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Monday, 12 September 2016
Page: 418


Mr BANDT (Melbourne) (10:14): I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

This cross-parliamentary bill will remove discrimination from our marriage laws and finally achieve marriage equality in this country. It is time that our laws recognise this equality. It is time that our parliament finally says to every Australian, to every LGBTIQ Australian, that they and their love are equal. It is time that we end discrimination and promote acceptance, love and equality for all.

I say today that we worked together for marriage equality in the last parliament and now we can do it again. We find ourselves in the fortunate situation where, probably for the first time ever, if a free vote on marriage equality were held in this room now, a bill would pass. We have the prospect of making marriage equality a reality without the need for taxpayer-funded hate speech, which will be an inevitable consequence of the plebiscite. Funding a referendum that is not binding on this place is the equivalent of funding the schoolyard bully to go and insult other students. It is not only unnecessary, but it is hateful and hurtful.

That is why I am proud to join with the Independent member for Denison, Andrew Wilkie, and the Independent Member for Indi, Cathy McGowan, to co-sponsor this important bill. In the last parliament, seven members of this place from across the political spectrum co-sponsored this very same bill. Along with myself and these two Independents, we had two Liberal backbenchers, the member for Leichhardt and the then member for Brisbane; the Labor member for Griffith and the then member for Werriwa. The fact that we worked together, across the divide, to progress marriage equality, shows that love is love is love is love—that the love, bond and depth of a partnership between two people is equal, regardless of their genders.

We now have to ask ourselves, as a chamber and as a parliament, what is the best way to progress this reform, given that a majority of us want it? So I invite Liberal and Labor MPs again to join as co-sponsors of this bill to achieve marriage equality. If we all work together, we have a real chance to pass marriage equality through parliament sooner rather than later, without a divisive and wasteful plebiscite. If we all work together, wedding bells could be sounding before Christmas this year.

At the end of the day, what matters is that marriage equality is passed. The Leader of the Opposition is right: ultimately, no-one will care whose name appeared in what position on this bill. What they will care about is that the reform happens. Around Australia, people are looking to this parliament, where they know there is now a majority in favour of reform, to work together to make that reform happen.

I am worried that now that the issue of equality is firmly on the national agenda, if one person or one party tries to own it, it will fail. If we bowl a bill up only to have it voted down, we may find ourselves set back further. But the best path to reform will be a bill that has cross-parliamentary support, and ideally a Liberal backbench co-sponsor, that can be progressed through parliament.

I am pleased that the Leader of Opposition has indicated a willingness to work with the crossbench. I hope that there is now a willingness from either the Prime Minister or members of his backbench to work together as well. Instead of two bills proceeding, if we can all unify as co-sponsors of one cross-parliamentary bill or even get behind a government bill, it can become law.

We, the crossbench, believe that a bill that is not owned by one political party will have the best chance of attracting a Liberal co-sponsor. That is especially the case if legislation enabling a plebiscite is not passed by this parliament. It looks at the moment like this government's plan to establish a non-binding, hateful opinion poll will not have the support of this place. If that is right, but the Prime Minister is serious about achieving marriage equality, then we will need a plan B. The best plan B is a bill that comes from the backbench and across the chamber from this parliament.

We must work together because, on this fundamental issue of equality, Australia is lagging behind the rest of the world. We are now the only developed, English-speaking country to not have equal marriage laws. Our laws continue to send the message to people who are same-sex attracted and in same-sex couples that their love is not equal. Our homophobic marriage laws are part of a system that for years has told young people who are coming to grips with their sexuality and identity that if you are not straight, you are not equal. They have been part of a system that has allowed the tragedy of young people who are same-sex attracted or gender diverse to suicide at rates many times greater than their heterosexual peers.

This bill is a chance to take another important step away from this discrimination and pain and towards creating a world where all people know and feel that they are equal regardless of who they love. This bill is a chance to say love is love. It knows no gender, it is beautiful and it is equal.

As a country, we are faced with a perverse situation where the leaders of the three largest political parties all support marriage equality, yet this parliament is being prevented from making marriage equality a reality. My party, the Greens, as a whole stand ready to support this bill. We have long stood up for the rights of same-sex attracted and gender diverse peoples and couples. I am proud to have introduced the first ever bill to achieve marriage equality into the House of Representatives, in 2012. Sadly, that was not passed because it did not get the unanimous support of either of the old parties.

Australians know they can trust us as a party to vote for equality. We always have and we always will. But the delays that are being forced on loving people across the country have reached a point where the situation is no longer tolerable. The Prime Minister says he supports marriage equality, but for various reasons we have a continuation of the previous Prime Minister's policy of delay by insisting on a plebiscite. This pandering to the conservative rump of his own party is not good enough. His shotgun wedding with the right wing of the backbench cannot be allowed to stand in the way of equality. Australians are ready for equality—they have been ready for years—and there are loving couples who are running out of time and can no longer be forced to wait to celebrate their love. To have their love recognised as equal under our law is something that will mean the world to many people in this country. Instead of insisting on a wasteful and divisive plebiscite, the Prime Minister should stand up to his party and let this parliament do what the country wants and vote for equal love.

In the end, love will win. The question is how long we force loving couples to wait—how long we force LGBTIQ people to be less equal and have fewer rights than everyone else. So let us use this place for what it is meant for. Let us take a stand for equality and do something that matters to so many Australians. Let us open up our arms and our hearts to love.

The SPEAKER: Is the motion seconded?

Mr Wilkie: I am immensely proud to second this co-sponsored bill, and I reserve my right to speak.

The SPEAKER: The time allotted for this debate has expired. The debate is adjourned and the resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day for the next sitting.