Amendment to the Marriage Bill

Amendment to the Marriage Bill

 On 7 December 2017 the Federal Parliament voted to change the Marriage Act. I support traditional marriage, so I abstained from the final vote out of respect for the will of Canning. This has been my clear public position over the past 18 months.

As a Liberal, I stand for freedom of conscience, as well as religious and parental rights. During parliamentary debate, I moved an amendment to protect Australians who support traditional marriage based on their religious or conscientious views. This was to shield them from intimidation and legal activism.

I also fought for the right of parents to withdraw their children from classes that teach sexuality and gender fluidity, in the same way that parents can withdraw their children from religious classes now.

My amendment was voted down by Labor. They opposed the right of parents to withdraw their children from radical programs like Safe Schools. Labor also refused to allow me to table letters from Christian and Independent schools organisations representing local schools like Byford John Calvin and Serpentine Jarrahdale Grammar. They silenced teachers concerned about religious freedom.

I acknowledge the heartfelt joy of many people who celebrated same-sex marriage. The task now is to balance the competing rights of all Australians.

Below is a link to the amendment I moved, and speech I gave in its defence. 

 

The Hastie Amendment- Protecting Freedom of Speech, Conscience and Belief

 

 

Andrew's speech at the opening of debate 

These are important amendments because they seek to safeguard sincere Australians and entities that, for either conscientious or religion reasons, hold to a relevant marriage belief and directly associated beliefs on family structure, sexual relations and parenting. The amendments impose limitations on the expression of those marriage beliefs in that they must not constitute hate speech. They must not be harassing or threatening on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, intersex status or marital or relationshipstatus. They do not give licence to sexual discrimination. They do not permit a person or entity to discriminate against other Australians, as prohibited under the Sex Discrimination Act 1984.

These amendments, rather, are a shield for people and organisations that hold to a traditional view of marriage. They are not a sword to be wielded in the service of bigotry. I make that very clear; they are a shield, not a sword. These protections are very narrow and tightly focused around marriage. The protections only operate around the question of marriage and directly associated beliefs as per the Marriage Act. They do not open the door, as some members of this House have suggested, to broader religious freedoms which are contrary to Australian values. This will not open the door to sharia law. I note the member for Isaacs is sitting opposite. We worked together closely on the committee for intelligence and security. He of all people knows that I'm not the sort of person who would seek to alloy Australian law with sharia law. This amendment is tightly focused on the question of marriage and safeguarding within limits the freedom of Australians and religious organisations who express a conviction in traditional marriage. It's very important that we safeguard those people and organisations now—not in the future, but today.

The member for Deakin's amendment to include a unifying definition of marriage that recognises the views of Australians who voted in the postal survey has just been voted down. We've effectively extinguished from the Marriage Act the view of marriage held by 4.9 million Australians. Now we must seek to protect their freedom to hold that view. When this bill passes, which it will, the practical effect of the legislation is that the rights of same-sex couples to marry will interact with the rights of those who hold a traditional view of marriage. We need to reconcile those rights in a way that protects all Australians without detriment to anyone acting in good conscience or from religious conviction with respect to marriage.

These amendments introduce part 5AA, which draws its constitutional basis from the external affairs powers under section 51 of the Constitution and the protection of religious and conscientious belief in international human rights law. It protects Australians in the following ways. First, it protects the freedom of Australians to hold or express a belief in traditional marriage without exposure to vexatious litigation under state or territory antivilification law. These protections will prevail against such laws with the Commonwealth providing a universal standard of protection for all Australians with respect to marriage. They will prevent instances like that we saw in Tasmania, where Archbishop Julian Porteous was hauled before the Anti-discrimination Tribunal. They would also protect people like the young Canberra woman who was fired in September for posting on her Facebook page, 'It's okay to say no.'

Second, the amendments shield people and organisations such as churches, schools and faith based charities from detrimental treatment by government or delegated public authorities for expressing or holding traditional marriage beliefs. They will be able to hold their views without risk of dismissal, defunding, withdrawal of accreditation or any like detrimental action. Third, they protect people or organisations from having to promote or support views contrary to their own beliefs on marriage. They will protect people from coercion against conscience. Finally, and very importantly, they allow parents who hold to a traditional marriage and an associated view to withdraw their children from classes that teach material not consistent with their relevant beliefs. This protection mirrors the law that allows parent to withdraw their children from religious education. It is not novel; it reflects existing statute and case law here in Australia and New Zealand.

I want to come back to where I started. This amendment protects freedom of conscience and freedom of speech but within limitations. It does not licence hate speech or any speech that threatens or harasses those people of sexual orientation or views contrary to traditional marriage. It also provides a shield to organisations and individuals that is only enlivened when they're under attack. It's a good amendment, and I implore my colleagues to back it.

 

 Andrew's Concluding Remarks

I'm going to sum up now and I don't want to delay this any longer. I want to restate the purpose of the amendments. They seek to reconcile all Australians who hold a differing view on marriage. We are balancing the right of same-sex couples to marry with those who hold traditional views of marriage, either through conscientious belief or religious conviction. Those rights will begin to interact as soon as the legislation before us enters into law. I think clear boundaries are important. My good colleague the member for North Sydney mentioned that there are no protections for same-sex couples in the marriage bill—the Smith bill. That's true, but that's because the Australian people have voted to legalise same-sex marriage—that is the prevailing view, by 60 per cent. It was a decisive victory and I acknowledge that publicly.

The task, especially in liberal democracies, is always to protect the minority view and uphold the dignity and worth of all Australians. I gather by the thundering silence after my speech and the rapturous applause that the member for Melbourne received that we do have many LGBTIQ Australians in the gallery today. I welcome you here.

Mr Tim Wilson: (interjecting) And in the House.

Mr Andrew Hastie: It's a big day for you—and in House, as the member for Goldstein just said. I acknowledge that many of you have suffered discrimination over the years—bullying and all sorts of treatment. I know Rodney Croome, Tom Snow and others have fought hard to balance the playing field, and that will be realised today with the passage of this bill, which will surely happen. I want to say that, yes, 38 per cent of Australians voted to retain traditional marriage, but that doesn't mean that their rights should not be protected. It's in that spirit that these amendments are put.

My last point: I have a series of letters which I seek to table. One is from the archbishop of Sydney, Glenn Davies. One is from 38 faith leaders writing to the Prime Minister and the opposition leader. One is from the Presbyterian Church of Australia expressing concern about their schools in the electorates of Wentworth, Reid, New England, Reid, Calare, Cowper, Page, Hunter, Wannon, Kooyong, Chisholm, Aston, La Trobe and Groom. I have a statement from the Association of Heads of Independent Schools of Australia, a letter from Christian Schools Australia, a letter from the Australian Association of Christian Schools and a letter from the Free Reformed School Association in WA, which has schools in Burt, Brand, Canning and Forrest. All of them are concerned about the ability of those schools to teach in accordance with their religious convictions insofar as marriage is concerned. I seek leave to table those letters.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Is leave granted?

Mr Andrew GilesNo.

Mr Tony Burke: No.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Leave is not granted.

Mr Christopher PyneI was going to say that leave is granted, because, as the Manager of Opposition Business pointed out before, in a conscience vote, he doesn't speak for the entire opposition and I don't speak for the entire government. Therefore, every member of the House is king—or queen, if you like—in questions of whether leave should be granted. In the absence of anybody else granting leave, I was going to say that leave is granted because the letters—unless they're offensive letters, and I don't think the archbishop of Sydney would write an offensive letter—should be able to be tabled.

Mr BurkeI want to make clear—I wasn't going to speak—I'd made the statement earlier that I wasn't able to make a decision on behalf of the whole of the opposition in terms of leave on these issues. I certainly didn't object, but I understand someone did.

Mr Andrew Hastie: Deputy Speaker, I assume that you're passively allowing leave, and therefore I table them.

Honourable members interjecting

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Leave is not granted.

The SPEAKER: The question is that the amendments moved by the member for Canning be agreed to.

 

The Amendment was defeated- Ayes 55, Noes 87.

Ayes Noes
Abbot, A Albanese, A
Andrews, KJ Aly, A
Andrews, KL Bandt, A
Broad A Banks, J
Broadbent, R Bird, S
Buchholz, S Bowen, C
Christensen, G Brodtmann, G
Ciobo, S Burke, A
Coleman, D Burney, L
Coulton, M Butler, M
Crewther, C Butler, T
Drum, D Byrne, A
Dutton, P Chalmbers, J
Flint, N Champion, N
Fridenberg, J Chester, D
Gillespie, D Chesters, L
Goodenough, I Clare, J
Hartsuyker, L Claydon, S
Hastie, A Collins, J
Hawke, A Conroy, P
Howarth, L Danby, M
Hunt, G Dick, M
Irons, S Dreyfus, M
Joyce, B Elliot, M
Katter, R Ellis, K
Keenan, M Entsch, W
Kelly, C Evans, T
Laming, A Falinski, J
Landry, M Feeney, D
Leeser, J Fitzgibbon, J
little proud, D Fletcher, P
McCormack, M Freelander, M
McVeigh, J Gee, A
Morrison, S Georganas, S
Morton, B Giles, A
O'Brien, T Gosling, L
O'Dowd, K Hammond, T
Pasin, A Hart, R
Porter, C Hayes, C
Price, M Henderson, S
Ramsey, R Hill, J
Robert, S Hogan, K
Sudmalis, A Husar, E
Sukkar, M Husic, E
Taylor, A Jones, S
Tehan, D Keay, J
Tudge, A Kelly, M
Van Manen, A Keogh, M
Vasta, R Khalil, P
Wallace, A King, C
Wicks, L King, M
Wilson, R Lamb, S
Wilson, T Laundy, C
Wood, J Leigh, A
Wyatt, K Ley, S
  Macklin, J
  Marles, R
  McBride, E
  McGowan, C
  Mitchell, B
  Mitchell, R
  Neumann, S
  O'Connor, B
  O'Dwyer, K
  O'Neil, C
  O'Toole, C
  Owens, J
  Perret, G
  Plibersek, T
  Prentice, J
  Pyne, C
  Rishworth, A
  Rowland, M
  Ryan, J
  Sharkie, R
  Shorten, W
  Snowdon, W
  Stanley, A
  Swanson, M
  Templeman, S
  Thistlethwaite, M
  Vamvakinou, M
  Watts, T
  Wilkie, A
  Wilson, J
  Zappia, A
  Zimmerman, T