Published: 15 September 2015

[11.35 a.m.]

Ms FORREST (Murchison) - Mr President, I note the motion before us relates to social issues and reads -

On social issues, such as same-sex marriage, the Legislative Council urges federal parliamentarians to exercise a conscience vote.

The motion only notes one social issue - that being same-sex marriage.


Social issues are many and varied and extend well beyond the one mentioned.  Therefore, before speaking to the motion, I wish to make a comment regarding my views on the one social issue noted in the motion to avoid confusion, misunderstanding, or misrepresentation.   My views on marriage equality are well known and have been expressed in this place, and publicly, many times.  I am a firm supporter of marriage equality and have sought support to progress it in this place more than once.  Unfortunately this was not successful but I remain committed to marriage equality for all Australians, and this view has not altered.

The motion before us names samesex marriage as one social issue but does not relate specifically to marriage equality.  Rather, it suggests the Legislative Council support a motion to urge federal parliamentarians to exercise a conscience vote on social issues.

I will not be supporting this motion for the following reasons:  I am informed that party solidarity is important and necessary.  It is something you agree to when you become a member of a parliamentary political party with specific provisions for seeking a conscience vote.  I accept this and note I would find this challenging at times if I were a member of a political party.

There are many social issues I do not believe necessitate the need for a conscience vote if you are a member of a parliamentary political party.  This motion notes one specific social issue and does not make any distinction regarding a broad range of social issues.  I do not believe a formal motion to urge federal parliamentarians to act in a specific way is appropriate.  We can individually urge our federal members to support a conscience vote on any matter we believe warrants such a vote.  This would be an individual decision in terms of each matter before the federal parliament, as well as reflecting the personal view of each member.

We all have the opportunity to express our views publicly, and with our federal colleagues anytime, and I suggest we individually use these opportunities as we see fit.  I do not support this House sending a message formally to federal members in a way proposed in this motion.

I encourage members to consider how we would respond to a motion of this nature being supported by federal parliament.  For example - and it is not entirely related to a social issue such as samesex marriage but it makes the point - we all know the federal member for Denison has been very vocal at times about a north-west hospital, suggesting it should be closed.  He could move a motion in federal parliament seeking support of his colleagues to urge Tasmanian state MPs - us - to support a motion to close the hospital.  Whilst this is not the same as the social issues named in the motion, the effect would be similar in that it would be urging us to take a particular approach to a matter that could be placed before our parliament in the form of a motion.  I am sure most of us would not appreciate such an approach.


I believe if members of a specific political party wish to influence the views of the party they belong to, there is a range of other opportunities such as party conferences and other meetings at which they can do this.  Other options, such as personal representations to party members, including those outside the parliamentary party members, are available and an appropriate way to proceed.

Mr President, for these reasons I will not be supporting the motion.  I will continue to do what I personally can to promote evidence-based and considered decisionmaking by all parliamentarians on all matters before the state and federal parliament, not just social issues.  All matters before parliament impact on some or all sectors of the community and deserve thoughtful consideration.  Some argue that supporting a motion on these lines could be seen as sending a strong message.  I do not believe it is appropriate to take formal action to urge another level of government to take a particular course of action in a significant range of matters that could come before another level of government.  Social issues are very broad and encompass a range of areas.  I believe there is a range of other mechanisms that can be undertaken to achieve this intended outcome.  I do not support the motion.


[11.40 a.m.]

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