Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2017 Week 11 Hansard (Thursday, 21 September 2017) . . Page.. 4136 ..
The ACT government’s use of taxpayers’ money to promote one side of the marriage debate to the exclusion of the other is prejudicial to some of the people of the ACT. It is particularly prejudicial to those who hold a view that is different from the government but who are taxpayers nonetheless and who see their money being spent in a way that they do not wish it to be spent. And that is not just people who hold a different view. I have been approached by many people who have told me that they are voting yes but they still object to the ACT government spending money on this.
The government should be staying out of this policy debate. It is perfectly fine for MLAs to campaign personally for one side of the debate or the other. Their role as an MLA will serve to raise the profile of whichever side they choose to support. I understand that Ms Berry has tweeted about how nice it was to go doorknocking. I say good on her and Ms Le Couteur and anyone else who wants to doorknock for the yes case—the same for those who will be doorknocking and supporting the no case.
I fully respect the right of individuals to hold and express views in the marriage debate but I expect those individuals, regardless of their views, to express them respectfully and calmly. For the government to support one side of the debate and use taxpayers’ money for the purpose is not respectful to the people of the ACT and their diversity. This government is using taxpayers’ money to support one side of the marriage debate. It is mounting the campaign in the face of a diverse community. This government, through a minister, has no right to expect a school, a non-government school or otherwise, not to promote the other side of the debate or to remind that school about the diversity of its community. To do so is hypocrisy at its worst.
MS STEPHEN-SMITH (Kurrajong—Minister for Community Services and Social Inclusion, Minister for Disability, Children and Youth, Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs, Minister for Multicultural Affairs and Minister for Workplace Safety and Industrial Relations) (4.50): I am trying very hard to resist the temptation to rise to the bait of Mrs Dunne’s speech, but I would remind her that this Assembly has previously passed legislation to legalise same-sex marriage. The government’s position is clear, and we believe that we are reflecting the position of the Canberra community in being inclusive and supporting those people in our community who are at serious risk of vilification and want to have their own right to express themselves and to live their lives freely.
But, Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak on the importance of Menslink, a local community organisation that is focused on supporting young men in our community who are doing it tough. Menslink was one of the first organisations I met with as a minister, and I have attended several of their events over the past year. That includes the Menslink business breakfast on Tuesday, which I attended along with a number of colleagues in this place. It was wonderful to have the opportunity to show my support for Menslink and to see the huge amount of support they enjoy from the broader Canberra community.