Posted on Thursday, 7 December, 2017
RAMSEY (Grey—Government Whip) (15:15): I rise to speak in support of these
amendments. Of the five amendments put forward, this one is the most palatable
to all. I actually find it quite difficult to believe that this chamber would
not overwhelmingly adopt these amendments, which have no reflection at all upon
the Marriage Act but ensure the institutions and bodies which we rely on to
create the Australia in which we live. It is all very well for others to say
that they are adequately covered at the moment, but there was a time when we
believed that school chaplaincy was well covered by the protections within
Australian legislation and the Constitution. One person took the funding
mechanism to the High Court and it was overturned. It fundamentally changed the
way in which the federal government was able to fund many organisations within
Australia. I don't think we should take the risk with this.
I concur with the member
for Menzies' comments when he said, 'I find it hard to believe that there is
no-one that normally sits on the other side of this chamber that can support
these very mild and well-constructed amendments.' I would've been able to name
at least four and maybe half a dozen who I know have had serious reservations
about the Marriage Act within itself. I would have thought that, had they been
given a free vote, they would have come across the chamber at least on this
occasion and backed these particular amendments.
I have been most
particularly concerned about this debate on the proposal of marriage equality
for a long time. I have had much representation to my office and myself,
particularly from independent and religious schools. I find it difficult to
believe that there will not be a challenge to the way in which they are funded.
If they are not prepared to teach the tenet that same-sex marriage—marriage
between two individuals, if you like, as opposed to between a man and a
woman—is an equal and viable opportunity for their students, if it is not
taught on exactly the same basis, then I think their funding will be attacked.
Given that those tenets go
exactly to many of the core reasons for their existence—their dedication to
their religion—this is a gross infringement on those rights. It runs the risk
of deconstructing the fabric of the society in which we live. I may be
completely wrong about it, but why would we take the risk? I predict that if we
do not put these amendments into this act today we will be revisiting this
space within a medium length of time. I think within 12 months there will be a
challenge not, I must say, from the LGBTQ support network—those who are
desiring change to the Marriage Act—but from a subversive element elsewhere in
our community. They will use that legislation to undermine those institutions.
I don't think we should take the risk. Absolutely I think we should not take
the risk. Of all the amendments, this is the one that I think is most important
and offers the greatest benefit to Australia. Without it, we run the risk of
the most damage.
I respectfully ask all
those who have genuine concerns within their hearts about what the change in
the Marriage Act might do to the Commonwealth's relationship to charities, to
schools and to the aged-care sector—and to other governments as well—to really
examine within their hearts whether they think they're doing the right thing if
they knock back these amendments.