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Monday, 20 March 2017
Page: 1401


Senator RICE (Victoria) (16:14): Eide shoma mobarak! From what I understand, Senator Roberts and One Nation have got us here in the chamber this afternoon to speak about a group called Operation 513. I am told they are in the habit of annoying people in the Queen Street Mall in Brisbane every Saturday night by yelling about a lot, specifically homosexuality. Understandably, it is pretty off-putting, so much so that they have been fined more than $10,000 by the Brisbane City Council, who say there have been complaints that include 'allegations of extreme harassment, with members of the group hurling abuse and insults at passers-by'.

I have spent a lot of today—since I said, 'Yes, I am happy to take part in this matter of public importance'—trying to figure out why this actually is a matter of public importance deserving of the time of the Senate. Why are we talking about a such a local topic in the federal parliament? I spent six years in local government, on Maribyrnong council. If you are concerned about this issue, and the actions of local government, take it up with your council officers, and take it up with your councillors. Why are we debating it here in the Senate today? Then I found that locals have described Operation 513 as a 'fundamentalist, Young-Earth creationist, oddly non-denominational bunch of kids who preach intolerance, anti-science, bigotry and hate speech'. Of course, then it fell into place: what better way to describe One Nation?

It is no coincidence that the group is homophobic, because it sums up the debate about marriage equality. We had an opinion poll come out today that showed that, even in the 12 most conservative electorates of the country, a majority of people want marriage equality. The majority of people in this country want all Australians to be able to marry the person they love. The majority of Australians want all Australians to be able to marry the person they want to spend the rest of their lives with. Then you have the evangelists—no, not the average, everyday churchgoers, because we know that not just the majority of Australians, and not just the majority of people in the 12 conservative electorates of government MPs, but the majority of Australian Christians support marriage equality. But there is a vocal minority who is making life hell for the rest of us. They are trying to loudly impose their antiquated views on anyone who will listen, and on many who will not. It is not surprising that people get fed up with that. It is not surprising that people see them as a public nuisance. They are public nuisances trying to loudly impose their views—views that are only held by a very small minority of Australians—on us.

And then we have the situation with Minister Dutton, who seems to believe that it is okay for business leaders to support him on things he believes in. But, when it comes to them supporting marriage equality, he goes gallivanting around the country yelling like a self-appointed prophet that only he is allowed to have an opinion.

I was in Brisbane last week, and the people that I talked to had had enough. They do not want to be yelled at in the street. They do want to have commonsense, polite, respectful conversations. They are sick of a group of backward politicians stopping loving couples from marrying. They want to see us all 'get over it', and to allow our parliament to do its job—to have a free vote and legislate for marriage equality. They want marriage equality now. Those people I met in Brisbane last week are representative of the majority of Australians. They want us all to be able to come together respectfully and politely to recognise that this is a matter of love, it is a matter of equal rights, and it is a matter of having respect for everybody; and to allow for the differences that exist between people, and allow people to get married regardless of their gender identity, regardless of their sexuality, and to get on with the rest of their lives.

We do not need to have bunches of intolerant people yelling at people on the streets of Brisbane, and we certainly do not need to have that debate then imported into this Senate, as One Nation have done today.