We can't fix the exclusionary nature of this postal survey but we can try to support LGBTI people

 

Read the full speech below. 

 

Ms BUTLER (Griffith) (12:57):  I rise to speak on the Marriage Law Survey (Additional Safeguards) Bill 2017. It is inherently discriminatory and exclusionary to hold a national opinion poll about whether a minority of our community should enjoy the same human rights as the majority, yet that is what the government is presently doing. Labor opposed the plebiscite when legislation was brought before the parliament, and the plebiscite legislation failed. Despite the wish of the parliament, the government is going ahead with this non-binding opinion poll being administered by the Australian Bureau of Statistics. The government has started to post out survey forms this week and they are starting to land in people's households and in people's letterboxes.

Labor is very, very concerned about the fact that this survey is happening, as I've said and for the reasons that I've said. We're concerned about the exclusionary nature of it, which is obvious. When you're asking the community to vote on whether a minority should have the same human rights as the majority, that does exclude the minority. It excludes LGBTI people. It says: 'You don't just get the same rights as everyone else. You have to go and convince the majority of your friends and of the strangers you've never met in the Australian community to fill out a piece of paper—a survey form—for the statistician, to argue you should get the same human rights as others.' That's why it's so wrong. That inherent discrimination and exclusion that is a necessary consequence of having that type of survey is bad for people. It's bad for our community. It draws distinctions and it creates division. Exclusion is a source of mental health concerns for people, including people in the LGBTI community. Of course, Deputy Speaker, you're aware of the higher rates of suicide in that community.

We think this survey process is terrible.

Notwithstanding that, it has been imposed upon the Australian community by the Turnbull government. Notwithstanding our view about it and notwithstanding the views of people in the community about it, this survey is going ahead. And as wrong as we think that is, we believe that it is important, if the opportunity is offered, to try to at least mitigate some of the worst features of this kind of survey by taking up that opportunity. That's why Labor is supporting a safeguards bill, this Marriage Law Survey (Additional Safeguards) Bill 2017, because if we weren't then even the bare and minimalist safeguards that are in this bill would not apply to this survey process.

It's not an election. They're not ballots. The provisions of the Electoral Act do not apply. That's why it was necessary to look at creating a bill that would impose particular safeguards—safeguards like we're used to seeing in elections, like the obligation to authorise material that you publish, to say who wrote it, who approved it and where it's going to come from. We've all seen the reports of anonymous flyers being distributed in communities and anonymous posters being put up, and some of the terrible things that have been said on those posters and flyers. And so it is important that there be an authorisation process.

Similarly, it is important to have provisions in relation to bribery and in relation to threats. These provisions need to apply to this survey process because of the nature of it and because of the fact that it is a survey about people's human rights. And, similarly, we're pleased that there has been movement in relation to an anti-vilification provision, to include a provision that prohibits vilification and intimidation against people because of religious conviction; because of sexual orientation, gender identity or intersex status; and because of what they have said in relation to marriage equality. It is an important protection that is included in this bill.

There are other provisions of the bill, of course, and I don't intend to go through them either. But I did want to say this: nothing about the fact that we have been prepared to do what we can to put some safeguards around this process can be taken as any indication that we support the process as a whole. And nor can it be taken as a means by which the process can be fixed. You can't fix a process that's a popularity survey about human rights. You can't fix the exclusion, you can't fix the discrimination and you can't fix the implication that the government thinks that LGBTI people should have to plead for the same rights that the rest of us enjoy. None of that can be fixed by this bill, but I am hopeful that, at the very bare minimum, it will provide some support and some assistance to those people in the community who are particularly vulnerable. Thank you.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.

 

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