Opposition Leader Bill Shorten addresses the media after his media visit to the Queanbeyan GP Super Clinic, on Friday 12 May 2017. fedpol Photo: Alex EllinghausenOpponents of same-sex marriage in Australia are the underdogs in the upcoming national postal vote and will be “threatened” by advocates for change, Assistant Minister Zed Seselja said on Wednesday.
Accusing Opposition Leader Bill Shorten of trying to limit free speech on the debate this week, the ACT senator said media outlets had decided to support the “yes” campaign and were guilty of biased coverage.
The comments follow Mr Shorten’s criticism of a a new TV advertisement by opponents of same-sex marriage. He labelled as “total rubbish” a Coalition for Marriage’s ad, which aired on commercial networks on Tuesday night, and linked changes to marriage law to sex education at schools.
The ad claims that in countries which have legalised same-sex marriage, “parents have lost their rights to choose”, and features an unidentified woman who says her son was told he could wear a dress to school.
A Melbourne school principal has disputed that claim.
Speaking on ABC TV, the Assistant Minister for Social Services and Multicultural Affairs said Mr Shorten was attempting “to shut down free speech”.
“This ad is from concerned mothers… who are citing examples from overseas and they’re concerned that when you redefine marriage that of course there are knock-on effects.
“I think it’s pretty ordinary of Bill Shorten to be attacking mothers who are concerned about the teaching of their children and to call that hate speech. I don’t think that’s hate speech,” he said.
Senator Seselja said the media was guilty of “wholesale shouting down” and biased coverage, which in turn limited free speech.
“I think there’s no doubt that most of the media has made up their mind about this issue and they are very much supporting the ‘yes’ campaign.
“Those who argue the ‘no’ case are the underdogs and they’re going to be threatened.
“I would just say that whether it’s the ABC, whether it’s other parts of the media, let’s have a fair dinkum, honest, reasonable discussion about it.
“Let’s not call it hate speech every time someone disagrees with us and we can draw out the issues, have a mature debate, the Australian people will have their say and we’ll abide by the result.”
Senator Seselja is publicly opposed to same-sex marriage but plans to respect the result of the postal plebiscite in any future parliamentary vote.
Earlier this month he said Christians and other religious believers could persecuted for their views on marriage if the law is changed.
The Coalition for Marriage issued a statement on Wednesday saying Mr Shorten did not want to hear or answer questions being raised by ordinary Australians about the consequences of legalising same-sex marriage.
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