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Wednesday, 29 November 2017
Page: 9182


Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandAttorney-General, Vice-President of the Executive Council and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (12:33): At the 2016 election, the Prime Minister, Mr Turnbull, made a commitment to the Australian people that they would have the ultimate say on the question of whether the reform of the Marriage Act to enable same-sex couples to marry should be agreed to. We in the coalition took the view that a social change as profound as this was unique and therefore, unusually, should be the business of the people to be the final arbiters. We sought last year to give them a say through a plebiscite. That was opposed. I'm sorry it was opposed, because, had it not been opposed, those of us who were committed to marriage equality would have been celebrating this event at the beginning of this year, not at the end of it. But, nevertheless, for political reasons, it was opposed.

The government found a way, nevertheless, through a postal marriage survey to deliver on Malcolm Turnbull's promise to have a de facto plebiscite, and that de facto plebiscite, as we all know, was an outstanding success. Eighty per cent of the Australian people participated. Almost 62 per cent of them voted yes, as the Prime Minister and I and others had urged them to do. So, today, in this Senate, and next week in the House of Representatives, we will see this historic change accomplished.

Mr President, it is well known that some years ago, some time ago, I was not a supporter of the plebiscite. But I am so glad it happened this way. I am so glad that we involved every man and woman in Australia in this historic decision. I am so delighted that the result was an overwhelming yes. I am so grateful for the grace and decency of those who were not persuaded to change in the way that they have accepted the result. I am so proud of Australian democracy today—more proud than I have ever been. Nobody owns this result but the Australian people themselves. I'm not going to repeat the remarks I made yesterday. I merely say that we should acknowledge the historic nature of this occasion in respecting it. We should respect those who decide that they do not want to support this bill. But, as it's evident a clear majority of the chamber do, we should rejoice in what the Australian people have achieved this year.