Senator the Hon Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for Western Australia
QUESTION: Penny Wong has just said that the religious freedoms bill that is associated with the same sex marriage is akin to, she didn’t say it was akin, but she suggested that we got over the idea that wouldn’t serve Jews and we wouldn’t serve blacks. What are your thoughts on that?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Tomorrow morning the ABS will release the results of the marriage law postal survey. If there is a yes outcome, as the Government has indicated, we will be facilitating consideration of a private member’s bill to change the law to allow same sex couples to marry. There are two bills now on the table. The Smith bill and the Paterson bill. Both bills need improvements. I am already on the public record as indicating that I believe that the Smith Bill is probably a good starting position and that it is going to be a matter of making sure that we add the appropriate additional religious protections for which we can find a consensus across the Parliament. The Prime Minister, the Opposition Leader, a whole range of senior Members of Parliament are on the public record as indicating that they support appropriately strong religious protections in the context of changing the law to allow same sex couples to marry. It is now a matter for the Parliament to work its way through these issues. I will be a participant in that debate.
QUESTION: When can we expect that legislation to be finalised if there is a yes vote?
MATHIAS CORMANN: It is going to be a matter for the Parliament. There will not be a Government position, there will not be a Coalition party room position, as we have indicated back in August, when we initiated the marriage law postal survey process. I expect once there is an outcome from the marriage law postal survey, that individual Members of Parliament will take the initiative to put forward proposed legislation. Senator Smith and Senator Paterson have already both indicated that it is their intention to do so. It will be a matter for the Senate and the House of Representatives to determine which bill proceeds and in what form it ultimately passes the Parliament.
QUESTION: Should businesses be able to refuse service for a gay wedding?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Personally I do not believe that that would be an appropriate inclusion into any law to change the law to allow same sex couples to marry. Beyond that, I do believe that there is a need for appropriate religious protections. Let us just see how the debate unfolds. We will see how we go.
QUESTION: Would the religious freedoms aspect of the bill have entrenched discrimination?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Again, I am not going to get ahead of the debate. There are two bills on the table. I think it is important that we find the right balance. I think that there is a consensus across the Parliament that any bill to change the law to allow same sex couples to marry should come with appropriate religious protections. There will be a debate to take place. I will participate in that debate. I will make my judgement listening to all of the arguments as to which amendments I personally will support and which ones I will not.
QUESTION: Will you be disappointed if Jacqui Lambie is no longer a Member of the Senate?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I am not aware of what Jacqui Lambie’s situation is. I have seen the rumours. I have seen the reports. But I am not aware whether she has come to a concluded view as to her status. It is always sad when a Member of Parliament loses their job in these sorts of circumstances. At a human level it is of course sad.