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Wednesday, 29 November 2017
Page: 9174


Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandAttorney-General, Vice-President of the Executive Council and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (11:51): I've heard it said that it's hazardous to answer rhetorical questions but I'm going to try and answer Senator Abetz's rhetorical question: what is the difference? The difference, in my view, Senator Abetz, through you, Madam Chairman, is this: I believe there ought to have been a conscientious objection or ground of exemption for celebrants for the same reason that there is a conscientious exemption for ministers of religion. I believe it is wrong to force a person to officiate in a ceremony the nature of which violates their conscientious beliefs, whether those beliefs be the product of the teachings of a religion or whether those conscientious beliefs arise from other considerations.

But when it comes to purely commercial or transactional relationships, the matter is entirely different. A gay couple are not asking a service provider or the vendor of goods to participate in or to officiate their ceremony. All they are seeking to do is to purchase an article of commerce. If the only relationship between the ceremony and the third party is purely commercial then, in my view, there is no conscientious reason why the commercial good or service provider should fall within a conscientious exemption.

The CHAIR: The question is that amendment (3) on sheet 8321 revised, as moved by Senator Leyonhjelm, be agreed to.