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Thursday, 12 August 2004
Page: 26457

Senator GREIG (10:22 AM) —I find fascinating and quite telling—and important to get on the record—the role of homophobia as the key reason we are now having this debate, for two reasons. The reason we are now potentially going to be discussing these antiterror bills is that yesterday the Prime Minister called not one but two press conferences to talk about the free trade agreement. Clearly he walked away from the first press conference thinking, `I came across as a bit of a dill in that; I think I'll do a second one.' So a second press conference was called, where the Prime Minister clumsily and unsuccessfully tried to explain to the media again where we were at with the free trade agreement while they stood there in bewilderment. At the end of that press conference, Age journalist Misha Schubert said, `Prime Minister, why are you prioritising the ban on gay marriage over the ban on terrorism? Why is the proposal to ban same-sex couples getting married being given priority in the Senate over the suite of antiterror bills?' To this the Prime Minister said, `We are not.' Misha Schubert replied, `Yes, you are.' The Prime Minister said, `It's cold out here. Is anybody else cold?' He then closed the press conference and shuffled back inside to his office like some sort of Captain Mainwaring on another unsuccessful mission.

We get repeated media calls and inquiries as to what on earth is going on in the Senate. The answer is that nobody knows, because of the appalling time management of this government. How dare you criticise the crossbenchers for taking up time on the free trade agreement when the fundamental PBS amendments agreed between the major parties were not even ready at 11.30 p.m. two nights ago! The fact of the matter is that the government has now been spooked into the recognition that it had in fact put its gay-bashing exercise before its antiterror procedures, and so it is now hurriedly rearranging the agenda to save face.

The second aspect of homophobia in this to which I draw senators' attention—and we will debate this at much greater length, I assure you, when we get to it—is that, for the first time ever in Australian history, the words `same-sex partner' are going to be included in a government bill. Which bill? Anti-terrorism Bill (No. 2) 2004. In what context? If you are in a same-sex relationship and you are associating with a terrorist, we will recognise your same-sex relationship for the purpose of jailing you. So the exercise before us today is, one, let us ban same-sex couples in long-term loving, committed relationships, whether or not they are raising children, from solemnising their relationships—let us put an end to committed relationships being recognised under law—and, two, let us recognise same-sex partners when they are associating with terrorists. It is disgraceful.

The fact of the matter is that the government has been spooked not just by evangelical Christians, not just by fundamentalists and not just by the hateful anti-gay groups who had the most appalling rally in this place last Wednesday organised by the Australian Family Association—an organisation found by the Advertising Standards Board to be guilty of vilification. Now it wants to give priority to that so that it can press ahead not just with condemning same-sex relationships in terror bills but also with preventing any recognition of those relationships within civil marriage. That is the rush; that is the reason. This is an ideological push; it has nothing to do with the good governance of the business of the Senate and everything to do with the election. I condemn it. I argue—and I will argue again later—that what we should really be dealing with is not a gay-bashing exercise but antidiscrimination provisions and protections. If we are going to recognise same-sex relationships, let us not do so in a condemnatory way by including them in antiterror bills for the purposes of jailing people; let us do so to recognise the dignity and humanity of lesbian and gay citizens.

Question put:

That the motion (Senator Hill's) be agreed to.