Dut­ton says yes will win postal sur­vey, so he's work­ing to pro­tect re­li­gious free­dom

The Guardian Australia - - News - Gareth Hutchens

Peter Dut­ton says he will work to boost pro­tec­tions for re­li­gious free­dom if the yes vote pre­vails in the same-sex mar­riage postal sur­vey, but has con­ceded it will be “dif­fi­cult” get­ting the pro­tec­tions through par­lia­ment.

Re­veal­ing that he had spo­ken to for­mer prime min­is­ter John Howard, who has been a loud voice call­ing for the Turn­bull gov­ern­ment to clar­ify its stance on re­li­gious free­dom in any same sex-mar­riage leg­is­la­tion, Dut­ton said he be­lieved the yes camp would pre­vail in com­ing weeks.

He said it was par­lia­ment’s re­spon­si­bil­ity to en­sure, if that hap­pened, that re­li­gious free­doms are pro­tected for min­is­ters, cel­e­brants, wed­ding cake mak­ers and flower sellers who do not agree with same sex mar­riage.

But he con­ceded it would be a tough ask get­ting them through the Se­nate.

“I do have con­cerns about the re­li­gious pro­tec­tions and I share some of John Howard’s con­cerns, I’ve spo­ken with him about them,” Dut­ton told 2GB ra­dio on Thursday.

“There’s a process that we’ll fol­low, if there is to be a yes vote ... there will be a bill be­fore the par­lia­ment and my ar­gu­ment, and oth­ers have ar­gued, is there should be ad­e­quate pro­tec­tions in there.

“Peo­ple are wor­ried about this Safe Schools agenda, they’re wor­ried about other as­pects that flow [from it], and that’s our job in par­lia­ment to try to put those pro­tec­tions in place.

“It’s dif­fi­cult, be­cause you’ve got the Greens and the La­bor party who con­trol the Se­nate, and we’ve only got a one-seat ma­jor­ity in the lower house, but we do need ad­e­quate pro­tec­tions and I think peo­ple would ex­pect that from the par­lia­ment.”

It comes af­ter Dut­ton re­vealed on Wed­nes­day even­ing, at an event in Syd­ney, that he be­lieved the yes camp would win.

The im­mi­gra­tion min­is­ter, who led the push in­side the gov­ern­ment to hold the non-bind­ing postal sur­vey, said he was per­son­ally against chang­ing the law but pledged to vote for same-sex mar­riage in par­lia­ment if the yes vote won.

He told Syd­ney ra­dio host Ray Hadley on Thursday that his sense was the no vote camp would lose.

“I’ve al­ready voted no, and I’d en­cour­age peo­ple to do the same,” he said.

“My judge­ment speak­ing to peo­ple, see­ing the re­ports in the me­dia, and just my sense of where the de­bate is at, is that the yes vote will get up.

“But I think the most im­por­tant mes­sage is that peo­ple, re­gard­less of how they’re go­ing to vote, get their bal­lots back in and to do it quickly. It’s an im­por­tant process ... it’s a sig­nif­i­cant so­cial change, and peo­ple should have their say one way or another.”

The Aus­tralian Bu­reau of Sta­tis­tics re­vealed on Tues­day that 10 mil­lion cit­i­zens have had their say, with 62.5% of the vot­ing pa­pers re­ceived.

The trea­surer, Scott Mor­ri­son, who also sup­ports a no vote in the mar­riage equal­ity sur­vey, said he would wait to see the re­sults. “I mean Aus­tralians are hav­ing their say at the mo­ment. That’s what I wanted them to have,” he told ABC TV. There are still four weeks to go be­fore the postal sur­vey closes on 7 Novem­ber.

• Aus­tralian As­so­ci­ated Press con­trib­uted to this re­port

Pho­to­graph: Mick Tsikas/ AAP

Peter Dut­ton says he has con­cerns about re­li­gious pro­tec­tions if same-sex mar­riage sur­vey passes.

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