The Australian Greens will also be opposing this motion, and we do that because the arguments around a plebiscite are crystal clear. It’s expensive—over $100 million that could go towards the building of a new school or having new medicine listed on the PBS or saving the Great Barrier Reef; there are so many better ways to spend $100 million. We oppose it because it’s unnecessary. We’re paid good money in this joint. We’ve got a job to do. We’re legislators. We should just get on and do it. I know this government likes outsourcing. It’s taking it to a whole new level. This is a job for the parliament to do.
We oppose this motion because, far from being a unifying moment, it will, totally unnecessarily, unleash hatred and bigotry within our community and expose people to the sort of debate that they should never be exposed to. We do it because, ultimately, the outcome of this plebiscite is meaningless. We’ve got members of the government who say, ‘If the plebiscite is supportive, we won’t change our view,’ and we’ve got other members who say, ‘If the plebiscite says that Australians don’t want marriage equality‘—something I find hard to believe—’we’ll continue to vote in favour of marriage equality.’ What’s the point?
Most importantly, we will not support this plebiscite because it violates a fundamental principle in any liberal democracy, and that is you never put a question of discrimination of human rights to an opinion poll. That is the antithesis of the way in which any modern liberal democracy deals with questions of basic human rights. In fact, we recognise that, when it comes to the protection of minorities, it is the role of us in this parliament to show some leadership rather than putting those questions to a glorified opinion poll.
So we don’t support a plebiscite. We never have. Now we are in this ridiculous situation that, should the plebiscite as originally conceived by the government not proceed, we’re going to see a postal plebiscite. My goodness! You can’t write this stuff. We’ve entered into a parallel universe here. What next? Carrier pigeons being inflicted upon the community? This is Bizarro World stuff.
Why is it happening? Let us name it. It’s a government that is divided. It’s in turmoil. It’s making decisions in its own self-interest rather than in the interests of the Australian community. That is what’s happening right now. I have to say it is very sad to see a Prime Minister so diminished, so contorted, so confused and so weak that he has given in—a total, complete capitulation—to the hard Right within the Liberal Party. The sad reality is that, if this Prime Minister cannot lead his party, he cannot lead the nation.
We should come out of this chamber with a clear view that our job is to stand up for people right across the community, to end discrimination wherever it exists and to make sure that, where two people love each other, we respect and acknowledge that love. We need to use the most precious thing that we are given when we are elected to the Australian parliament—our vote—to support those values. That is what the Australian Greens will do every time we are confronted with a bill on marriage equality. Let us get this thing done and let us show those many millions of Australians who want us to do it that we stand with them rather than making decisions that are in our own narrow self-interest.
Parliment of Australia Chamber Senate on 9/08/2017 Item BUSINESS – Consideration of Legislation Speaker :Di Natale, Sen Richard Transcript use for Reporting News