The prospect of emergency laws to protect Australians from vilification, intimidation and threats during the course of the same-sex marriage survey does not impress gay activist and Dubbo resident Kris Stevens.
The Marriage Law Survey (Additional Safeguards) Bill 2017, expected to pass both chambers of the Federal Parliament by Thursday night, follows the announcement by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) that it has started the progressive delivery of Australian Marriage Law Postal Survey materials to more than 16 million eligible Australians.
“None of these rushed changes to the law would be necessary if our politicians showed some courage and leadership and did what we pay them to do-- conduct a free vote in the parliament,” Ms Stevens said.
“Something they will still need to do after the postal survey has been completed.”
Ms Stevens has also dismissed an assertion by former prime minister Tony Abbott that supporters of same-sex marriage are primarily responsible for bullying and hate speech.
“It’s striking how little love the supporters of same-sex marriage are showing for anyone who disagrees with them,” he said.
Ms Stevens said she was “disgusted” by Mr Abbott’s comments. “This debate is not about him or his beliefs,” she said. “It is about the civil rights of a group of Australian citizens who are part of a community that has endured centuries of discrimination and vilification.”
The emergency laws would allow for civil penalties of up to $12,600. Offenders would not be subject to criminal penalties such as fines and jail.
The laws, lasting for the period of the survey, would cover the likes of behaviour, advertising and leaflet material. Legal action would have to be sanctioned by Attorney-General George Brandis.
The ABS reports that the survey forms will be distributed across two weeks from September 12. Survey participants will be asked to mark a “yes” box or a “no” box. Detailed information about the survey is available from www.marriagesurvey.abs.gov.au or by calling 1800 572 113 from 8am to 8pm (AEST), seven days a week.