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Monday, 20 August 2012
Page: 9194

Mr COULTON (ParkesThe Nationals Chief Whip) (20:46): I am a little confused about what is happening with this bill, the Marriage Amendment Bill 2012. If same-sex marriage is such an issue, as it is reported to be, and so many members of the government are in support of it, why has it been introduced by a backbencher? Why wasn't it introduced through the normal cabinet process, brought before the House and a decision made? As it is now, it gets trotted out about every four weeks, like a child's pony, and paraded around the chamber. I presume the tactic there is to give people the idea that something is actually happening on this front. A lot of people are waiting to watching this chamber to see what it does with regard to the issue, one way or another.

As the previous speaker, the member for Cunningham, said, we get a lot of emails, and I have got a lot of communications about this bill. I have to say to people, 'This is a private member's bill, not a government bill,' and explain what that means. So I really do not think the government are fair dinkum on this. To be honest, I do not think it is fair to the Australian public that they are using this approach. In my electorate there are people who are strongly opposed to same-sex marriage and there are people who strongly support it. Indeed, I have been in communication with people from both sides. But this is not an issue you can decide on a clear majority. If I poll the 100,000 voters in my electorate and 50,001 are for same-sex marriage—or vice versa—it does not mean that is what we will have. You will still have the other half, all those other people, who are disappointed. The nature of this issue makes it personal.

My constituents are very clear about where I stand on this. They do not all agree with where I stand on this but they are all very clear about where I stand. It was not a platform at the last election, but if anyone had cared to ask what my thoughts were, I would have told them. My personal thoughts are that marriage is between a man and a women. That is not to say that I do not respect people who have a different point of view and that, sometime in the future, a clear majority will not think otherwise. That is my personal view, and I do not resile from it. As for the view of my electorate, from the correspondence I am getting and from the mood in the electorate I still think that a clear majority are in favour of marriage being between a man and a woman.

Why is the government handling this issue the way it is? Why is it leaving the running of this to the member for Throsby, in conjunction with the member for Melbourne, who are running a tag team on private members' motions? There is a caucus meeting tomorrow; if the government are fair dinkum about this, they should get it on the agenda, and then let the parliament decide so we can move on.

I suspect that this tactic of having a debate every three or four weeks on same-sex marriage is a great diversion away from the other issues we have been dealing with, such as the carbon tax and asylum seekers. I think that is grossly unfair. I think the government are taking the Australian people for fools to treat them this way. My thoughts are that we need to put this issue behind us one way or another and move on for the sake of the Australian people and for the sake of the gay and lesbian communities.