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Tuesday, 28 November 2017
Page: 8930

Senator KETTER (Queensland) (10:45): I commence my brief contribution on the Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Bill 2017 by noting in passing that on this highly contentious issue, as has been stated many times, it is possible for well-meaning people of goodwill to disagree and to be found on both sides of the debate. Next, I wish to note that I did not support the government's approach of conducting a postal survey. I always believed that parliament was capable and competent to deal with the issue. My view is that parliamentarians should have a free or conscience vote on any proposed change to the marriage law. Nevertheless, we now know that a majority of Australians support the proposed change to the definition of marriage. I congratulate Australians for marriage equality, on the success of their long-running campaign, and Senator Wong and Senator Pratt for their advocacy. It is apparent that I now find myself in the minority on this issue of same-sex marriage.

In my home state of Queensland, roughly 60 per cent of those who participated in the postal survey support a change to the law. I am one of the 40 per cent. I cannot support a change to the definition of marriage. My reasons are very personal and are informed by my faith. They go to the fact that the family is the fundamental group unit in society and to the uniqueness of the relationship between men and women. However, the Australian people have spoken and I do not intend to take up the time of this chamber reprosecuting the relative merits of the arguments. As I have said, mine is a minority view and I respect the views of the majority. Having said that, let us not forget that this parliament exists to represent the views of all Australians. But just as I respect the right of those MPs who represent electorates which voted no to exercise a contrary vote in accordance with their conscience, I trust that my right to exercise a conscience vote will also be respected.

There will be people listening to my contribution this morning who will be disappointed that I cannot agree with same-sex marriage. Some may misconstrue, from what I've said, that I am dismissive of the views and aspirations of LGBTIQ people. My only response to that is, as those who know me would attest, I have always taken people as I find them. Over my long career as a union official and in my current role, I have always tried to treat people, regardless of their background, with due respect and consideration. Somewhat paradoxically, although I have reservations about the implications of the proposed change to the marriage law, at the same time, I welcome the fact that the result of the postal survey brought such joy and affirmation to those who have felt marginalised.

As we go further into the debate around this bill, it will be important for respect and consideration to continue on all sides if we are to achieve an outcome consistent with the views of the majority of Australians. In his very moving speech introducing this private member's bill, Senator Smith acknowledged the very genuine concerns of some Christians and religious people around Australia that have been expressed during the postal survey and he indicated that he wanted to give voice to them. He went on to state:

This vote is not about—

And must not be about—

…replacing one persecuted minority with another or giving one hope to one group while inflicting fear on another group; it must be about advancing the hopes and dreams of all citizens, no matter their sexuality, ethnicity or religion.

This bill is about balancing the changes of the Marriage Act with religious freedom.

I congratulate Senator Smith on the gracious manner in which he commenced the debate on this bill. I trust that the remainder of the debate will be conducted in a manner that brings credit to this chamber and delivers a fair and just outcome.