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Thursday, 20 June 2013
Page: 3503


Senator MADIGAN (Victoria) (10:21): I will not take up too much time addressing this bill; I believe we have spent plenty of time on this issue already. It is just on nine months now since we discussed a bill very similar to this one. The first point I would like to make is that everybody is entitled to their view, and people should not be bludgeoned into any view on any matter. Everybody is entitled to make a decision on their conscience, and every person is entitled in this place, having been elected to express their views, to have respect for their views, whether we agree or disagree. When we debate this issue, we should leave people out of it. We should discuss the issue without playing people or individuals.

I believe this bill calling for us to recognise foreign same-sex marriages is basically a backdoor attempt to force same-sex marriage onto Australians. I have already said that I do not support same-sex marriage and I will not be changing my position. Like many of you, I have had numerous emails and phone calls on this bill—both for and against—and the issue of same-sex marriage. However, unlike the apparent flood of support the Greens seem to have received, I have found the flood to be coming from ordinary Australians who are sick of this issue being raised again and again in different forms and in different forums. They are also sick and tired of being told to feel guilt and shame for continuing to uphold their belief that marriage is a union between one man and one woman, to the exclusion of all others.

Guilt and shame, along with fear, are the arsenal of virtually every Greens campaign. The issue in this bill is not same-sex marriage or recognition of foreign same-sex marriage. The issue here is marriage itself, because we cannot agree to this bill without changing the very understanding of marriage itself. As I have said on many occasions, and as has been proven again and again, the will of parliamentarians does not necessarily reflect the will of the people. Quite frankly, the definition of marriage is something that cannot be left to the will of the parliament. It is for this reason that I have notified that I will be introducing a bill calling for a referendum to alter the Constitution and confirm that marriage is the union of a man and a woman, to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life.

I am not bludgeoning the parliament and I am not bludgeoning the nation into accepting a position through guilt. I am saying, 'Let the people decide.' We can legislate all sorts of things in this parliament and we do, but we cannot legislate the conscience of the nation. Marriage is a cornerstone of human society, predating any religious or political system. If we can have a referendum on things like local government, we deserve to have a referendum on officially defining this institution in our Constitution. I believe that this is an issue that every Australian should have a vote on. That is why I am calling for a referendum.

Rather than having this issue raised again and again, with the intention of eventually wearing down some wavering parliamentarians until it eventually gets through, this issue must be decided by the Australian people. We can tell them how much tax to pay, where their schools should be, what they can grow and what they can build. We intrude into virtually every aspect of their lives, but if we tell them that we as a parliament can make a decision that will fundamentally alter the very basis on which our society is built on, and which civilisation has been built on for millennia, then we are clearly taking on the role of little tin gods. We are not here to tell the Australian people what their society will be. That is their choice and their choice alone. I will not be supporting this bill. But, having sat here this morning, I acknowledge the contributions of Senators Hanson-Young, Pratt and Brandis. They are all entitled to have their view, as are the people who are going to contribute to this debate after me. We are all people that respect that they have their opinions and they are entitled to their opinions.