PM looks to re­cruit critic Howard

Warwick Daily News - - NEWS | NATION - Mal­colm Farr News Corp

MAL­COLM Turn­bull wants to re­cruit the most pow­er­ful and prom­i­nent critic of his bid to le­galise same-sex mar­riage – John Howard.

The Prime Min­is­ter said yes­ter­day his Lib­eral pre­de­ces­sor could make “an enor­mous con­tri­bu­tion” to protecting re­li­gious free­doms if the Mar­riage Act was changed.

“So there will be the op­por­tu­nity for ev­ery mem­ber of Par­lia­ment to make a con­tri­bu­tion, and for Aus­tralians like John Howard with a pas­sion about the de­tail here to re­ally be of enor­mous as­sis­tance,” he told Sky News.

“So I wel­come, I re­ally will wel­come, John’s as­sis­tance with this, as­sum­ing there is a Yes vote (in the postal sur­vey).”

The PM also told re­porters: “John’s wis­dom is al­ways wel­come.”

Mr Howard is back­ing the No case and has launched a sav­age at­tack on the Turn­bull gov­ern­ment for “wash­ing its hands of any re­spon­si­bil­ity” for re­li­gious safe­guards. In a state­ment on Thurs­day the man who led the na­tion from 1996 to 2007, and in 2004 en­sured the Mar­riage Act re­stricted wed­dings to a man and a woman, said the gov­ern­ment was hos­tile to con­cerns raised by churches.

He said pro­tec­tions for re­li­gious free­dom needed to be spelled out be­fore the end of the postal sur­vey.

“If a Yes vote is recorded there will be over­whelm­ing pres­sure to move on, leg­is­late as quickly as pos­si­ble, and then put the is­sue be­hind par­lia­ment,” he said. “There will be scant op­por­tu­nity for se­ri­ous con­sid­er­a­tion of pro­tec­tions.

“Very likely, those rais­ing such mat­ters will be met with a cho­rus of put-downs, and ac­cused of at­tempt­ing to frus­trate the ver­dict of the peo­ple.

“Thus far, the gov­ern­ment’s re­sponse has been to wash its hands of any re­spon­si­bil­ity, merely stat­ing that it will fa­cil­i­tate a pri­vate mem­ber’s bill.

“The shadow at­tor­ney­gen­eral, Mark Drey­fus, has al­ready said La­bor will ex­am­ine the ex­emp­tions from cer­tain pro­vi­sions of anti-dis­crim­i­na­tion leg­is­la­tion now en­joyed by re­li­gious bod­ies. It is al­ready Greens pol­icy to re­move them.”

Mr Turn­bull replied with an as­sur­ance the rights of churches would be en­trenched.

He told re­porters: “As strongly as I be­lieve in the right of same-sex cou­ples to marry ... even more strongly, if you like, do I be­lieve in re­li­gious free­dom. Re­li­gious free­dom is fun­da­men­tal and will be pro­tected.”

Mr Turn­bull said draft leg­is­la­tion drawn up by At­tor­ney-Gen­eral Ge­orge Bran­dis had been re­viewed by a Se­nate com­mit­tee, which ex­pressed “a very broad con­sen­sus to sup­port re­li­gious free­doms” in SSM leg­is­la­tion.

If the postal sur­vey re­sults are in favour of a Yes vote it is likely a pri­vate mem­ber’s bill based on that draft and the Se­nate com­mit­tee find­ings will be in­tro­duced to Par­lia­ment and be sub­ject of a free vote.

The PM point­edly noted Mr Howard had not made a sub­mis­sion to that Se­nate re­view. – with staff writ­ers

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