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Wednesday, 29 November 2017
Page: 9145

Senator HANSON (Queensland) (09:32): by leave—I, and also on behalf of Senator Burston and Senator Georgiou, move the One Nation amendments on sheet 8332:

(1) Clause 2, page 2 (table item 4), omit the table item.

(2) Schedule 1, item 1, page 4 (line 8), omit "civil", substitute "authorised".

(3) Schedule 1, item 2, page 4 (line 27), omit "(iv) a religious marriage celebrant; or".

(6) Schedule 1, item 21, page 11 (lines 13 and 14), omit the heading to section 47A, substitute:

   47A Authorised celebrants (other than State and Territory officers) may refuse to solemnise marriages

(7) Schedule 1, item 21, page 11 (line 15), omit "A religious marriage celebrant", substitute "An authorised celebrant (other than a State or Territory officer)".

(8) Schedule 1, item 21, page 11 (line 19), omit "a religious", substitute "an authorised".

(9) Schedule 1, item 63, page 17 (lines 11 to 19), omit subsection 40(2AA), substitute:

(2AA) An authorised celebrant (as defined in subsection 5(1) of the Marriage Act 1961) may refuse to solemnise marriage despite anything in Division 1 or 2, as applying by reference to section 5A, 5B, 5C or 6, if the circumstances mentioned in subsection 47A(1) of the Marriage Act 1961 apply.

We also oppose schedule 1 in the following terms:

(4) Schedule 1, item 5, page 5 (lines 13 to 17), to be opposed.

(5) Schedule 1, items 8 to 17, page 5 (line 22) to page 10 (line 6), to be opposed.

(10) Schedule 1, item 64, page 18 (lines 5 to 13), to be opposed.

(11) Schedule 1, Part 4, page 19 (lines 1 to 13), to be opposed.

These are very simple amendments. The Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Bill 2017 seeks to create two new categories of marriage celebrant. One is called a civil marriage celebrant. The other is called a religious marriage celebrant. The purpose of the two categories of marriage celebrant is to allow couples to make informed decisions about whether to engage the services of a celebrant, in the knowledge that a religious marriage celebrant may refuse to solemnise their marriage for religious reasons. This distinction between civil and religious marriage celebrant creates unnecessary division in the Marriage Act, which refers only to authorised celebrants. Why create two new divisive definitions to replace one uncomplicated and uncontroversial definition?

The difference in definition between religious marriage celebrants and civil marriage celebrants is unnecessary. If a marriage celebrant wants to refuse to solemnise a marriage, they should be entitled to do so without recrimination. If a marriage celebrant wants to refuse to provide their services, they should not be required to give their reasons. One Nation's amendments would remove the distinction between religious marriage celebrants and civil marriage celebrants and revert to the single-definition term 'authorised celebrant', which has stood the test of time in the Marriage Act. There is no justification for requiring someone to give their reasons for refusing to solemnise a marriage, whether those reasons are religious, ethical or conscientious objections, or that the marriage celebrant has had a better offer or is simply having a bad day.

I have listened to the debate in this chamber from both sides—well, no; virtually it's only from one side, because the other side, mainly Labor, have not even spent time in the chamber. They have rarely risen to their feet to debate this. They are not listening to those nearly five million people that voted no in the survey. Another 21 per cent didn't cast a vote at all, for whatever reason, and I've heard that some people never even got their vote. There is also an argument about whether it was done lawfully, meaning that votes were thrown out in the trash and people were coming along and picking them up. Votes were sent to places where others were collecting them out of their mailboxes. So was the vote really true and a clear reflection of what a lot of Australians wanted?

We see here this argument about the religious and the non-religious. I notice in the morning every day when we stand up to say the Lord's Prayer in this place that the majority of those on the opposite side don't even say the Lord's Prayer, so their regard for religion is non-existent. It is of great concern to me that this legislation is being pushed through the chamber, and I don't believe there's a choice in this chamber at all.

The CHAIR: Senator Hanson, please resume your seat. Senator Pratt?

Senator Pratt: My point of order is that it is out of order for the senator to refer to another senator's religion.

The CHAIR: That is correct, although I don't believe Senator Hanson referred to particular senators but to the party as a whole. But I will remind senators to be respectful in the debate. Senator Abetz?

Senator Abetz: Can you clarify for the benefit of the chamber your ruling that you are not allowed to refer to another senator's religion?

The CHAIR: Thank you, Senator Abetz. I'm not making a ruling; I'm referring to what has happened previously, where it is disrespectful to reflect on the religion of a senator in this place. Senator Hanson, please resume.

Senator HANSON: Let me make it quite clear: I did not refer to any particular senator's religion. I referred to the fact that those on the opposite side, and most of those on the Labor side, do not say the Lord's Prayer. We are discussing in this bill—

Senator Pratt: A point of order, Chair: Senator Hanson is again reflecting on the religious practice of senators on this side of the chamber.

The CHAIR: Senator Hanson, I did make a statement that you are going close to reflecting. Whilst you haven't named a particular senator, you have named a particular party, so, in a sense, you are reflecting on all senators. I've made the statement. It's your role as a senator to accept the statement that I've made, otherwise it could be that you are dissenting. The other practice is not to repeat what has been ruled on, so I'd ask you now to be mindful of the comments that I've made.

Senator Hinch: On a point of order: I support Senator Pratt on this. For anybody to stand in this chamber and say you do not—

The CHAIR: Senator Hinch, that's not a point of order. I've ruled on that. I'd ask you to resume your seat, please. Senator Hanson, please continue.

Senator HANSON: The bill does reflect on religious grounds, and we are actually now debating the rights of a religious celebrant or a non-religious celebrant. I also reflect that, as I said, nearly five million people have voted no. We are making decisions for the future of this country. Actually not everyone—and it's quite reflective—is agreeable with same-sex marriage. I see there is a lot of intolerance that is happening in this chamber. The whole fact is those people who are marriage celebrants are not taken into consideration for whatever reason, whether it be for religious or non-religious reasons. If they don't wish to marry a couple, they are going to be left wide open, because they may be sued or open to litigation. Surely there are going to be enough people out there who wish to marry couples of the same sex. Why is it not the case that you can't be a bit tolerant on this and accept those wishes of the people? I'm sure that there are a lot of people in your electorates who would agree with what I am saying.

We have allowed political correctness and minorities to start taking our country, and the people have not got the right to even have a view or an opinion. Have we got to a stage in this country where the thought police are actually controlling our views? We are not saying, 'Okay, you went to the plebiscite, and you asked the question: do you agree with same-sex marriage?' The public have voted, those who did vote, and 61 per cent said yes. Now, you are actually saying that you can't have an opinion if you are a marriage celebrant and that you must marry everyone; you must marry the same sex. What are you so worried about? Why are you so concerned about this? Why don't you give those people those rights? Is it because you want to control people and put them down? These people have a right to say no. They have a right to an opinion. Has it come to us losing our democracy in this country? That is what is happening. And it will flow on to other areas. I'm talking about the education system and everything. It's happening here. We don't have any control any longer.

You make it in regard to religion too. I refer you to section 116 of the Constitution:

The Commonwealth shall not make any law for establishing any religion, or for imposing any religious observance, or for prohibiting the free exercise of any religion—

basically its saying that you can't control anyone over their religious beliefs—

and no religious test shall be required as a qualification for any office …

Under that category, you are saying that people can only be religious to deny that right to marry a couple. But under our Constitution, it says there cannot be any religious test. Regardless of whether anyone wants to put themselves down and say, 'I am of a religion', under our Constitution they can't do that, because you are forcing a religious test on them. That is under our Constitution, so you want to think clearly about this. You can't force anyone to have a religious test. So if a marriage celebrant says they are not of a certain religion, they have the right then to deny marrying a same-sex couple.

I go back to it again: it is clear the way it is under the act now that it is an authorised celebrant. Leave it at that. Let the people make their own choices and you will get the support of the people. If you go out and impose it on people, you are going to open it up to litigation. There are going to be concerns for those people, even for the rights and benefits of same-sex married people. You are going to have people in this country who will actually advertise they are quite happy to marry same-sex couples. But for the ones who don't want to marry them, give them the right to deny it. I'm sure that if a couple wants to get married and they know that a celebrant really doesn't want to marry them, they wouldn’t want to have them anyway. Give them that right from both sides to have that choice. Thank you.