A passionate audience member and a panel of articulate young Australians quizzed Liberal MP Josh Frydenberg and Labor’s Catherine King over Australia’s laws on gay marriage, in Q&A’s first high school special with an all-teenage audience.
“Australia is one of the most developed nations in the world. However, we are still denied the right to marry who we love,” Jasmine Kinderis said.
“This is something I hold entirely close to my heart because it hits far too close to home.
“You’re denying people the right to love … Why is our conservative government trying to keep Australia from same-sex marriage?”
— ABC Q&A (@QandA) July 24, 2017
Panellist Jock Maddern, from the small Victorian country town of Kaniva, said he believed no one should be able to instruct them who they can or cannot marry.
“It shouldn’t matter who you love to be honest. As long as you are a decent person, you’re understanding and you abide by the laws,” he said.
“What goes on behind closed doors, in another person’s house is no one else’s business but theirs.”
He said it should be up to the public to decide.
But his fellow panellist Jacinta Speer – a Year 12 student from MacRobertson Girls High School – disagreed, asserting that the gay marriage debate should not be resolved in the form of a plebiscite or postal vote.
“The country is clear. We’ve wanted marriage equality,” she said.
“And to try and engage in this plebiscite or postal vote, which would only stir up so much hateful rhetoric and angry rhetoric, I think would be detrimental to all of us.
“It’s something that we’re lagging behind all other developed countries all over the world. We need to take action on marriage equality.”
Youth indigenous activist Aretha Brown went so far as to say that shielding people from the ability to love who they choose could be “dangerous”.
She also said the issue was an emotional one that hit close to home.
“I think a person is left dangerous if they don’t have love because it teaches you humanity and it teaches you how to suffer,” she said.
“To think there’s certain people out there that don’t have the same rights as a person sitting next to you … this is supposed to be Australia in the 21st century.
“Yet, I couldn’t marry someone if I really love them.”
Mr Frydenberg said the government had made its plebiscite policy clear since the Liberal Party’s federal election campaign.
“And dare I say if the Parliament had voted for the plebiscite, based on the polls today, we would have gay marriage in this country. And I personally support that,” he said.
“The issue here is that we took a policy and that we want the public to have its say.
“There are people who are very passionate against, just as there are very many people who are passionate for. I have great confidence in the Australian people to be able to debate these issues and once it’s done, it’s done.”
Labor’s Ms King challenged the government’s stance by noting that the Liberal Party have changed their policies in the past.
“I don’t know why you won’t change your policy on this,” she said.
“We should just get this done.”
‘I don’t feel as safe as everyone else in this country’
Sondus Sammak, a young Muslim girl in the Q&A audience, asked whether ASIO’s increased powers may impede on her freedom of speech and if she would be “viewed through the prism of terrorism”.
“I feel like the government puts all of these measures to protects us but at the same time it is marginalising the Muslim community and we can feel that in everywhere that we go,” she said.
“Why do I, on the street, have to feel like I’m a subject for Islamophobia? … Just because I’m wearing my head scarf, I can easily be targeted.
“And I have the right to feel as safe as everyone else in this country. But I don’t feel as safe as everyone else in this country.”
— ABC Q&A (@QandA) July 24, 2017
Ms Brown said she believed everyone has the right to criticise the world, regardless of their religion or their beliefs.
“In my opinion you have the right to post whatever the hell you want,” she said.
“If there’s certain organisations that might intimidate you or make you feel as though you haven’t got the right to say what you want to say, I don’t think it can be for the best.
“If you can’t say what you want to say, then I don’t think anyone else should be able to either.”