given, this sort of situation has arisen.

Proponents of marriage equality have tried to assure the church that it will never be forced to provide marriage equality to same-sex couples. Yet Denmark, the first country in the world to recognise civil partnerships for same-sex couples, this month legislated to force the church to provide same-sex weddings. Everything that the Greens have driven out there in the public purveyance in terms of this bill has been wrong. No discrimination exists. Their campaign forcing people to move away from their jobs, forcing views to change because of this, is disingenuous at best. The coalition will not be supporting this bill in its entirety or in its piecemeal.