The leader of the Liberal Democrats has acknowledged the lead role Australian Conservatives took on free speech during the marriage law survey debate.
Senator Cory Bernardi led the charge against so-called 'temporary' laws banning vilification on gender, sexuality or religious grounds. In the debate, Senator Bernardi referred to the laws as '18C on steroids'.
"I actually feel a little bit guilty that I didn't kick up enough fuss about that - the government had been saying all we are going to do is pick up the misleading and deceptive clauses from the Electoral Act ... I'd been asked about it by the media and I had no concerns about that, I was pretty relaxed about it ... I hadn't even looked at the bill until Monday morning in the senate when one of my staff told me look at this, so there it had vilification, harass and threaten ... and I said well, that's a bit bad ... we had a chat about it ... I said, well, this is going to open the door to other people to say, "well, it's alright to prohibit vilification in this context, it can apply in other contexts". I wasn't too happy about it ... and we saw, well the bill will only last 3 months, so we thought well, that's a good thing. In the House ... no-one even spoke against it ... I wondered what on earth I could do about it. It got introduced at 9:30 in the morning and was through by 11:30am ... in fairness, only Cory Bernardi raised any concerns about it ... I didn't even go into the chamber. In hindsight I should have jumped up and down about it. It didn't go to a vote, it just went through on the voices. Had I been thinking a little more clearly, I might even have forced it to a division with Cory."