Strong sup­port for pro­tec­tions un­der same-sex mar­riage

The Weekend Australian - - FRONT PAGE - DEN­NIS SHANAHAN PO­LIT­I­CAL EDI­TOR

There is over­whelm­ing pub­lic sup­port for new leg­is­la­tion to pro­tect free­dom of speech, re­li­gion and parental rights as well as to pre­vent per­se­cu­tion of busi­nesses and char­i­ties if same­sex mar­riage laws are put to par­lia­ment.

Sup­port for the im­por­tance of free­dom of speech, re­li­gious free­dom and parental rights in re­gard to the ed­u­ca­tion of chil­dren was over 90 per cent, with 86 per cent of peo­ple say­ing free­dom of speech was “ex­tremely or very im­por­tant” and 69 per cent say­ing the same for re­li­gious free­dom.

There was clear ma­jor­ity sup­port for free­doms be­ing en­shrined in law, well be­yond the pro­tec­tion for min­is­ters of re­li­gion pro­posed in the Dean Smith pri­vate member’s bill which is sup­ported by some Lib­eral MPs and the ALP.

With the ex­pec­ta­tion of a Yes vic­tory for same-sex mar­riage next week when the postal sur­vey re­sults are revealed, ex­tra pro­tec­tions for free­dom of speech and re­li­gion are be­com­ing the fo­cus as politi­cians from both Yes and No camps pre­pare for a par­lia­men­tary bat­tle.

Dur­ing the same-sex­mar­riage bal­lot, Malcolm Turn­bull re­sponded to calls from for­mer prime min­is­ters John Howard and Tony Ab­bott for pro­tec­tions cov­er­ing free­dom of speech and re­li­gion, say­ing he

be­lieved more strongly in re­li­gious free­dom than he did in same-sex-mar­riage and said there would be ex­tra pro­tec­tions.

Al­ter­na­tive bills aimed at pro­tect­ing the free­doms that have come un­der at­tack over­seas in ju­ris­dic­tions where same-sex mar­riage has been leg­is­lated are be­ing drafted, as a bit­ter in­ter­nal Coali­tion fight breaks out over the leg­is­la­tion. Peter Dut­ton, who voted No, said there would be a “plethora of amend­ments” to the pro­posed bill from Lib­eral sen­a­tor Dean Smith and that “some will get up and some won’t”. The Im­mi­gra­tion Min­is­ter said he be­lieved the same-sex mar­riage bill would be passed by Christ­mas if the Yes vote suc­ceeded, as he be­lieved it would.

Other con­ser­va­tives are de­mand­ing ex­tra pro­tec­tions for free­doms of speech and re­li­gion.

Mr Howard has said these should have been of­fered by the Yes camp so that peo­ple knew what they were vot­ing for.

La­bor Se­nate leader Penny Wong said yes­ter­day she be­lieved con­ser­va­tive politi­cians were us­ing re­li­gious free­dom as an ex­cuse to “fight this again in the par­lia­ment” and pre­vent same-sex mar­riage from hap­pen­ing.

For­mer deputy prime min­is­ter and Na­tion­als leader John An­der­son, says in an ar­ti­cle in The Week­end Aus­tralian that the Lib­eral Party had to fight for re­li­gious free­dom and free­dom of speech.

“The Lib­eral Party is in peril of for­get­ting that there is more to free so­ci­eties than free mar­kets,” he says. “For Aus­tralians this is po­ten­tially very se­ri­ous, for in our cel­e­brated ca­sual way we lack strong pro­tec­tions for free­dom of con­science and speech. Sen­a­tor Smith’s ex­emp­tions ap­proach ar­guably does more harm than good, for it as­sumes that free­dom of con­science is of worth only to pro­fes­sional re­li­gion­ists and not to all Aus­tralians.”

The sur­vey of 5000 Aus­tralians — con­ducted for the Coali­tion for Mar­riage as the same- sex-mar­riage postal sur­vey was wound up last week­end — found sup­port for ex­tra leg­is­la­tion out­weighed op­po­si­tion to it by be­tween two to one and three to one.

Leg­is­lat­ing parental pro­tec­tions on re­li­gious grounds at­tracted the high­est sup­port at 61 per cent, with only 21 per cent against.

The Smith bill pro­tec­tion for re­li­gious min­is­ters was backed by 60 per cent and op­posed by 22 per cent. Pro­tec­tions for those want­ing to speak about mar­riage be­ing be­tween a man and a woman and pro­tec­tion for re­li­gious schools’ cur­ricu­lum was sup­ported by 59 and 58 per cent re­spec­tively and op­posed by 24 and 22 per cent.

Sup­port for the right to speak freely about same-sex mar­riage and con­tin­u­ing re­li­gious be­liefs was at 57 per cent. The low­est sup- port, although still a ma­jor­ity, was for busi­nesses and faith-based char­i­ties to con­tinue to hold their be­liefs and prac­tices with­out penalty or per­se­cu­tion, at 53 per cent op­posed by 24 per cent.

Na­tion­als cabi­net min­is­ter Matt Cana­van blasted Lib­eral MPs he said were try­ing to un­der­mine the bal­lot and deny bet­ter re­li­gious pro­tec­tions. “What­ever the re­sult, mil­lions of Aus­tralians are go­ing to vote No. And we don’t live in a tyranny of the ma­jor­ity. Those peo­ple de­serve to have their views put in our na­tion’s par­lia­ment,” Sen­a­tor Cana­van said.

Coali­tion for Mar­riage spokesman Lyle Shel­ton ap­pealed to Mr Turn­bull to en­sure there were no changes to pri­vate schools’ abil­ity to hold to be­liefs about mar­riage should the Yes case pre­vail.

‘What­ever the re­sult, mil­lions of Aus­tralians are go­ing to vote No. And we don’t live in a tyranny of the ma­jor­ity’ MATT CANA­VAN CABI­NET MIN­IS­TER

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