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Thursday, 12 August 2004
Page: 26497

Senator BOSWELL (Leader of The Nationals in the Senate) (1:32 PM) —I was not going to get into this debate; I was going to save my comments for the substantive debate on the Marriage Amendment Bill 2004. But I am forced to come into this debate because I believe the 1,200 people who came from all parts of Australia, representing many other Australians who believe that marriage is the cornerstone of Australia, have been vilified. Senator Greig, you are quite open about your relationship, and I do not condemn you for it. That is your choice. As we pass in the corridors, I always say g'day to you. I do not condemn you for your choice of lifestyle, and you do not condemn me for being on the other side of the issue. We exchange pleasantries and say g'day to each other as we pass.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Direct your remarks through the chair please, Senator Boswell.

Senator BOSWELL —What I find difficult is when Senator Greig gets up here and vilifies these people in the same terms that he believes the gay and lesbian community have been vilified. He is turning the whole debate around. He vilified the 1,200 people who came from as far as Western Australia and Queensland, with three or four days notice, to express their concerns. Do they not have rights also? They have the right to come here and represent views, which I know are the views of the majority of Australians. They have every right to come here and express those views. If Senator Greig were going to address a gay and lesbian rights rally in Sydney tomorrow and if I suggested to him that all those people were anti-Christian, did not like churches and were against families, that would be wrong. But he is doing exactly what he accuses those 1,200 people of doing.

I know the passion that the Democrats have. I know how strongly they feel. I know they do not like being rolled. I was in exactly the same position during the native title debate. I thought it was absolutely wrong that native title be brought in and for there to be two titles over a property. I fought it hard. I did not believe in it. I was passionate about it but I did not have the numbers, and native title became a fact of life. I had to accept it. I made a speech on the third reading, if senators recall. I knew that we were done and I knew we had the numbers against us, but I did congratulate the Aboriginal people and the people who supported them in this place on a well-run campaign.

Senator Ridgeway —You still didn't give us much.

Senator BOSWELL —I say to Senator Ridgeway, the Aboriginal representative in this chamber, that I fought against it and I was rolled, but I congratulated the Aboriginal people on their campaign and the way they ran it. Democracy is numbers. The Democrats do not represent the majority of people. They have that narrow vote of around six or seven per cent. That is fair enough. They come in here and they represent them. But we represent the majority of people, and the overwhelming majority of people want marriage preserved between a man and a woman. Are we wrong to get up and defend the position of the majority? Of course we are not wrong.

We have been elected by people with different points of view. The people who elected me feel very strongly about this issue. Many of them are the people whom Senator Greig, I believe, has criticised and vilified. Look, in the excitement of giving speeches perhaps some of those things should not have been said. I do not know. As Senator Greig said, I sat near the front, although it was not to get my photo in the paper; it was to support those people because they turned up and made a huge contribution in coming here. It cost them a heap of money to get here, and they deserved support.

I sat in the second front row—not to get my photo in the paper, because I did not believe that would happen and, even if it did, that was not the reason I went there—to support those who back the majority of people. They came in here to express not an anti-gay or anti-lesbian position, or to vilify the gays and the lesbians, but to support marriage which they believe is the cornerstone of society.

Let us get on with the debate. I know how strongly you feel, Senator Greig. I can gauge that by the passion with which you are delivering your message. I shared that anxiety and passion in the native title debate. You might remember—I do not think you were here, Senator Greig—that I stood up and everyone in the gallery booed me. I was putting forward a position which I believed was the position of the people who elected me and which they asked me to support, and I agreed with their position. That is what representation is all about.

Unless you can get the majority of people to believe in gay and lesbian marriages, you are never going to override the parliament because the parliament is expressing the majority views. That is what it is all about. Everyone on this side of the parliament, and probably those on the other side, knows that. If Senator Greig were to go out there and express his view, he would be annihilated because it would not be the majority view of the people of Australia. You need only six or seven per cent of the vote to get elected, and then you pick up a bit of a spill here and cross-preference with the Greens and the Democrats and pick up a bit of the spill from Labor. You are not going for the majority vote; you are going for the minority vote. You always have and you always will. You do not represent the majority views of the two major parties.

The two major parties have to reflect what is required in the mainstream electorate. The mainstream electorate do not support marriage between same-sex couples. But that is not to say that they are vilified or that they are second-class citizens. That is their choice of life and, if that is their lifestyle, I do not condemn or condone it. It does not represent what I believe is a family. Let us not debate this any longer. Let us get on with the substantive debate and put our positions forward on what we believe and the people of Australia want us to vote for.