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Transcript of interview with Alan Jones: 2GB Alan Jones Breakfast Show: 14 November 2017: Same-sex marriage bill



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TRANSCRIPT

Senator James Paterson

Liberal Senator for Victoria

Tuesday 14 November 2017

2GB Alan Jones Breakfast Show

Subjects: Same-sex marriage bill

Alan Jones:

The result of the postal vote on same sex marriage will be out at 10am tomorrow. Assuming it’s a “Yes” vote, legislation will have to go to the parliament to change the marriage act. Malcolm Turnbull has promised that that will happen before Christmas - mind you, can you have an illegally constituted parliament voting on any legislation? That’s the other issue. But to put it simply, the bill to change the marriage act has been sponsored by the Western Australian Liberal Senator, Dean Smith. It offers only limited protection, if any, to other critical freedoms. In other words, even advocates of same sex marriage argue that the change to the marriage act should not confer a freedom on them to marry but deny basic freedoms to others.

Now, I voted “Yes” to the postal vote. And if there’s a move to not guarantee other freedoms - for example, religious freedom, people must be free to live their lives according to their own beliefs - but if there’s a move not to guarantee those then I think all hell will break loose.

The bill that Malcolm Turnbull seems to be lining up to support, sponsored by the Western Australian Liberal Dean Smith, offers only limited religious protection. And, indeed, Senator Smith suggested that religious freedom could be addressed through separate legislation - and that is plainly rubbish and unacceptable. And if the Prime Minister doesn’t understand that, then he has to understand his leadership will be over.

Enter a young man from Victoria, to whom of spoken to previously: The Liberal Senator James Paterson. He’s 29 years of age, in fact he’ll be 30 next week. He’s smart, and he’s in touch.

There are stacks of young people like him who have voted “Yes” - as he did - on the same sex marriage issue, and share the same view as he has, that other freedoms must not be eroded.

Well, as a result, yesterday James Paterson - Senator Paterson - released a draft bill to legalise same sex marriage in Australia while preserving the freedoms of all Australians. As I said, he voted “Yes” in the same sex marriage postal vote. Indeed, he’s argued for same sex marriage since way back in 2011. But as he said, “I’ve never believed that allowing same sex couples to marry needs to come at the expense of the freedoms of other Australians.” “I’ve always argued,” he said, “that parliament is capable of ensuring there are no negative consequences for anyone else, from allowing gay Australians to marry.” And he’s released this draft bill that achieves two important objectives - very simple - it validates same sex marriage and protects a raft of other freedoms.

The bill sponsored by the Western Australian Liberal, Senator Dean Smith, does none of this. It changes the marriage act to provide for same sex marriage but virtually says we’ll worry about the other stuff later. The Prime Minister now has a real dilemma: does he back the West Australian bill, or the James Paterson bill?

At a time when people despair of what is thrown up to us as political representation this young man from Victoria - as I said he’ll be 30 next week - gives us all hope. And he kicked the ball right into the court of Malcolm Turnbull and Bill Shorten yesterday, by reminding his own Prime Minister that on September 15 the Prime Minister said, quote, “I just want to reassure Australians that as strongly as I believe in the right of same sex couples to marry, even more strongly, if you like, do I believe in religious freedom.”

On the same day the opposition leader said “I’m a supporter of marriage equality, but I’ve also been raised to be a person of faith. I can give this guarantee to the Australian people: I and the Labor Party will not support legislation which impinges upon religious freedom in this country.”

So therefore acceptance of the James Paterson bill should be plain sailing. Will it? There are jellybacks everywhere!

Senator Paterson is on the line, James Paterson good morning.

Senator James Paterson:

Thank you for having me, Alan.

Jones:

Not at all. I suppose they would say that religious freedom is a little different from all the other freedoms that you seek to guarantee?

Senator Paterson:

Well, I think it’s one of our most fundamental freedoms. I think it goes hand in hand with freedom of conscience and with freedom of speech, and you made a really good point in your opening comments, Alan, which is that there are a lot of people who voted ‘Yes’ based on the promises and the assurances they were given by our political leaders that if they did

vote “Yes” there would be negative consequences for religious freedom, and that religious freedom would be protected.

Jones:

Correct. You had a day to digest the response from your own people, how are the numbers lining up?

Senator Paterson:

I’m not actively counting numbers just yet, Alan. My first task yesterday was to put out the bill and explain it, and I’ve had some positive feedback and I’ve had some critical feedback, as I expected. But I’m pleased that a lot of Australians see that there are people who can be both in favour of same-sex marriage but also think we need to provide robust protections for everyone.

Jones:

Definitely, definitely. So the first freedom that you’re protecting is the freedom to marry, and then your bill ensures that ministers of religion and civil celebrants with a genuine belief the traditional definition of marriage, can’t be forced to solemnise a same-sex wedding.

Senator Paterson:

That’s right.

Jones:

That simple principle - you don’t compel someone to act against their conscience you’re saying.

Senator Paterson:

Indeed, and I think that principle applied there should be applied universally, because if it’s wrong to do it to a priest, isn’t it wrong to do it to anyone else?

Jones:

Good on you. Too bright for them, you are. What you’re saying is it shouldn’t end there, that religious freedom is a universal human right, but there’s no international law, you say, or legal instrument that says only ministers of religion enjoy this right and deserve to have it protected. You say that “Religious freedom extends to the congregation as well.” Good comment.

Senator Paterson:

That’s exactly right, Alan. You can’t be an individual and have the right to religious freedom but not be able to practise it. It doesn’t mean anything if you can’t practise it; if you can’t live your life according to your values.

Jones:

Good on you. It’s very simple, isn’t it? You’re saying, what you said yesterday, “Religious liberty and freedom of conscience are intimately linked.”

Senator Paterson:

Exactly, Alan. I mean I’m personally not a religious person. I don’t have religious faith, and there are others who aren’t religious who for secular reasons, entirely secular reasons, support a traditional version of marriage. Now, their own belief and their own values are no less worthy than someone that comes to the same conclusion because of religious faith, and so I think protections are necessary for them too.

Jones:

Good on you. You have said yesterday, “If it’s wrong to force a priest to participate in a same-sex wedding against his belief, it should be wrong to force a florist or a photographer.”

Senator Paterson:

And sadly, Alan, from the international experience, from time to time those people are forced to participate in same-sex weddings. And if they refuse to, they’re threatened with discrimination laws that can end with their businesses being ruined and thousands of dollars of fines.

Jones:

Absolutely, I mean this is simple stuff really. You’re talking about a limited right of conscientious objection so that no one is compelled to participate in a same-sex wedding if it inconsistent with their sincerely held beliefs.

Senator Paterson:

And that’s a very important thing to remember, Alan. It is limited. It’s only for the purposes of weddings. It doesn’t allow you to discriminate against gay couples in every walk of life. It only allows you to say “I don’t wish to participate in your wedding because I have a traditional belief in marriage.”

Jones:

Yes, I mean you cited this issue, this ridiculous issue, in relation to Archbishop Julian Porteous in Tasmania. They issued a booklet promoting traditional marriage and faced prosecution. What would happen to Archbishop Porteous under your legislation?

Senator Paterson:

He and others who want to share their view on marriage would be protected under my legislation, because freedom of speech is just so fundamental to living in a free society. And right now there is legal uncertainty about whether you can share your view of marriage without being taken to an anti-discrimination commission and potentially the courts, and that’s a horrible fear to hang over people. They should be able to at least share their view of marriage.

Jones:

Look, there’s no doubt that people are frightened of expressing what their sexual preference is in relation to this, simply because it might be held against them. I mean, you’re talking here about an anti-detriment clause to ensure that people who hold a traditional belief in marriage can’t be adversely treated but you say only by government and its agencies. Why only government and its agencies?

Senator Paterson:

Well we saw during the campaign, Alan, that for example…

Jones:

I suppose by that, James, I mean what about the private sector? I mean we’ve seen a whole raft of corporations climbing on the same-sex bandwagon; employees writing to me saying they’re frightened proclaim their commitment to same-sex marriage or to traditional marriage for fear of being victimised.

Senator Paterson:

One thing we saw during the campaign, Alan, is some venues refused to hire out their venue to the “No” campaign. We saw a whole lot of advertising agencies say they wouldn’t do advertising for the “No” campaign. And you know what? In a free society they should be free to say that they don’t want to cooperate with a campaign that they disagree with. But I think that freedom shouldn’t just be for them. It should be for everyone. So if it’s okay to say no to the “No” campaign, then surely it’s okay to say “I don’t want to participate in a gay wedding.”

Jones:

Good on you. You’re saying that a body that licenses occupations - like a lawyer or a doctor - couldn’t revoke the license of a practitioner because of the views of the lawyer or the doctor.

Senator Paterson:

That’s right, Alan. These bodies are empowered by government to regulate professions, and they should do so in a fair and impartial way. And they shouldn’t be taking away someone’s license, as has been threatened in Australia and around the world, just because of their views on marriage.

Jones:

Could a printing company refuse to print a book arguing in favour in same-sex marriage?

Senator Paterson:

Right now in Australia it’s been the case that books to be published arguing against same-sex marriage have refused to be printed. I think that should apply in return. You should be able to say “There are many other companies who will publish your book, but my company doesn’t want to publish your book because it has a tradition view of marriage.”

Jones:

And an advertising company could decline to provide services to opponents of same-sex marriage. Why not?

Senator Paterson:

Exactly.

Jones:

The owner of a venue - you’ve made this point just a couple of minutes ago. Could the owner of a venue be prosecuted because he doesn’t hold an event which promotes an activity which is antithetical to his views?

Senator Paterson:

Unless my bill is passes, Alan, that is a very great risk. Someone could be asked to hold an event - a same-sex wedding in particular - decline to do so, and be sued as a result.

Jones:

That’s it, so we’re going to have our wedding reception, same-sex wedding reception, at a particular venue. “No thank you. I don’t believe in same-sex marriage.” You’ll be prosecuted. Your legislation prevents that from happening.

Senator Paterson:

Exactly.

Jones:

And you’re protection the freedom of conscience - the freedom of belief.

Senator Paterson:

That’s it, because otherwise people are going to be forced to commit, on their own property, on their own residence, something that they may disagree with very sincerely.

Jones:

Outstanding prosecution of the case by you, I have to say. What about the protection of parents? Under your bill, do parents have right to pull their children out of classes that conflict with their values?

Senator Paterson:

Well I think they should have that right, Alan. Because just as parents have the right to pull their kids out class, teaching religion in a public school, by the same token a religious parent should have the right to take their child out of a school when that child is being taught things that are inconsistent with their values. It’s just making sure that standard is fair and evenly applied.

Jones:

There are some people today, in the Fairfax press, proffering the argument that you won’t accept the yes vote. That people like you - I don’t even understand what this means by the way, James Paterson - I’m speaking to this young fellow from Victoria, Senator James Paterson, he’s 29 years of age. That people like you, and I’’’ quote: “want to neutralise the operation of state anti-discrimination laws in order that businesses, individuals, faith groups and employers, and all these areas can legally discriminate between customers on the basis of sexuality, or even support for a particular sexuality via attendance at gay weddings.” What the hell does that mean?

Senator Paterson:

Well it’s totally over the top and it’s not right.

Jones:

Unbelievable.

Senator Paterson:

All it means is that you just have a right of…

Jones:

Well this is the campaign that’s starting against you.

Senator Paterson:

Exactly. And I’m prepared for it Alan. It’s not always popular to put forward these ideas, but standing up for individual freedom is what I put my hand up to do when I said I wanted to be a Liberal Senator.

Jones:

Good on you. But I mean you’re 29 years of age, you mix with these young people. I’ve spoken to a stack of young people who exactly agree with you - that is, in favour of the freedom to choose whom you might marry but don’t deny freedoms, basic freedoms, to other people. That’s what you’re saying.

Senator Paterson:

I think that’s a fundamental Australian value, Alan. We live and let live. You can live your life the way you want, I’ll live my life the way I want. Let’s not get the caught involved in deciding how your allowed to live your life or how I’m allowed to live mine.

Jones:

Where do you think we go from here though? Now you are a politician as well, so you’ve obviously sought to weigh up the political pros and cons here. Where do you think this will go?

Senator Paterson:

I’m hoping that my colleagues consider it very carefully, because whatever their view on marriage, surely they should agree that no one else should suffer adversely from a change in the law for same-sex marriage. So if there’s a vote - if the vote is revealed on Wednesday to be a “Yes” vote - then I still think that those people who’ve voted no - and it may be 30 to 40 per cent of our fellow Australians - deserve that protection. So I’m urging my colleagues to carefully consider my bill, and maybe they don’t think everything in my bill, maybe they like parts of my bill. Well if there are parts that they do like, I encourage them to support those parts that they like, so that the best and most robust protections can be put in place.

Jones:

I noticed the same Fairfax writer saying this morning the hard line position - this is obviously you - faces failure in the Senate. We’ll wait and see. Thank you for your time, James Paterson.

Senator Paterson:

Thank you for having me, Alan.

Jones:

Not at all.

[END]