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Monday, 7 November 2016
Page: 2053

Senator HINCH (Victoria) (21:04): I am not going to stand here tonight and reiterate the arguments that have been put so eloquently in recent hours, recent months and even years by people with a far more personal interest in same-sex marriage than I have. All I will say is that I, too, believed that marriage was something between a man and a woman because it just was, you know? That is, until about 10 years ago, when I actually listened and heard the selfish, blinkered hollowness of my argument.

Today I want to talk specifically about the plebiscite and why I am proudly voting against it. Also, why a plebiscite is the wrong way to bring about what should be a right: the right of two Australians to marry no matter their gender, and the right for a same-sex couples married legally overseas to have that union recognised in their own country. This plebiscite was cobbled together after that marathon coalition crisis meeting. It was a word that millions of Australians had never heard of. To steal from the late Jim Killen, 'plebiscite' could have been the name of a horse running in the fifth race at Rosehill.

At the time, it was opposed by some of the leading lights of the Liberal Party. It was opposed by the member for Wentworth, who would go on to replace Tony Abbott as Prime Minister, and by the now government leader in the Senate, Senator Brandis. And they were right. We do not have plebiscites on every other bit of legislation. We did not have one on the omnibus bill that popped up in the last session. They are not talking about a plebiscite, but they are trying to get us to vote their way for the troubled ABCC.

As for the argument that the people must have the right to decide on such an issue, even when legalising same-sex marriages will not personally affect them, where was that furphy when Prime Minister Howard tightened the Marriage Act back in 2004 to specify that marriage could only mean:

… the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life.

and that overseas marriages would not be recognised in this country?

Mr Howard was adamant that it was the duty, the responsibility, of elected politicians to make that decision, and the Labor Party agreed. Mr. Howard was very specific about our duty. He said:

We've decided to insert this into the Marriage Act to make it very plain that that is our view of a marriage and to also make it very plain that the definition of a marriage is something that should rest in the hands ultimately of the parliament of the nation.

… not over time—

his words—

be subject to redefinition or change by courts. It is something that ought to be expressed through the elected representatives of the country.

That is us. That is you and that is you and that is me. The High Court agreed. That is one reason why we will vote against the plebiscite.

The other reason, which has been raised by a lot of people, is the obscene cost. They said $160 million. The latest guesstimate is about $200 million. Some bean counters now reckon it will go over $400 million. Who knows? Not to mention the 15 million bucks of taxpayers' money for the yes/no campaigns. Let's say it is only—only—$160 million. By voting this legislation down we save a heap of money. I have a better idea, seeing that the government has already budgeted to spend it. The plebiscite, we are told, is all about love, relationships, commitment and quality of life. So let's use that money—$160 million—for a royal commission into the Family Court, child welfare agencies and foster care across this country—a commission with the ultimate goal of a new federal child protection agency, because, I tell you, such an inquiry is desperately needed. But whatever happens to those saved millions, I urge the Senate to vote this legislation down. Do your job and hope it is the first step to a free vote in the House of Representatives. Who knows? If they do their job, as Prime Minister Howard so eloquently put it, we could be seeing gay marriages for Christmas.