Take note of answers - Marriage

Senator IAN MACDONALD (Queensland) (15:06): Sorry, Senator Brandis, this is hard. I quite like Senator Pratt but I cannot believe she is running this argument today. A plebiscite done by the government is bad for her friend who needs medicines, but two plebiscites run by the Labor Party are, apparently, okay. Senator Pratt, you certainly can't really seriously believe that argument. If you are right—and I don't think you are—on the argument about the cost, then it's doubly wrong for Mr Shorten to promise that twice. I can't believe that you have the gall, the front, the hard skin to get up in this chamber and make such a contradictory argument. As I say, I quite like you but I just can't believe you are putting this position.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Senator Macdonald, may I remind you to address your remarks to the chair, thank you.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Yes, of course. Thank you very appropriately, Madam Deputy President. I am just indicating my concern for Senator Pratt, being forced to run what is quite clearly a ridiculous and so contradictory argument. Senator Pratt selectively quotes one email. I could quote 10,000 on each side of the argument. But I do want to, particularly at this time, acknowledge the University of Queensland LNC, who did a survey of young people clearly showing that young people wanted the people of Australia to decide this issue. So I thank them for that. Senator Pratt justifies Mr Shorten having a plebiscite on something that requires not a plebiscite but a referendum to change the constitution. Again, Senator Pratt, through you, Madam Deputy President, Senator Pratt should be aware of that.

This is an issue which has been debated to death. I simply say again—and repeating the leader's comment to Senator Pratt, through you, Madam Deputy President: if Senator Pratt had voted for this plebiscite last year, the whole issue would have been over and done with by now. It would have been resolved six months ago.

Senator Brandis: 11 February.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: On 11 February we would have had a resolution. Yet, it's Senator Pratt and her team, the Greens and Senator Xenophon—who should not be excused from this stupidity—who are determined to carry on this debate for political reasons, as Senator Brandis has mentioned. There is no policy purity at all in the Labor Party's position, or in the position of the Greens or Senator Xenophon, not that we ever expect any sort of decent policy from any of those people.

Senator Pratt, why do you object to the Australian people having a vote on this? Your leader wants the Australian people to have a vote on two particular issues, neither of which too many people are talking about. Here is something that so many Australians had so many different views about. It was an appropriate question to put to the people of Australia. Why don't you trust the people of Australia? Why didn't you allow this to go to a vote six months ago—and then we wouldn't be talking about this today. People who you say are concerned by the indecision wouldn't have been indecisive had you and your team—I say that through you, Madam Deputy President—agreed to have a plebiscite. It would have been resolved six months ago and we'd be moving onto the issues which are of real importance to the people of Australia—things like jobs; things like health, as you mention; things like education; and things like the economy generally—rather than wasting so much time on this, and now having to go through a postal plebiscite to get the views of the people of Australia.

It would have been much better to have a compulsory plebiscite. You people and your allies have chosen not to do that, so we will go to the postal plebiscite and we'll still get from that the views of the majority of Australian people, and I can't understand why that frightens you. I indicate, and I've indicated publicly before, that I will be voting no in the plebiscite, but if the majority of Australians say yes I will be voting yes when the bill comes before the parliament. I can't understand, Senator Pratt. Again, I feel for you that you are running such a contradictory argument.

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