Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Thursday, 23 August 2012
Page: 6299

Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandDeputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) (17:31): Let me very briefly state to the Senate the coalition's position on the Marriage Equality Amendment Bill 2010. The coalition made an undertaking to the Australian people at the 2010 election that we would support the existing definition of marriage and, having made that undertaking to the Australian people, we are not going to act at variance to it. The Labor Party has changed its position, because Julia Gillard gave a similar undertaking to the Australian people at the 2010 election but subsequently facilitated arrangements within the Labor Party to allow that undertaking to be vacated. When we in the coalition give an undertaking to the public we stick by it, whether it be on the carbon tax, private health insurance, or any issue, and this is one such issue.

After listening to Senator Sarah Hanson-Young's speech I am bound to say that one would have thought there was only one available view. Senator Hanson-Young, I have to tell you that yours is not the only view. Much as those who advocate your view do so, I am sure, in good faith, you will not win this argument by seeking to silence alternative views. People are entitled to have their own views about marriage, as you have yours. People who have a more conservative view than yours about marriage are as much within their rights as you are.

To me, your bill is a bill about marriage but it is not a bill about equality. Equality for same-sex people was won in this parliament, in this Senate, with the support of all parties, including mine, by the amendments that were made to a suite of Commonwealth statutes in 2008. I said at the time that it had been too long in coming. I had myself, within the Howard government, been agitating for that for years, as many of my colleagues had been. But after those bills were passed with the support of all parties there was no Commonwealth law which treated same-sex people in relationships any differently than opposite-sex people in a relationship.

But your bill is not about equality, Senator Hanson-Young, even though you claim that it is; it is about marriage. Marriage is an institution defined by custom, religion and law, or at least by some of those things. For you to have discovered that an institution which has been understood to mean one particular thing for the entire history of humanity is, all of a sudden, a fundamentally unjust institution, as it is understood according to its traditional conception, is an extraordinary impertinence. When you use the phrase, 'Let us put behind us the dark pages of history,' do you really think, Senator Sarah Hanson-Young, that history began with you? Do you seriously think that the human conscience began with you? Or do you not allow for the fact that, just as you have your views, which I am sure are held in good faith, other people have their views which are also held in good faith. Those views reflect the entire understanding and the entire course of human history of what a marriage is, and you should, if I may say so, pay a little more respect to those who do not agree with you.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT ( Senator Mark Bishop ): I remind all senators who are participating in this and other debates to address their remarks through the chair.