SPEECH: Introducing a Bill for Marriage Equality






MONDAY, 2 MAY 2016


Yesterday in Sydney, I joined my colleague, the Member for Grayndler, and a state colleague Jo Haylen, the member for Summer Hill, and many others, families, individuals at a picnic hosted by Rainbow Families –

…a wonderful organisation that supports and empowers LGBTI families.

At that picnic we met many wonderful parents.

Some with tiny babies, young children and some with children much older.

And we talked about the usual struggles and joys of being a mum or a dad – the young baby that won’t sleep through the night, the toddler taking their first steps, the teenager who gives you grief, or the pride of the son or daughter graduating from university.

The way people at that picnic put it yesterday is that “Love Makes a Family.”

And as we watched the kids running around the park, kicking the ball with their two mums, or their two dads – love is, indeed, all that you saw.

I am deeply, deeply concerned about what the debate leading up to a plebiscite on marriage equality would mean for these beautiful children and their families.

For kids who’ve got two mums or two dads, to hear for months, or possibly even years, that there is something not right about their families, I just think is unforgiveable and unacceptable.

We don’t need a plebiscite. The Parliament can, and should, get marriage equality done.

Seven in ten Australians support marriage equality.[1]

They recognise that the relationships – the love of their sisters or brothers, sons or daughters, colleagues, team-mates, friends

…is not lessened if that love is between two people of the same sex.

For all the campaigns, the efforts of those of us in this place and the tireless work of community activists, the groundswell of support for equality owes most to the courage of the men and women who have lived and loved openly – despite prejudice, discrimination and even danger.

I want to thank them for their bravery and their determination. It has made Australia more inclusive, fairer and closer to the sort of Australia I want my kids to grow up in, where we are all equal.

I did think that we would be there by now.

At the beginning of this Parliament, recognising that equality ought to be a bipartisan issue, I sought a seconder from the Coalition parties for a private members bill removing discrimination from the Marriage Act.

For more than a year, I waited for someone on the other side of the House to feel that they could put their name to ending legal discrimination.

When, last year, it became apparent that waiting was in vain – Labor’s leader, Bill Shorten, introduced a private member’s bill to the same effect and I seconded it.

The introduction of that bill finally did produce some action from the other side. When we heard that Coalition MPs didn’t feel that they could support a bill introduced by the Leader of the Opposition, we withdrew our bill to allow another to be put forward sponsored by backbenchers from all parties.

Because neither the Leader of the Opposition nor I cared whose name was on the bill: only that it would pass.

And for a while, with support from all sides of politics, it looked like it just might.

But everybody knows what happened next. Everybody knows that former Prime Minister, Mr Abbott, ambushed the supporters of equality in his own party and stacked the party room meeting to make sure that there’d be no free vote on marriage equality, and no marriage equality.

Instead he proposed a national plebiscite – expensive, divisive, and meaningless –

But a way of delaying equality for a bit longer.

Members of his own party spoke publically against this “captain’s call.”

Including the Member for Wentworth.

So when the Member for Wentworth became the Leader of the Liberal Party and the Prime Minister, it seemed that the moment had come when things might change. That we might be able to get this done, once and for all. That we might be able to finally leave behind discrimination against people because of who they love.

But this Prime Minister has been an enormous disappointment.

He sold out LGBTI Australians – traded away their right to equality – to become Prime Minister. He signed up to the plebiscite delaying tactic to secure the support of the Liberal Party’s right wing.

We know it’s nothing but a delaying tactic because there’s no sign of movement from this Government.

In fact the Attorney-General was told to shelve work on the enabling legislation in March this year.

Because of the Prime Minister’s tricky move to get a double dissolution election – that saw the whole Parliament recalled for just two days at a cost of more than a million dollars[2] – the cross-party bill has lapsed.

That’s why, today, we will try to put right some of that by re-introducing a bill for marriage equality.

Australians who have waited decades to marry their life-long partners and who fear they may not live to see marriage equality a reality –

…have waited too long.

Young people who want their grandparents to be able to come to their wedding have waited for too long.

Australians of all ages who’ve been told that their love isn’t equal, that their family isn’t real, that their relationship is bad for their children or somehow bad for society, have waited for too long.

The Prime Minister says he supports marriage equality.

And we know that he supports a free vote, not a plebiscite because he said so.

It’s time he did the right thing.

This week, of course, is budget week.

And quite rightly, our focus will be on the economy, on jobs, on health, on education, and the environment.

And as we all know, it is almost certain that by the end of the week, the Prime Minister will be going to the Governor-General asking him to dissolve this Parliament and to call an election.

So, sadly, it is unlikely that this bill will pass this week.

But our push for equality is not going away.

Think of this bill as a marker –

More than that, think of it as a promise. 

A promise that Labor will introduce legislation for marriage equality in the first 100 days of a Shorten Labor Government.

That’s the clear choice. The Liberals’ divisive and expensive plebiscite, a delaying tactic designed to stop marriage equality –

Or a Labor Government which will make marriage equality law.

Let’s get this done – it’s time.

[1] http://www.australianmarriageequality.org/who-supports-equality/a-majority-of-australians-support-marriage-equality/