Abbott ramps up same-sex wrangle
Former prime minister Tony Abbott has escalated debate over religious freedom in the context of the same-sex marriage survey by calling for the abolition of the Human Rights Commission.
Mr Abbott’s comments will intensify divisions within the Liberal Party over the issue in the wake of John Howard’s intervention this week calling for greater protection for religious freedom and for this issue to be properly addressed before the period of the postal survey comes to an end.
Mr Abbott said had he been prime minister when the plebiscite was put, he intended to submit the final bill on same-sex marriage to a public vote.
That bill would be ultimately put to parliament if the plebiscite returned a Yes vote.
In an interview with The Weekend Australian, Mr Abbott said it would be extremely difficult to protect religious freedom if samesex marriage were legalised, and called for the Human Rights Commission to be abolished outright.
“Our sustained experience of human rights bureaucracies is that they do not protect human rights, they harm them,” Mr Abbott said.
He told The Weekend Australian that in the prevailing climate and culture, antidiscrimination law was used in a very one-sided and politicised way.
“The best thing you could do to protect religious freedom is to abolish the Human Rights Commission,” he said.
Asked whether the Liberal Party at the state level should take a similar approach to state-based anti-discrimination commissions and similar bodies, Mr Abbott said: “Decent liberal conservatives have to ask themselves: what useful purpose have any of these bodies ever served?”
Mr Abbott confirmed to The Weekend Australian that he had planned, after the election, to consult widely among proponents of same-sex marriage and encourage them to hammer out their preferred bill giving effect to the legalisation of same-sex marriage.
His intention would then have been to publish that bill as an exposure draft. After a suitable period, during which time the public would be able to get to know the detail of the legislation proposed, Mr Abbott would then have put to a plebiscite not a general proposition about supporting same-sex marriage but a specific question about whether people supported that particular piece of legislation.
Had it won majority support, that legislation would have been put to parliament and passed.
Had the plebiscite question failed to win majority support, the bill would not have been put to parliament.
Mr Abbott agrees with his fellow former prime minister Mr Howard that people had a right to know in advance the detail of what they were voting for.