Ab­bott ramps up same-sex wran­gle

The Weekend Australian - - THE NATION - GREG SHERI­DAN

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.


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