BILLS – Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Bill 2017 – Third Reading

Subjects: Same-sex marriage, multiculturalism, religious freedoms

Senator FIERRAVANTI-WELLS (New South WalesMinister for International Development and the Pacific) (13:10): I too will be brief. Yesterday, the Scanlon Foundation released its 2017 social cohesion report, and it shows that Australia remains one of the most socially cohesive yet culturally diverse nations on earth. There is an overwhelming support for our multicultural society but, in doing that, we must accept that our culturally diverse and religiously diverse Australia has a set of values and beliefs. I think that is very important in this, as I said a couple of years ago at the National Press Club. I do not believe that the polls actually took into account the views of an ageing, culturally diverse and religiously diverse Australia. I congratulate those who will today achieve their objective, but I think in this it’s really important to remember a very large part of our Australia, and this has been so clearly demonstrated in the vote that occurred, particularly in Western Sydney. For many people of different backgrounds and religions, this will be a very difficult day. This will be a difficult day in Australia. As we talk about respect, I think it’s very important to remember this respect across this divide.

As somebody who has spent a lot of time in these communities, I would like to have seen religious freedoms—even the most basic of religious freedoms proposed by the Attorney-General’s amendments—passed in this chamber. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. And therefore, for me, this is indeed a very difficult choice. I cannot support this bill in its current form for these reasons, because there are many people—like my parents, who came to this country—who just cannot. For them, it’s very difficult, and I think that they deserve our respect as well.