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Monday, 7 November 2016
Page: 1897


Senator LEYONHJELM (New South Wales) (11:29): I believe people who claim to support legalising same-sex marriage should support every opportunity to do so. If they do not then their support is pretty flimsy. Unfortunately, I am the only senator who has supported legalising same-sex marriage at every opportunity in this place. For all their waffle, this year Labor and the Greens have each blocked the Senate voting on same-sex marriage. I will maintain my unblemished record by supporting the government's Plebiscite (Same-Sex Marriage) Bill 2016.

Those promising to block a plebiscite are lying when they suggest we will instead be able to legalise same-sex marriage through a parliamentary vote. The coalition has a policy to oppose a parliamentary vote and the coalition has the numbers. It is reality. Deal with it. Those who think they will force the government to change its position to support a free vote are dreaming. Half the Liberals are dead against it, as are the Nationals, and the coalition agreement obliges the government to hold a plebiscite. Furthermore, the chances of the coalition moving to a conscience vote were dealt a severe blow when Labor decided to commit to a binding vote after the next election. In the absence of a plebiscite, same-sex marriage has the potential to be a highly partisan issue for years to come.

To those LGBTI lobbyists who oppose the plebiscite because it gives a voice to homophobes, I say: 'Harden up. You may not want to accept it, but homophobes already have a voice and—guess what—they will continue to have a voice for the rest of time. It is called a free society.' Your suggestion that an acrimonious debate will prompt suicides and other mental health issues in the LGBTI community is obnoxious. These are normal people, not mentally fragile little daffodils affronted by name-calling. Those people who believe gay people are too weak or fragile to withstand a public discussion are just perpetuating a homophobic stereotype. If such a view had been accepted during the civil rights debates in the US last century, women would still be languishing in the kitchen and blacks would still be sitting at the back of the bus. They also constitute groups with high rates of mental illness and could therefore be considered more vulnerable. I wonder how Martin Luther King might have reacted if he were told to refrain from a too-passionate debate lest there be blowback against psychologically fragile Negroes. In fact, the people saying such things do not represent the LGBTI community. They are a front for the Greens. The jig was up when, more than a year after the government proposed a plebiscite, the Greens announced their opposition to the plebiscite and then, lo and behold, within a matter of days a slew of lobbyists purporting to represent the LGBTI community announced their opposition to the plebiscite. All Labor are concerned about is the Greens stealing more votes from them.

Like many others, I would prefer the question of same-sex marriage were put to a vote in parliament rather than a plebiscite. I do not like the cost of a plebiscite to taxpayers. But it is disingenuous for the opponents of a plebiscite in this place to claim they are concerned about the cost to taxpayers. They do not think twice about wasting taxpayers' money on every issue under the sun, and their waste is in the billions, not in the millions. Those who oppose spending $170 million on the same-sex marriage plebiscite support spending more than this on an Aboriginal recognition referendum when a statement of recognition would do nothing to improve the living standards of Aborigines. In fact, the cost of a plebiscite could be more than covered by the boost to the economy of additional weddings. The ANZ bank says that is likely to be at least $500 million a year and that the total economic benefit could be as much as $1 billion a year, including small businesses and the service sector.

Opponents of the plebiscite have also cited the fact that they do not know how same-sex marriage would be legislated if the plebiscite is passed. They need to see the legislation before deciding if it is the right legislation. This suggests they may not support the legalisation of same-sex marriage if it comes with protections for those civil celebrants, florists, cake makers and photographers who want nothing to do with same-sex marriages. This reflects a sadistic mindset. It reveals a desire to 'get back' at opponents of same-sex marriage and to rub their noses in it. It also reflects totalitarian thinking, based on a desire to make it obligatory to support same-sex marriage and impossible to hold a different view based on conscience.

I will support a plebiscite on same-sex marriage, because politics is about compromise. If you do not get things delivered to you just the way you like, you should not take your bat and ball and go home. This bill should pass and the plebiscite should occur, because it will lead to same-sex marriage within a matter of months. The obligation is on those who support same-sex marriage—and I am one of them—to ensure the plebiscite passes, not oppose the plebiscite in the first place. I am completely confident a substantial majority of Australians agree with me, and I commend this bill to the Senate.