Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Select Committee on the Exposure Draft of the Marriage Amendment (Same-Sex Marriage) Bill
24/01/2017
Marriage Amendment (Same-Sex Marriage) Bill

FOSTER, Associate Professor Neil, Private capacity

KELLAHAN, Reverend Michael, Executive Director, Freedom for Faith

LYNE, Ms Jacqueline, Legal Officer, Anti-Discrimination Board of New South Wales

WING, Ms Elizabeth, Acting President, Anti-Discrimination Board of New South Wales

[09:46]

CHAIR: I now welcome representatives from the Anti-Discrimination Board of New South Wales and from the group called the Freedom for Faith. Thank you for your submissions and for appearing here today. Do you have any comments on the capacity in which you appear today?

Prof. Foster : In this timeslot today I am appearing as an adviser to the Freedom for Faith organisation. I teach law at Newcastle Law School.

CHAIR: I invite one representative from each group to make a brief opening statement.

Ms Wing : I thank the committee for inviting us to address the exposure draft of the marriage amendment bill. The Anti-Discrimination Board of NSW recognises that there are fundamental freedoms protected by international and local instruments. Those instruments are varied across the eight jurisdictions within Australia. Sexual orientation and freedom of religion are just two of those characteristics that are protected. The laws also protects characteristics such as sex, age, race and marital and domestic status. The opening position of the board is that any discussion around same-sex marriage should be looked at from the prism of equality before the law and nondiscrimination is fundamental to that review. We recognise that there are balances required in the competing rights that are separately protected and recognised and the board recognises also that the church and state are separate functions and have separate powers in relation to the laws and beliefs that they administer.

In New South Wales freedom of religion is not specifically protected by the New South Wales Anti-Discrimination Act; however, religious beliefs are acknowledged within exemptions within the act. Also specifically in section 56 of our legislation there is a particular exemption. There are also exemptions in relation to the homosexual vilification laws which allow for a defence to the vilification provisions if there are comments that are made in good faith, reasonably and in the interests of debate based on religion or other perspectives. In this context, the board supports amendment to the Marriage Act.

Whilst our submission is somewhat limited and limited to the terms of reference, I just wish to expand a little bit further about the proposed amendments. We would say that the current provisions for ministers of religion to refuse to perform a marriage are adequate and do not require further amendment, that clergy should be distinctly separated from the actions of civil celebrants in performing marriage in the sense that they are representing the state in exercising the licence to marriage and that civil celebrants, at least in part, are representative of government, and to that extent should uphold the law in a non-discriminatory fashion as required by state and federal legislation. They are providers of services in a commercial context, not a religious context, and they are specifically covered by the Anti-Discrimination Act. In New South Wales, discrimination on the basis of homosexuality is contrary to law. Civil celebrants are in the business of providing a service and they charge fees for that service. In the context of a commercial activity, they are no different from a provider of other professional services, such as doctors, lawyers, health practitioners and counsellors. The licence to marry then ought to be seen in that category. Any exemption that is included in the proposed amendment takes, in our view, the issue of marriage broader and beyond what the legislation should be. The legislation should be on the basis of marriage and not about the provision of goods and services, which is covered by other legislation. There may be a constitutional issue about whether or not proposed section 47B—I am not a constitutional lawyer—would run foul of the capacity of government to make that provision.

We are of the view that the amendments are not clear enough in relation to proposed section 47B. I think it will create uncertainty and certainly, on a state-by-state basis as well as on a national basis, the protections that currently exist would be overridden and the legislation in New South Wales would have to sit with the overriding Marriage Act as it becomes enacted. It is important to recognise that not every activity or discrimination is covered by legislation, and the balancing act that is required of parliament is essential but, I think, not without precedent. The New South Wales Anti-Discrimination Act has balancing acts already in place and may serve to provide a precedent for the considerations that the Senate committee has before it.

I know that I have gone a bit over the submissions that we have made, but I am happy to provide further written submissions and follow-up if the committee so requires.

CHAIR: Reverend Kellahan, will you be making an opening statement?

Rev. Kellahan : A brief one. I want to thank the committee for the opportunity to present before you today. Just by way of context, Freedom for Faith has affiliate members that include the Anglican Church, the Baptist Church, the Seventh-day Adventists, the Presbyterian Church, the Australian Christian Churches, and the Barnabas Fund. So it is a fairly broad coalition of Christians who share a common concern and even though their doctrines may vary at many points, they have a common concern for religious freedom in Australia, not just for Christians but for people of all belief and people of none. That is our bailiwick. That is where we are coming from. Our position is that we really do not envy you in your role. This is a complex, contested area where people hold very deep beliefs and we have seen that in the public debate; we have also seen it at the school gate. We have had those relationships which may well have been strained in this area.

We also believe that it is unlikely that the law is going to solve all of that. It may create some new problems; it may solve others. It maybe that if the law is to change on same-sex marriage, people's views may not change at all. That really is the nub of the problem which I think is before the committee: what do you do with those who would dissent, whose deeply held views on marriage need to be accounted for and how their behaviour is to be before the law? We have made some suggestions in the submission and I would rely on that. I am happy to take questions. Thank you.

CHAIR: We have just over half an hour. If you could give succinct answers and if you have more depth you wish to put into an answer then we would certainly welcome further written comments. I saw somebody taking photographs before. If anyone wishes to take photographs, please consult with the committee so we can check with all the witnesses at the table to make sure that everyone is happy to have their photograph taken rather than doing it unilaterally.

If I could start firstly with the Anti-Discrimination Board. The context for discrimination under Australia's agreement to the covenant of the ICCPR goes back to articles 2 and 26. Looking at general guidance comment 18 by the Human Rights Committee, they expand on the text of those two and there is an important word that they use in that discrimination cannot be based 'solely' on a number of attributes, whether that be sex, religion or other aspects. The previous witness just gave to us an example of the baker in Belfast, who had a long, established and friendly relationship with a client who was same-sex attracted and he clearly indicated that he did not discriminate solely based on the person's gender identity or orientation. 'Solely' then explains why, when you had the combination of the person's sexual identity and the construct of marriage, he said, 'Sorry, I can't provide the service.'

Given that that is the guidance from the world's peak body around discrimination, would your interpretation of what is discriminatory action take account of their guidance? Certainly a lot of the submissions seem to just assume any choice about provision of a service that links in any way to somebody's sexuality is automatically discrimination, whereas that is not actually the guidance from the human rights committee.

Ms Lyne : Under the New South Wales Anti-Discrimination Act, where a protected attribute is one of the factors guiding someone's actions, that makes that action discriminatory. So that may not be completely in line with the international view, but that is certainly the way it has been enacted in New South Wales.

CHAIR: Given the hierarchy normally is that as a nation we sign up to and ratify an international covenant, we then have to align our national laws and our state laws. If the recommendation of the committee was such that we made this very clear that discrimination cannot occur solely on these areas and if that then flowed down, do you see that that is something that you could implement as one way of providing that balance between the right in this case of somebody wanting equal recognition and protection not only for their religious identify but also for their sexual identity?

Ms Wing : The legislation would be in conflict and it would be a matter of statutory interpretation as to which legislation overrides.

CHAIR: I think it would be actually up to the parliament to change the legislation.

Ms Wing : Yes, that is right. So it would be a matter for both the federal parliament and the state parliament as to whether or not that conflict ought to be resolved by legislation or to simply allow the legislation to stand on the record as it is and allow for judicial determination as to how to resolve that conflict.

CHAIR: We have very limited time. If you have something that you would like to put on the record, then, please, give us a written submission. Reverend Kellahan, your group represents a broad range of denominations. A lot of the submissions have kind of assumed a cookie cutter, vanilla, one-size-fits-all to churches, whereas there are many different governance structures in terms of congregational control versus hierarchical organisations—so the exemptions provided to ministers of religion that tie back to the doctrinal position of a denomination. Could you talk to us about how that may or may not work across the plurality of different denominations in the way they are structured and what kind of protections might be required for ministers from a very small independent church, for example.

Rev. Kellahan : You are right—it is complicated. It will vary from denominations. So, even as we talked with our affiliate members about marriage, the way that different ministers in those churches dealt with marriage, whether they were celebrants or whether they were a recognised denomination under the Marriage Act, was quite different. So the impact of changes could be quite different. The locus of where doctrine is set or where property is held or where decisions are made also varies. So there could be a trust property for a denomination that holds, globally, all the property, but administrative decisions may be made on the basis of an individual minister. Sometimes it is a synodical parliament that makes decisions; sometimes it is a very strong local membership. In each of those positions, people will appeal to theology to justify—so it is a church government. So there will be a very strong congregational view that everything needs to happen locally. Then you go to the next church and it is a very strong episcopal view—the bishop is the one with all the power. Does that help?

CHAIR: It explains the diversity of it, yes, and a range of protections. I am going to stop there because we are very limited in time.

Senator PRATT: Professor Neil Foster and Michael Kellahan, are you comfortable with the legal definition of 'sex' for the purposes of this bill?

Prof. Foster : I am not sure that the bill contains a definition of 'sex'. I am wondering what your question is about.

Senator PRATT: Defining who is a man and who is a woman.

Prof. Foster : It seems to me that the bill does not address the transgender issues, if those are the sorts of things you are talking about. Whether a person can change their legal gender from one to another—those are not really issues that are taken up in the bill at the moment. There is law in Australia at the moment—a decision of the full court of the Federal Court—that says a person can change their sex for the purposes of the Marriage Act if they follow certain procedures under state law. That is, obviously, a very controversial issue that is still way up for debate. I am not sure that it is appropriate for this bill to try to get into that sort of area.

Senator PRATT: But I guess when it comes to a class of exemptions being carved out for certain marriages, how that then interrelates with doctrine when, according to the letter of the law, you have a man and a woman marrying each other, despite the fact that someone has a different gender history, which might have an influence on church doctrine.

Rev. Kellahan : It may well attract a conscience position.

Senator PRATT: But the conscience provisions here only relate to same-sex marriages and not to the marriages of people who are legally male and female—be they have a transgender or an intersex status.

Prof. Foster : To clarify: perhaps the issue may come up where, under section 47(3)(a), a refusal to solemnise a marriage is because the marriage is not the union of a man and a woman. The question then is: is that the subjective view of the celebrant? Is the celebrant declining because he or she does not see the people in front of them as a man and a woman?

Senator PRATT: No. I would think that this law written is the legal definition of sex and that you have before you a man and a woman. Therefore, the right to discriminate does not apply in the case of—

Prof. Foster : All I can say is that I would like to take that on notice. I think that is an issue that, on the surface, is not raised by the bill and I would like to think about it some more. There are going to be some ministers of religion who would take the view that their faith says people are who their genetics say they are rather than—

Senator PRATT: In the case of a minister of religion there is no obligation to solemnise any marriage. People who are transgender, and have their identity recognised, already have the legal right to be married. So churches are already free to discriminate in those cases. I guess what I am trying to point out is that it is something of a nonsense to single out same-sex couples for the purpose of denying them particular goods and services according to doctrine because there are contradictions in this act as highlighted by the everyday lived experience of Australians. Perhaps the discrimination commission might pass a comment on the issues that I have raised.

Ms Wing : It is a complex issue. The nature of sex and gender identity is a matter of debate within the community—especially within the LGBTI community but also within science and law. We have found some very sad examples of people who, through transition from one gender to another, have been forced to divorce because they no longer fit the definition of a man and a woman in a marriage.

Senator PRATT: They are not forced to divorce by virtue of the Marriage Act; previous legal advice I have had is that the Commonwealth says marriage is seen as being at the time it took place. However, state laws are what compel someone to divorce in order to access legal gender reassignment.

Ms Wing : Yes, that is correct.

Ms Lyne : I think the question of someone's genetics does not really come into it when you are looking at two people in front of you. What we are really talking about is how those two people appear to you. Nobody fronting up for a civil or a religious marriage is expected to expose their genetics. And it is recognised that there are intersex people who are born with characteristics that are neither wholly male nor wholly female and there are a number of conditions and variations that are recognised and inherent in those persons.

Senator PRATT: From a doctrine point of view, it is my understanding that some churches do not recognise someone's gender transition. Is that correct.

Rev. Kellahan : That would be right.

Senator PRATT: But those people have a legal right to marry under the current law based on legally having changed their sex, and we have not needed a massive carve-out of anti-discrimination law to protect commercial civil institutions based on belief to prevent those people from having their marriages acknowledged in any way. We have not needed a carve-out of anti-discrimination law even though the churches, according to doctrine, would see some of those marriages as same-sex marriages even though legally they are not; they are very much people's lived gender experiences and they have a right to that identity. It just seems that what we are trying to do is completely internally incoherent and inconsistent based on the facts of biological sex.

Ms Lyne : There is actually High Court authority to say that sex is not binary. The Norrie case—and I can provide further details of that—recognised someone's legal right to have their sex recorded as neither a man or a woman.

CHAIR: Could you provide that on notice.

Ms Lyne : Yes.

Senator PATERSON: Ms Wing, I take it from your submission and your opening statement today that, at least in the instance of a wedding, the commission takes a fairly narrow view of religious freedom, which is that it is to be protected for ministers of religion only and not people of religious faith. Could you explain the rationale behind that.

Ms Wing : Ministers of religion—and I am not an expert in ecclesiastical law—are guided by the documents, tenets and beliefs of their particular church. A person of faith who provides a commercial service is not in that provision of service providing or propagating their religion necessarily; it is providing a commercial activity, and that commercial activity is currently captured by the antidiscrimination law. The doctrines, tenets and beliefs of a minister of religion are similarly protected by the antidiscrimination law but in a separate and different way. That distinction is very important for the board in looking at what is the secular world and how we operate and the law that applies to each of us as we are pursuing aspects of public life whether we are going to a photographer, a baker or a civil celebrant.

Senator PATERSON: If we take it back to first principles and we are society that has a value of protecting religious freedom, why is the religious freedom of a minister of religion any more worthy of protection than an individual citizen who has the same religious values and beliefs and has been taught in the same way? How can you draw a distinction between those two? Why should we draw a distinction between those two people?

Ms Lyne : I think there is a difference. We have to draw a line somewhere, and the fact is that many religions have views which might impinge on other rights. Historically, women's rights, the rights of unmarried mothers and of divorcees have been frowned upon by religion. We do not allow normal citizens carrying out commercial activities to discriminate against people on the basis that they might have had a child out of wedlock or might be divorced or because they are women, because as a society we have taken a view that this is what we consider to be a right and, when we give someone a right, other citizens ought to respect those rights and comply with the law. We do not allow people to bring their personal views, whether they are racist, sexist or other, into their public affairs as a shopkeeper or as a photographer or as a baker.

Prof. Foster : Could I make some points on this?

Senator PATERSON: Yes please.

Prof. Foster : With respect, I do not think it is true to say that we as a society completely exclude people's religious freedom in what we might call the commercial sphere. For many years we have recognised that there are certain overriding commitments that people have even if they are engaged in activities. For example, we as a society recognise that a doctor who provides services to women, if they have a fundamental view whereby they object to being involved in an abortion, is allowed not to be engaged in that. We have various other activities where we allow people who are otherwise engaged in the commercial sphere to have their freedom of religion recognised.

Of course, it is a question of balancing. We draw lines, and no one right trumps all the other rights. But the fact is that you do not necessarily park your religious freedom at the door when you enter the office. There is a recognition generally that religious freedom applies. For example, when someone who is a Muslim enters a job where they need some time off to go to prayer on a Friday or something like that, often there is an accommodation made because we recognise that people have those sorts of religious freedom rights. And so I myself think that it is not true to say that simply entering the commercial sphere means that you automatically cleanse yourself of any religious beliefs or that society no longer recognises that you have religious freedom rights.

Senator PATERSON: The second question I want to explore in a similar vein is why we would draw a distinction between religious belief and freedom of thought and conscience. The reason I want to ask this question is that it is not the only source of our value in this area, but article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is often referred to for its protection of freedom of religions, but it is not actually limited to its protection of freedom of religion. It includes the freedom of thought and conscience. Particularly as a society as we become less religious or there are many people who are not religious, why are their values and beliefs any less worthy of protection that someone who forms the same values and beliefs based on religious teaching rather than a separate way of arriving at that?

Ms Wing : I think it is more from the point of view of: how do you regulate around that? Where you have established doctrine of a church or tenets of belief you can point to that and say: 'This is what the cannon law says,' or 'This is what the doctrines, as pronounced, guide us towards how we live our lives.' Where you talk about individual or conscientious belief that becomes an individual exercise. People's individual beliefs can change. They can be informed by events. They can be informed by debate. So it will become an individual view at a particular time, in a particular set of circumstances. In trying to regulate around that, you enter into a multitude of variabilities that I think would make it very difficult for legislation to pinpoint and draw a line as to where that is or is not above the line.

CHAIR: Last question.

Senator PATERSON: But rights are in many ways inherently individual. We would not deny someone the right to freedom of speech because they express a view that they alone hold and that view should not be any more protected because a group holds and initiates that opinion. It is an individual right. Freedom of thought and freedom of conscience is by its very nature an individual right, so why shouldn't that be protected? A concrete example here is: why should a civil celebrant who has an objection to same-sex marriage based on their values but not religious beliefs be treated any differently from a minister of religion who forms that belief on the basis of their religious teaching?

CHAIR: I might get you to put any answer to that on notice, because we now need to go to Senator Kitching.

Senator KITCHING: I want to explore the exemptions. I think you were all present when representatives of the Anglican Church and the Catholic Church were here earlier today. Anti-Discrimination Board, at the end of your submission, you have partly answered where a church hall might be exempted but perhaps a civic hall might not be. Could we explore that a little bit further. Other than that example, where else would you see the exemptions falling? This is one of the issues which we are going to have to deal with. I would also be very interested in the Freedom for Faith's view on that. You have addressed it in your submission. I am thinking of the Catholic property trust, for example, where it might hold property. Would you see that as being exempt, or would you see that it would only be consecrated ground?

Rev. Kellahan : I think once you start trying to legislatively discriminate between what might be used religiously and what might not be, you are going to have difficulties. I noticed in the lift well coming up here that Catholic Insurance are apparently here, somewhere in the building. Is the connection there approximate enough or not? This is part of the reason that we are saying the approach of treating this by way of exemptions is problematic and that it is better to have a positive statement of freedom that is located in the conscience of the individual or in their religious beliefs rather than the parliament or the judiciary being put in a position where they then need to make determinations, which will vary from church to church as to what is religious enough or what isn't.

Senator KITCHING: Would you agree with what Bishop Comensoli—it is a bit unfair because he is not here—said? I think the words he used were 'connected', 'integral' and 'intimately connected'. Would you agree with that?

Rev. Kellahan : Was he trying to show a location to the marriage? Was that it?

Senator KITCHING: His words were 'integral', 'direct' and 'intimately connected'.

Rev. Kellahan : I have not seen those words before. We have not had an opportunity to think about it. But, yes, I think that is helpful if what we are tying to do is show some kind of proximity between the conscience of the individual and the act, because we do not want to have a situation where it is anything other than protection for beliefs around marriage. Just to come back to something Senator Pratt said earlier, I think, with Bishop Stead, we would be comfortable with removal of talk of isolation of the same-sex nature of that marriage if it was just to positively recognise the genuine conviction that a person had around the nature of marriage.

Ms Wing : I think it is a difficult thing to apply legislation to, and that is the conundrum. The nature of legislation is to set a standard, to set a particular threshold by which we say, 'This is how our society is' and then look at it by exception. If we start to legislate positively for each and every right, it still just takes you to a different level of balancing those competing interests.

Prof. Foster : If the question, for example, comes back to section 47B, which talks about making facilities available, at the moment 47B is framed in terms of saying that a refusal would be justified by a religious organisation where that conforms to the doctrines, tenets or beliefs of the religious body. Now, I think we ought not to overstate the fear that a building that happens to be owned by a religious body would automatically be denied for these sorts of purposes. You would have to show that there was a genuine connection. It comes back to these words of intrinsic—a genuine connection, a reason that within the tenets of this faith a building being provided for these purposes would have some genuine impact on the faith. That, it seems to me, is the way the legislation currently deals with it. New South Wales law uses those phrases in section 56 of the Anti-Discrimination Act. They refer to conforming to doctrines, tenets or beliefs or avoiding injury to religious susceptibility. So, there is already some precedent in section 56 of the New South Wales Anti-Discrimination Act for that wording to be applied, and it is done, in my reading of it, in a reasonably sensible and balanced sort of way.

Ms Wing : I think the aim is to apply an objective test, one that can be referred outside of the person rather than a subjective test of the individual who is claiming the exemption or the exception.

Senator KITCHING: I think one of the submissions we heard yesterday, from the Australian Law Council, made the point that while perhaps superannuation law has been amended to take into consideration same-sex couples certainly there would be other pieces of legislation that we have not really thought of. So one of the things I think is to grapple with how the legislation might be drafted, because obviously there are consequences to the drafting that sometimes we cannot see. Fiona McLeod yesterday suggested the tax legislation, and, as we all know, people are endlessly ingenious when it comes to tax and how they might interpret sections of the Income Tax Assessment Act. So, I guess one of the things we are dealing with is how the legislation might end up looking and the consequences of it. That is why I am trying to explore where people might see where the balance might be with those exemptions and where it is acceptable. But I take your point, Ms Wing: I think that is difficult.

CHAIR: Again, because of time, if you wish to respond to those comments, perhaps I could ask you to put some thoughts on notice back to the committee.

Senator SMITH: One of the themes that has emerged today is this sort of contest between the positive right versus concessionary exemptions. From the commission's perspective, what are the things that this committee should be alert to when it is considering those alternative approaches?

Ms Wing : There are international examples and there are the international instruments that cover the different protections, and I mentioned them at the beginning of my opening statement. The issue is that around Australia there are different anti-discrimination legislations, or whatever they are called, and then there is also the Commonwealth Human Rights Commission. I understand that you will be hearing from the commission later this afternoon. Those different pieces of legislation are informed by those international instruments. The guidance I would suggest is to look at the international experience.

Ms Lyne : I guess the balancing thing is also set out in the international covenant. It talks about only limiting freedom of speech where necessary to protect the rights and freedoms of others. I think that is the balance that needs to be found. Whilst you can positively state a right to hold a particular view and to state a particular view, you need to be looking at the line, I would imagine, where that expression starts to impinge on the rights of other people to lead their lives free from criticism and judgement—

Ms Wing : And the respect and acceptance we expect in our society.

Senator SMITH: Professor Foster, do you have a contribution?

Prof. Foster : I was interested to hear it expressed that there is a right to live your life free of criticism and judgement. To be honest with you, I do not think there is such a right—

Senator SMITH: Maybe politicians—

Prof. Foster : Perhaps politicians would like to have such a right. This comes back to the question: sometimes we just have to put up with the fact that people fundamentally disagree with us. Where we draw that line of where we have a right to be treated in a particular way it is probably not appropriate to talk about a right to be free from judgement or even a right to be free from offence.

Ms Lyne : I would like to briefly respond to that. I am not talking about criticism and judgement of one's views and opinions; I am talking about criticism and judgement of one's inherent characteristics. We do expect that people can live a life free of criticism on the basis of their skin colour or their sex and so on. There are certain inherent characteristics which are recognised at law and are protected at law, and that is what I am talking about rather than saying that it is not okay to criticise my opinion—if I could just clarify that.

Senator SMITH: My second question goes to the Freedom for Faith submission. You identify six points that could improve the exposure draft. The final point says: 'Giving free speech protection for a range of views to be expressed about marriage.' What do you mean by 'a range of views to be expressed about marriage'?

Rev. Kellahan : To acknowledge the reality of cultural disputes before us—that people will say that marriage is between a man and a woman or that gender is irrelevant to marriage. It may well extend to people wanting to put positions that are different again, like polygamy. We should be able to have a society where we are able to speak freely about those differences and not have a staged or forced position when it comes to speech.

Senator SMITH: I noticed that one of the points is also 'retaining the language of a man and a woman', which defeats the primary purpose. Do you think it is possible for you as an organisation to come to a position where you might agree that the provisions to protect religious freedom and conscientious objection do meet your requirements while at the same time allowing for same-sex marriage? Or are they irreconcilable?

Rev. Kellahan : It is a good question. If I could go to the particular of the language there of 'a man and a woman', the proposal was to put it alongside 'or a man and a man' and 'or a woman and a woman'. We acknowledge that is clunky wording which is unlikely to get up. We would not put it too strongly but we do want to say that there are differences here that are not going to be reconciled. Inevitably, the legislation, as it stands or as it is amended, is going to leave a lot of people with a belief which is out of step with the law—whatever happens with the legislation. That is the situation we are in at the moment for people with same-sex marriage, and the challenge is how to protect the right of dissent.

This paper is contemplating the situation and assuming the situation where the law changes. We do believe that the best way to protect religious freedom would be not to see the law on marriage change. But we also acknowledge the reality that that may well happen. If it does then our concern is that next stage of, 'Okay; how do we protect the dissenting position so that people are not constantly finding themselves not just out of step with the editorial policies of the Herald or of a particular political party but out of step with antidiscrimination law and coming into employment issues, property issues and those kinds of things?' So is it possible? We would see it as a kind of retrieval situation, where it is certainly not ideal but there are ways that the law could be done that would see much better protection than we believe is—respectfully—being put at the moment, which is pretty minimal: focused on a narrow class of people; focused on the wedding rather than beliefs on marriage.

CHAIR: The time being half past, we will draw this part of the inquiry to a close. Can I say thank you to the board and to Freedom for Faith for appearing today and for your evidence. I think both groups have undertaken to provide further information to the committee. If you can have that back to the secretariat within one week, just to help with the deadlines we have to meet, that would be much appreciated. The committee will now suspend for 15 minutes.

Proceedings suspended from 10:31 to 10:45