Page 5463 - Week 13 - Wednesday, 16 November 2011

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I hope that everyone will support the motion and that this place will do its bit to put an end to the ongoing fight about this discrimination that has been here for far too long and to make our society a more equal and more respectful place.

MR RATTENBURY (Molonglo) (8.11): I want to indicate the Greens’ views on Mr Barr’s amendments. We are very happy to support amendment No 1. I think it adds some more detail to what is meant by the term “equal marriage”, and I believe that is a positive addition to the motion. The amendment also expresses the desire of this Assembly that the federal legislation amendments ensure that nothing in the Marriage Act imposes an obligation on a minister of religion to solemnise any marriage. The Greens were working on the assumption that the commonwealth would not impose any such requirement in any event, but I think it does no harm to the motion today to spell it out explicitly. Mr Barr’s observation around religious freedom was well made. For me, this whole issue is very much about not constraining anybody, not locking people into something they do not want to do, but simply offering all members of our community the freedom to choose the things they would like to do in the context of the Marriage Act.

When it comes to amendment No 2 to add new paragraph (3), the Greens are less supportive, because it asks the Assembly to call on the Liberal Party to grant a conscience vote to federal politicians on the issue of marriage equality. We do not support this part of the amendment because, firstly, at the outset we believe equal marriage is a matter of removing discrimination. As I said earlier, it is incomprehensible to say that removing discrimination is a matter of conscience. For that reason, the Greens do not support a conscience vote for this issue from any party, whether it be the ALP, the Liberals or the Nationals.

The second reason we do not support this amendment is because it has the potential to confuse the motion. What we are seeking to propose in this motion is an expression from the Assembly that we support equal marriage and that we want federal legislation to make it happen. That is the wording of our motion and what we want to achieve. That is the primary focus—it is about us on behalf of our community and our constituents giving an indication to the federal parliament as to what we want.

Mr Seselja talked a little bit about the ACT and what we can and should be involved in. This, for me, is very much relevant to the ACT Assembly because, for better or for worse, we do not have the power to deal with this issue. I accept that. But it is quite appropriate for us to then petition the federal parliament on behalf of our constituents, and there are many of our constituents who want action on this level.

The third reason I have a concern with this amendment is that how individual federal political parties internally decide how they will vote is a matter that I do not believe the Assembly has jurisdiction over. As I just said, it is for us to put a view to federal parliament on the issue, but it is outside our remit to extend into the party rooms and tell parties what method they should use to make a decision. That is certainly beyond the scope of what I intended in putting this motion forward. I will be asking the Assembly to split the vote and that we take each of Mr Barr’s amendments separately so that we are able to delineate our views.

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