Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young says a deal was struck to to force a vote on her same-sex marriage bill, but that it was between Labor and the Coalition and not her party.
The Marriage Equality (Amendment) bill was voted down after only 30 minutes of debate and there was widespread speculation a deal had been done to force the proposal to a vote.
The senator finally agreed to talk after Southern Star last week published claims substantiated by multiple sources that the party had struck the deal to force the vote.
Senator Hanson-Young said the Greens only had three opportunities a year to have private members bills.
“I pushed in my party room that I was to have the February spot, because we didn’t know if we would be allocated another one before the next election,” Hanson-Young said.
“Private senators time happens on Thursday afternoon and can happen any time before but no later than 4.30 as a general rule.
“Our private members time was going to be allocated on that Thursday afternoon [so] I then came out quite strongly in the week leading up to it to make people know that that was what I was intending to use that time for, precisely because I could predict that both major parties would not want to necessarily discuss this issue.
“I was fearful that if I just brought forward the bill … there would be a movement of the agenda, an agreement of the major parties to squash that bill coming forward because it’s controversial and obviously they don’t want to deal with that.”
Hanson-Young said as a result the issue became too publicised for the major parties to simply block discussion.
“What ended up happening on Thursday [was] both major parties realising that I had been so public in saying this bill was going to be discussed that they couldn’t quietly squash it and remove it from the agenda … so they gave us as limited time as possible — it ended up being just over half an hour, and they brought it on straight away once they had come to the agreement,” she said.
“Because neither of the major parties, particularly the Government, were prepared to put forward more than one speaker, it did only happen within that short amount of time and the vote was called before the normal 4.30 cut-off.
“In the lead-up to all of this, I had been saying … that there are members on both sides of the major parties who obviously want to be able to speak out on this issue but don’t feel they have the ability to because they’re told to toe the party line.
“So the press conference that Senator Brown and I had on Thursday morning, that was the intent of that, that we will be pushing for this bill to come on to the agenda today, and we hope both major parties allow a conscience vote on the matter.
“Now of course they didn’t want to do that, so the best way for them to deal with that was to give us as little time as possible and ram it through — I was given five minutes notice, or not even, that I was going to have to speak to the bill and push it through.”
Andrew M Potts Opinion Piece
Point blank questions require point blank answers
The role of GLBT media is to answer the concerns of our readers — but how are we supposed to do that when vital information is withheld by those being asked the questions?
On Thursday morning Greens senator Bob Brown told media he’d been trying to get the Government to agree to a vote on the Marriage Equality (Amendment) Bill without success and feared they would filibuster.
Debate on the bill began earlier than expected. Twenty minutes into it, the Deputy President of the Senate announced, “I omitted to say earlier … that an agreement had been reached between parties concerned on speaking times”.
The Greens raised no complaints, and the bill was voted on, as Senator Brown had wanted.
Looking at these events from the outside, people could be forgiven for wondering if the Greens had made arrangements to secure a vote in exchange for not kicking up a fuss about speaking times.
Sydney Star Observer was contacted by a number of people with this concern and decided to investigate, contacting the offices of Senator Brown and Senator Sarah Hanson-Young.
When we called after the debate, Hanson-Young’s press secretary, Andrew McGarry, didn’t know anything and said he was as surprised as anyone by the vote, so we left a message for the senator to contact us, specifically to clarify whether a deal had been done.
We then called Brown’s office and emailed a list of questions for him to answer.
His office directed us back to Hanson-Young for comment, and with those questions forwarded, we were provided with a statement from her.
All we needed was a simple ‘NO’ to end speculation.
This is what we got instead: “In general, timing for debate of private members bills is extremely limited. The Greens have been pushing for more time to debate private members bills like this one.”
If you can find a denial there, we’d like to borrow your glasses. As a result the Greens were left looking decidedly fishy.
Had we been supplied with that one simple word, it would have been a vastly different article in last week’s paper.
We have been willing to write this incident off as a failure in communication, but the Greens will not concede any error, stating that their small numbers preclude them from making demands on the Senate. We agree that is the case, but it is entirely possible for parties to come to arrangements outside the Senate.
Hanson-Young said if we found her answer unsatisfactory we should have continued to put the question to her until we were satisfied, but it is not our job to coax politicians, no matter how friendly, into giving us the answers we might like to hear.
She claims McGarry told us there was no deal, and so there was no need for a denial in her statement. Our notes say otherwise, and how he could have answered that question unanticipated without checking with someone is beyond us.
Finally she has accused us of falling victim to Labor Party stooges.
In fact we were not the only ones or even the first to bring these questions to a public forum — Tasmanian activist Rodney Croome aired the same concerns on his blog the night of the debate, though he has since reworded these.
This week we bring you the full story, from the lips of Senator Hanson-Young. We only wish the Greens’ denial had come sooner.