Home - Claire Moore - Labor Senator for Queensland


Senator MOORE (Queensland) (15:11): I really welcome Senator Paterson's comments and his personal opinion on the issue of marriage equality, though that was not the point about which this taking note was called. When Senator Brandis was responding to the question, he ended his comments by saying that it is not unusual for two groups to have different views about what happens in a certain process. Of course, that is one of the real problems we have: it is never unusual for people to walk away from a conversation and be unclear as to exactly what the intent or the purpose of that conversation was.

However, in this case I am slightly disturbed, as this issue of the plebiscite was raised by the government as their great response to the concerns about same-sex marriage in our community. They lauded the issue of a plebiscite and talked about at length. From the very start of those discussions, one of the simple questions that came forward was whether there would be paid funding from the government around a plebiscite. That was because our most recent experience of a plebiscite in this country-probably one of the few experiences of a plebiscite in this country-was around the referendum. In that case, through the whole process-it was not a plebiscite but it was asking the public what they thought of an issue before it came back to the parliament-there was significant public funding.

I remember when we had our Senate inquiry, at the very start of this discussion, around plebiscites and same-sex marriage. The issue of public funding was key in that Senate inquiry. I ask people to go back and read the Hansard of that Senate process. At the very start, this was a question that people were asking when the government decided that this was the way they were going to handle the process. I do want to quote Senator Brandis's discussion about how the parliament would handle it. He used a term with which I was not familiar. He said the way that this issue would be 'disposed' of by the parliament would be through a plebiscite. That was a position that I was interested in, that we were going to 'dispose' of the whole process via plebiscite, in terms of where we are going.

The ongoing discussion about whether there was public funding was key to the questions that were being asked by the community leading up to the election and during the election, though I am not convinced that it was a core issue for the election; but nonetheless this was something that was discussed. I know that people were interested. I was not at the meeting that has been discussed in the media, where there seems to be situation where the bishop and some other people who were at that meeting seem to have gone away from that particular meeting with a clear understanding that there would be public funding. That is now a view we believe that the Prime Minister does not share. At the same meeting, he and his advisers, walking away from that process, did not seem to understand that that was the kind of understanding that would be taken away by others.

It worries me that, on such a clear element of the whole issue of a plebiscite, there is this confusion and there is this misunderstanding, even after we have had public announcements of how much this plebiscite would cost. This issue has been the public arena since the very start. That is an issue that has been raised in this place, and we are still not clear about it because there has been no statement from the government except from Senator Brandis, who said that if there is going to be public funding-that was his statement, the great 'if'-that would be part of the decision that is made through their standard practices through that process. What we can take away from today is that, if there is going to be public funding, which we will find out about at some time in the future, we are not quite sure about how much funding and we are not quite sure how it will happen; however, if there is public funding, there will be a process in place to handle that.

I believe that this just continues the confusion. I think it continues the uncertainty in the community about how this will operate, and it does not genuinely reflect the levels of concern that seem to be around people about how this plebiscite will operate. That there would be a plebiscite was hung out as an election promise, but the details around that plebiscite and how it is to be funded are still uncertain. (Time expired)