Senator CANAVAN (Queensland—Minister for Resources and Northern Australia) (12:40): I want to put on record my warm congratulations for those who are joyously celebrating today a change that they have long campaigned for. I echo the remarks of the Leader of the Government in the Senate, who has indicated the success of this process to deliver this change.
I said in my contribution to the second reading debate that I hoped I would be able to vote for a bill that amended the Marriage Act in favour of same-sex marriage. I always said I would recognise and respect the wishes of the Queensland people but I would not vote for a bill that compromised human rights in my view. I, unfortunately, cannot support this unamended bill because I do not think we have made these changes in a way which advances rights fully through this process. In particular, I think the failure to fully protect celebrants who may have a conscientious or non-religious objection to solemnising a same-sex marriage is a missed opportunity for our parliament to unify here.
I want to thank some of my colleagues who have put forward these viewpoints respectfully during this debate. Those five million Australians who did vote against a change to the Marriage Act have had a voice in this parliament, but, unfortunately, I do not think they have been listened to. I think it’s unfortunate that we have had a situation where we have not had the ability for all senators to vote with their conscience in this place. I said during the campaign that I was sceptical. I was sceptical that we could trust the political process to get all of these protections right and I, unfortunately, believe that my fears have been proven true. It is clear that a political fix was in before we debated these amendments and issues on this floor. A political fix was in between those in the Labor Party who voted as a bloc, despite some, I know, having different conscientious views on these issues, some in the Liberal and National parties and the Greens. It’s unfortunate that we have not been able to proceed in a debate that has allowed every senator to vote with their conscience. I truly believe that, if that had been the process, we might have made some small adjustments to this bill which would have allowed many more of us in this chamber to vote for this change and to do so in a way which would have truly unified our nation in a way that respected all Australians and all views rather than take a winner-takes-all approach, which has been what has happened here in the last 24 hours.
I do, again, congratulate those who will see this change occur. It is unfortunate I cannot join them in support of this bill. I thank the Senate.
Chamber Senate on 29/11/2017 Item BILLS – Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Bill 2017 – Third Reading Speaker: Canavan, Sen Matthew