Marriage Equality Before Election, says Bandt

pic by Victorian Greens

In a wide-ranging interview with The Rainbow Reporter, Greens MP Adam Bandt talks about marriage equality, anti-discrimination legislation, the state of the Liberal party room and the scourge of reparative therapy.

On marriage equality Bandt was hopeful, if not entirely confident, that his Equal Marriage bill could be passed by the current parliament before the election. There’s certainly time.

After all, he pointed out, if parliament can pass the disability legislation (for which there is as yet no bill), in the time available, it must be able to pass marriage equality, which has been exhaustively debated and inquired into already.

But he acknowledged that success would hinge on a Coalition conscience vote.

“I am hopeful that before the election the Coalition can be shifted and their members can be granted a conscience vote.”

” At the end of the day the Liberal position is untenable. This is the party that says it believes in freedom of choice, not only for individuals, but also for their members of parliament.”

He said pressure was building among Liberal members for a conscience vote sooner rather than later.

“I know that for many Liberal members it really grates that Tony Abbott is not allowing a conscience vote on what for them is a matter of conscience. I do know that a large number of Liberal MPs are very unhappy with that.”

He saw no need for a referendum or plebiscite and worried that the lengthy campaign such an effort would require might create as divisive a situation as that seen in France.

The violence and division there was disturbing but it was notable that in the worldwide experience, this was the exception rather than the rule. At present he saw no sign of anything similar arising in Australia.

On the changes to anti-discrimination law, he expressed disappointment that the government, in the face of pressure from large and influential organisations and media, had junked the majority of the proposed legislation.

And  he supported the removal of religious exemptions in respect of aged care either by a Greens amendment to the Sex Discrimination Act, or a change in the aged care legislation.

“There is a chance of us putting up an amendment. . . . . we’ll try and get an agreement in the Senate in the aged care inquiry. The [removal of] religious exemptions, not only in respect of aged care but also in respect of employment is something we’ve been pursuing for some time and has no place in modern anti-discrimination law. “

What can the Greens do – by way of politics and the law – to tackle ‘reparative’ therapy, which has no therapeutic value, and causes so much suffering?

“I can think of at least two things we could do, off the top of my head. A system of registration for people calling themselves therapists. And I wonder if it ought to be the subject of an inquiry. [There has been some criticism that] one of the downsides of the concentration on marriage . . . . has been a lack of concentration on health. I will have a chat with Sarah Hanson Young as to whether we can do something [about reparative therapy] by way of a Senate Inquiry.”

Listen to the full interview here

Rodney Croome writes:

If a majority of Coalition MPs ask for a conscience vote, they will get a conscience vote. It is now up to you to make it happen.
AME is the first organisation to have compiled a contact list of all Coalition candidates contesting the next election, and we have made it easy for you to email all the candidates seeking to represent your state by clicking HERE.
Thanks to your personal stories and activism our campaign has won over the hearts and minds of coalition leaders like Barry O’Farrell and Malcolm Turnbull, it’s now time to convince the rest of them.

About the author

Veteran gay writer and speaker, Doug was one of the founders of the UKs pioneering GLBTI newspaper Gay News (1972) , and of the second, Gay Week, and is a former Features Editor of Him International. He presented news and current affairs on JOY 94.9 FM Melbourne for more than ten years. "Doug is revered, feared and reviled in equal quantities, at times dividing people with his journalistic wrath. Yet there is no doubt this grandpa-esque bear keeps everyone abreast of anything and everything LGBT across the globe." (Daniel Witthaus, "Beyond Priscilla", Clouds of Magellan, Melbourne, 2014)