Motion for Church free speech blocked in Aussie Senate

A motion in the Australian senate to protect the Catholic Church’s right to distribute its “Don’t mess with marriage” pamphlet has been blocked.

Former Australian cabinet minister Senator Eric Abetz put up the motion in the senate on Thursday.

This was on the same day as it was confirmed that Tasmania’s anti-discrimination commissioner is to conduct an investigation into the pamphlet.

The pamphlet, which is a letter from Australia’s Catholic bishops, was distributed to Catholic schools throughout the nation earlier this year.

It outlines the Church’s stance against changing Australia’s Marriage Act to include same-sex couples.

The senate motion by Mr Abetz was brought with some crossbench support.

The motion stated that: “The senate, while not expressing a view on the contents of the booklet issued by the Australian Catholic bishops conference entitled ‘Don’t Mess with Marriage’, fully supports the rights of members of the Catholic Church, including Archbishop Julian Porteous [of Hobart], to distribute it.”

Labor and the Greens joined forces to block the motion before it got put to a vote.

Mr Abetz said that the two parties shut down the basic right of freedom of speech.

“Free speech is a key pillar of our society and the tricky tactics used by Labor in an effort to shut down debate and run a protection racket for the extreme Greens flies in the face of the open discussion we should be having about marriage,” he said.

Labor senator Claire Moore said it was “simply not appropriate for the senate to determine a position on this matter”, while a case was being decided.

Greens senator Robert Simms said: “The Australian Greens support free speech in this country, but we recognise that freedom of speech is a limited concept in any democracy.

“We believe that the right to express a view should be balanced against the rights of members of our community to feel safe and secure from persecution and discrimination.”

Mr Abetz has promised to bring back the motion to the senate.


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