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Wednesday, 13 September 2017
Page: 7086

Senator PRATT (Western Australia) (10:18): I want to say at the outset that there's nothing in the Marriage Law Survey (Additional Safeguards) Bill that legitimates this postal survey or the fact that LGBTI Australians like me are asked to go literally door to door to ask for our partner's hand in marriage. The protections in this bill, while important to preventing extreme attacks, do not protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and questioning people from the hurtful nature of this debate. This parliament could have and should have legislated for marriage equality a long time ago with a free vote, because Australia is ready for it.

While I'm glad that the Labor Party has been able to negotiate some important concessions in this legislation that prohibit vilification and hate speech, I wish we didn't have to. I'm pleased that my party remains steadfastly opposed to this wasteful and hurtful process, because we know it's unfair. This is a survey that we in the LGBTI community should not have to suffer through. It's causing great harm in our community and we're already hearing debates about everything except marriage—calling homosexuality the curse of death, saying offensive things about families that don't fit a narrow mould, saying that there's something wrong with our families, wrong with being trans—things that are hurtful not only to LGBTI families but to blended families, single families and step families.

I'm sad to have to put on record today that I know from firsthand experience that the government should not be putting our community through this process. Something very upsetting happened to my own rainbow family this week. My three-year-old son was down at the local shop with members of my own rainbow family, just doing the shopping for the evening meal, when they were handed an anti-marriage equality pamphlet. The pamphlet is too hurtful to repeat here, but it wasn't even about marriage, the quality of my relationship with my partner or the quality of my son's dad's relationship. The 'no' side isn't debating that, because they know that in the eyes of the community they have already lost that debate. This should not be happening and the government should not be allowing it to happen. Sadly, here we are, nonetheless.

These debates are hurtful to LGBTI people and our families. We shouldn't have to listen to this debate about the status of our families and our children. My child should not be subject to debates about the status of his family and his parents. Sadly, this legislation can only go so far in protecting us, because pamphlets like the one my family received will continue to be distributed through the course of this debate within the rules that it allows for. So while I want to acknowledge the importance of this legislation, I want to talk to you about what is most important—that is, to the LGBTI community, to stay strong, as strong as you can; to acknowledge your feelings; to look out for each other; to take care of yourselves and each other. But most of all, we are going to be dealing with this by getting busy to win this debate. We will be getting to work. We will be going door to door, making hundreds of thousands of phone calls. We will be knocking on doors right around the country. It is my plea to all Australians who support marriage equality to please keep an eye out for your ballot paper, which is being sent out this week. Fill it out, post it back, stand up for equality and make your vote count.