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Wednesday, 13 September 2017
Page: 7089

Senator DI NATALE (VictoriaLeader of the Australian Greens) (10:31): I rise to speak on the Marriage Law Survey (Additional Safeguards) Bill 2017. I wish that I was standing here right now speaking in support of marriage equality and that this wasn't a vote about safeguards but rather a vote about ending discrimination in marriage. If it were, we know that love would win and we know that we would have marriage equality by this weekend. But this government has consistently rejected the calls for a free vote in the Australian parliament for marriage equality. It has chosen a different course; it has decided to take the question of human rights to a postal survey. The Greens position on the postal survey is on the record and is very clear. We now find ourselves on this course the government has set and we are now discussing the details of how to provide safeguards to ensure that the public debate and the survey itself are conducted in a respectful and safe way.

Let me say from the outset that my thoughts and the thoughts of the Australian Greens are with you, the many hundreds of thousands of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex Australians and their families, who over the coming weeks will have the essentially loving nature of their relationships under intense scrutiny. They will feel they're being questioned and being treated as though they have fewer rights than other Australians. We stand with you. We will do everything we can to ensure that this debate is conducted respectfully and, most importantly, that we win and ensure marriage equality and fairness within the Marriage Act is achieved once and for all.

We have to win. We have to win because it is a basic question of fairness and equality. The message that today's law sends to people right across the community is that it is hurting people and their families. This is a campaign about love and inclusion. We make this change and, in doing so, go that bit further to creating a society which does not treat an entire community as though they deserve fewer rights. That's what this campaign is about.

The terrible statistics about mental health and suicide amongst LGBTI people are a direct result of a society that endorses laws that say: 'You're not normal. You're not equal.' But we know that the majority of Australians don't agree. They want the love of their LGBTI colleagues, friends and families recognised as equal. They know that, for them, this change means the world and that the vast majority of Australians lose nothing. How can we stand in the way of that? Our laws are a relic of a bygone era and, no matter how much some people in this chamber try to cling onto them, they won't endure, because they are holding us all back.

This bill will facilitate the conduct of the postal survey. It sets some basic ground rules to protect people from vilification, intimidation and harm. Importantly, state, territory and Commonwealth antidiscrimination laws and protections that are currently in place will continue through the process of the survey. This bill goes some way to protecting the public from misleading or deceptive material being circulated. The bill requires individuals and entities to authorise material that is produced for the 'yes' and 'no' campaigns, to ensure that there is some accountability for the content and messages that will be circulating during the postal survey. We know that there will be deception and misinformation circulated, but at the very least we will now know the sources from which that comes.

I welcome the spirit of cooperation that some within the government have demonstrated in working with the Greens and the Labor Party to ensure that this bill provides those important protections. These protections are so critical because we've already seen the nature of the campaign that some on the 'no' side have run, and the harm that it has done. They will, no doubt, conflate a whole range of issues that have nothing to do with the question of marriage. They'll do it to try to confuse people, to shift the terms of the debate. They will cite dodgy research that tries to denigrate LGBTI people. They will start to challenge the very notion of the separation between church and state. We know that that's what they'll do. But we Greens will support this bill, not because it's perfect and not because it will prevent all of that from happening, but because it offers us a better chance of encouraging a more respectful and a more honest debate—a debate where there is some accountability.

Today we find ourselves at the beginning of what I believe is the end of a long fight to achieve equality in marriage. I am very confident that, with hard work, we can get a resounding 'yes' vote that this government will no longer be able to resist. But it will only happen if people who care for each other, in communities right across the country, are active and mobilised and are talking to their friends, families and neighbours and letting them know why it is just so important to say yes—to say yes for love, to say yes for fairness, to say yes for equality.

We are very pleased that we have managed to get so many people, many of them young people, onto the electoral roll. For 'yes' to win, we now need all of those people, and the many millions of Australians right across the country who are good, decent people, who believe in those fundamental values of equality and justice and fairness, to ensure that, when they get that paper, they mark 'yes', and they do it proudly. In doing so, we can consign these discriminatory laws to the dustbin of history. We can get on with building a more inclusive Australia. We can say yes to equality and we can say yes to love.