Sen Hinch: The Marriage Law Survey (Additional Safeguards) Bill 2017 will pass, with the majority of the government and Labor, but I think some points have to be made. I’m uncomfortable sometimes standing on the same side as Senator Bernardi on this issue. Senator Di Natale is right when he said that, if the government had let us do our job, this protection during the argument would not be necessary. Back in 2004, John Howard brought in amendments to the Marriage Act in which he said that marriage is only between a man and a woman, and he brought in amendments to block any legal overseas marriage between people of the same sex being recognised in Australia or tested in the courts here in Australia. He said it was not a job for the courts and it was not for the people to make that decision; it was for the politicians who had been elected and the government of the day. The Labor opposition voted in favour of that change. We should do the same thing. I proudly voted against the plebiscite last year. It was going to cost $150 million, $250 million, $400 million, or whatever, to have the plebiscite. I’m also not in favour of what started as a postal plebiscite and then a postal ballot, and now it’s a postal survey costing $122 million. Senator Di Natale is also right in that, if we were allowed to do our job, we could have marriage equality here in Australia by next weekend.
I know that 18C—and I campaigned for change to 18C, which the government blocked—doesn’t cover it all. It doesn’t cover religion and it doesn’t cover sexual persuasion, but it does cover offensive behaviour because of race, colour or national or ethnic origin. We also have laws of defamation, which could be used if people are offensive, and there are other laws in the various states and territories which could be used if people threaten to cause physical injury to somebody. There are also laws to cover a threat to kill. And there is the huge issue of freedom of speech. I loathe some of the stuff that has come out already on this and will be appalled by the stuff that comes up in the weeks ahead. Just the other day, on Jon Faine’s program on the ABC, some cretin said that Hitler was right when he exterminated homosexuals, and that went to air here in Australia in 2017. That is appalling and shocking stuff.
What worries me is that there is a fine. You’re liable to a fine of $12,000 if the Attorney-General goes ahead and finds that what you’ve done breaches the new law. I can see the radicals on the far-right wing of the ‘no’ vote saying, ‘See what they’re doing! They’re shutting down our argument. They’re shutting down our freedom of speech. They’re shutting down our right to have an opinion. If you say something that they don’t like, they’ll fine you $12,000. It’s all a conspiracy.’ That’s where it’ll come from. We saw it already with what John Howard and Tony Abbott did, very effectively, during the republic referendum debate. They dragged in every red herring they could—’Don’t have the politicians’ republic;’ don’t have this, don’t have that—adding all the little extra bits everywhere they could because they knew in their hearts that a lot of Australians—probably told by their mum and dad—would say, ‘When in doubt, say no.’ They will use that argument. They will try to use it very effectively: ‘When in doubt, say no.’
I’m a strong supporter of the ‘yes’ vote. I only wore this scarf today because I’m cold. I’m a strong supporter of the ‘yes’ vote and I hope it gets through by a massive number. But it’s still only a survey and you still have politicians in this House who say that, no matter what the vote is, they’ll ignore it; they’ll vote against it. Senator Di Natale also said, ‘This is going to happen; eventually, it will happen.’ I mentioned the republic. It reminded me that Gough Whitlam once told me this about a republic: ‘A republic is evolutionary, not revolutionary.’ That’s what marriage equality is: evolutionary—but it’s just taking too bloody long. Gough Whitlam was right about one thing. He said, ‘A republic won’t happen in my lifetime, but it’ll happen in my son’s lifetime.’ His son, Tony, is getting on in years himself now, so I don’t know whether a republic will happen in his son’s lifetime.
As I said, one of the worries with laws like this, where you suppress freedom of speech, and that’s how it will be interpreted, is that you end up with what I call the ‘David Irving situation’. Holocaust denier David Irving was banned from coming to Australia years ago and it made a martyr out of him. I interviewed him by satellite and tore him to shreds. But you don’t want to make martyrs out of these people. I don’t want to make a martyr out of Lyle Shelton from the ACL and people like that. They’ll come after us. The yes voter will be attacked.
To be fair, some of the stuff coming out of the ‘yes’ side is putrid. I agree with Senator Bernardi when he talked about one of the ‘yes’ supporters talking about hate-rape—and in more offensive terms than that. It was a person who appears in the media a lot. That sort of argument is just madness. And, to be fair to them, I know that the people who are driving the marriage equality campaign hate that idea of extremism on either side. The idea of Dr Lai—that petition only lasted for a day, thank goodness—trying to have her credentials re-examined, if not revoked, is bad. That plays into the hands of the extremists on the ‘no’ side. I know that some of the details that came out were wrong about that Queensland rally, but it was played by the ‘no’ voters as saying, ‘We couldn’t even have our meeting et cetera, because all the SSM people blocked us from having it.’ That plays into their hands, too.
I understand why the government wants to have this legislation as some form of protection. I don’t think it will be as effective as they hope it will be. But I worry about the fact that freedom of speech is a major issue in our lives and freedom of speech is paramount to a good democracy. I just fear that the people on the ‘no’ side will use this and exploit it and it will hurt the cause that should have come in years and years ago.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT ( Senator Sterle ): Thank you, Senator Hinch. But, on the scarf, I will let you know that today is the warmest day we’ve had in Canberra for six
Chamber Senate on 13/09/2017 Item BILLS – Marriage Law Survey (Additional Safeguards) Bill 2017 – Second Reading Speaker: Hinch, Sen Derryn Parliment Transcript used for reporting News