Attorney-General George Brandis has moved to rule out temporarily suspending anti-discrimination laws during the lead-up to a potential same-sex marriage plebiscite. The Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) had been seeking a suspension to the laws because it claims they're used by activists to shut-out opposing views.
Greens Senator Robert Simms questioned the attorney-general on the ACL's proposition during Senate estimates Thursday, saying he feared it would facilitate a "hate campaign".
"There are very obvious practical problems with that," Senator Brandis replied.
"Most anti-discrimination laws in this country are laws of the states, not the Commonwealth."
In February, ACL managing director Lyle Shelton said none of the ACL's anti-marriage equality arguments "vilify or hate" and that anti-discrimination laws, not the organisation's arguments, are the problem.
“State-based human rights commissions are often weaponised by activists against those with different views," Shelton claimed.
“Being taken to law is extremely intimidating for laypeople who express reasonable views in debates."
Australian Marriage Equality national director Rodney Croome welcomed the attorney-general's comments.
"The national discussion about marriage equality needs to be respectful of the views of all Australians and the government's commitment will help ensure this is the case," Croome said.
“Marriage equality should be resolved by a simple vote in the Parliament, but if we are faced with a plebiscite it’s important the national conversation is positive, respectful and inclusive.”
Senator Simms said that while he welcomed the attorney-general's comments on anti-discrimination law, he had left open the possibility of the ACL accessing public funds for its 'no' campaign.
"The idea of public funds being given to an organisation like the ACL to campaign against marriage equality will horrify all Australians who believe in equality," Simms said.
"This homophobic fringe group should not be given taxpayer funds to peddle their ugly brand of politics."
The attorney-general's department also revealed Thursday that multiple staff had been working full-time on the plebiscite, on annual salaries of more than $100,000 each.
"The costs associated with this plebiscite continue to blow out. The lunacy of this plebiscite is plain for all to see. It's time for the Liberals to end this farce and grant a free vote on marriage equality,” Simms said.