House debates

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Constituency Statements

Same-Sex Relationships

Photo of Peter SlipperPeter Slipper (Fisher, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Pursuant to the resolution passed on 5 July 2011, as amended, we now move to constituency statements on ways to achieve equal treatment for same-sex couples including marriage.

10:33 am

Photo of Adam BandtAdam Bandt (Melbourne, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

Today is a good day for those who believe in love and the power of love to change things for the better. It is almost a year since I successfully moved a motion to ask members to take the temperature of their electorate regarding marriage equality, and since then the push for equal love has really warmed up. As a result it seemed to me that it would make sense to have time set aside to hear from everyone about what their constituents have said in the last few months, and I am glad that the government agreed to make time and we were able to secure space for everyone to express their views and the views of their electorates. I congratulate all the other honourable members who choose to participate in this discussion today, regardless of their position, because it is very important that we continue this debate.

It is a very important day today in the life of this parliament because I believe it represents another very important step along the road to full equality and to finally ending the legal discrimination that faces same-sex-attracted people. I am confident that it will not be long before marriage equality is achieved, because love builds bridges where there are none. Love thaws hearts and warms minds. Love is a powerful force for good and a force for change, and I believe that it is love that has brought us to this place in the debate and it is love that will carry us over the threshold of discrimination and fear to marriage equality. This push for equal love is not just important for those who want to get married. It sends a powerful message to the boy in a country town struggling with his sexuality or the student who wants to take her girlfriend to the high school formal that this country believes their love is equal.

The people of Melbourne support equal love and want marriage equality. Support for marriage equality was a key issue in my successful election campaign for the seat of Melbourne. The Greens were the only party to have marriage equality as part of our election platform and I was the only lower house candidate in the country who was elected on such a platform. During the campaign and subsequently, I have had such strong feedback and almost universal support for the Greens' stance on marriage equality. I have received several thousand emails on the issue and over nine in 10 have expressed support for marriage equality. In a survey I conducted in my electorate in Melbourne in November last year marriage equality was one of the top priority issues for respondents and, of the 475 people who responded to the survey, only one respondent expressed opposition to equal marriage rights. When out at listening posts in my electorate I have had great public support for our stance.

Melbourne has hosted numerous meetings, rallies and other events, all expressing support for marriage equality. From around the country I have also received many messages of support for the Greens' push for equal love, and a number of opinion polls reflect the fact that the overwhelming majority of Australians support ending discrimination. The universal feeling expressed in these messages is the same: why shouldn't someone marry the person they love? The Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition, out of step with public opinion, have said their parties will vote to continue discrimination, but already cracks in the wall of indifference placed around the old parties by their leaders are starting to show, and I want to commend the backbenchers and ministers that have been seeking to expand those cracks and break down that wall of indifference.

It seems to me that if you come from a party that believes in equality, that must be equality for everyone, and if you come from a party that believes in an individual's right to do as they wish with their own life, so long as it does not harm someone else, then that should extend to the most fundamental of rights, the right to be able to marry the person that you love. I believe it is not sustainable for the government or the opposition to hold back the floodgates of public opinion that wants Australia to come into the 21st century. I have great confidence that we will achieve full equality in the life of this parliament and, after all, if it is something that Catholic Spain can do then Australia as a 21st century advanced democracy should be able to do it as well. The Greens have a bill before the parliament ready and waiting to overturn the marriage ban. We are ready to move forward with that bill when it becomes clear that the barriers to love have been removed. This is not going to be the last time that this matter is debated in this House. We will, as I have said, press ahead in the Senate with our proposal to remove marriage inequality once one of the major parties steps into the 21st century and steps into line with mainstream public opinion and we can remove one of the last areas of discrimination in this country. (Time expired)

10:38 am

Photo of Paul NevillePaul Neville (Hinkler, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I am pleased to speak to the resolution put forward by the member for Melbourne that members consult their electorates about the matter of same-sex marriage. It is a very vexed issue for many on the other side of the chamber and I understand the tremendous pressure that has been brought to bear on members of the Labor Party regarding the Marriage Act. Nevertheless, the member for Reid has been on the record as saying he does not believe there is overwhelming public support for same-sex marriage, despite proponents' claims, and I believe he is correct. I also believe Australia has far more pressing issues which warrant the parliament's attention at this time; issues like the cost of living, the burden of new taxes, the management of our immigration and, indeed, the economy.

Nevertheless, last year by way of resolution the member for Melbourne asked every parliamentarian to go back to their electorates and gauge the level of support for same-sex marriage, and I did just that. I have always found my newsletter was a very good way to get feedback from my constituents, so I placed it in my Christmas newsletter. The results may be disheartening for the member for Melbourne: only 14 people were supportive of same-sex marriage; 595 opposed it. That is roughly two per cent of the respondents in Hinkler being in favour of same-sex marriage. Quite frankly, I was surprised. Even though it is a conservative electorate, I thought the result would have been closer. Along with this I received 232 letters from my constituents in the form of an open letter to the Prime Minister protesting against any move towards same-sex marriage.

Like the vast majority of my constituents, I believe marriage is, and should remain, the union of a man and a woman. It seems there is a great push in some sections of society for change for change's sake, that what was good enough for centuries is no longer good enough today and that a culture's symbols, traditions and ceremonies should make way for the holy grails of political correctness and individual gratification. I read a column by Miranda Devine on Sunday, 14 August, a very interesting piece lamenting the fatherless society which we are creating. There are a couple of sentences that resonated with me very strongly:

Tolerance has gone back to front. Now we have to downplay traditional marriage for fear of causing offence. No-one can be a wife or a husband anymore; everyone is a partner.

From time immemorial—and certainly in the Judeo-Christian tradition of 30 or more centuries—marriage has been the framework from which other aspects of orderly society have been regulated. Inheritance, the transfer of wealth in past times, the alignment of nations and international treaties have all revolved around marriage, but one overriding factor in Western society is that marriage always took place between a man and a woman. It is a framework recognised by society, by law and by the church, which sees it as a sacrament. It is the formal expression of love and commitment between two people in which children are conceived and raised. Back in 2004 when we debated the Marriage Legislation Amendment Bill, I argued that no minority group had the right to attach traditional symbols to their own situation and turn the institution of marriage into something it is not, and I hold that view today.

Do not get me wrong; I am not homophobic and I am certainly against all forms of discrimination. I strongly believe that Australians should be able to live their lives without prejudice, discrimination or bias. I have staunchly defended the rights of same-sex couples—whether they are in a physical relationship or not—to be able to transfer property and enjoy superannuation and insurance rights and the like, but I do not believe that the legal union of a same-sex couple should be classified as marriage, and I do not believe that protecting the traditional status of marriage is somehow discrimination; that is a ridiculous proposition. At a rally in Sydney on the weekend the New South Wales Greens MP, David Shoebridge, said that the push for marriage equality was now a mainstream issue with 'the majority support across Australia'. This is certainly not the case in my electorate of Hinkler and I would suggest not in Queensland as a whole.

10:43 am

Photo of Chris HayesChris Hayes (Fowler, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

For an issue gaining much media attention and public discourse, I welcomed the opportunity to consult with my electorate concerning their insights into, and opinion on, this particular issue. Proponents for the legislation for same-sex marriage argue that it is simply a change of wording in the Marriage Act, citing that it currently discriminates. I fully support the government's reform over the last few years which has seen the removal of all forms of discrimination against same-sex couples. As a result amendments have been made to 85 pieces of Commonwealth legislation, now ensuring that partners of same-sex relationships are not legally discriminated against. However, changing the Marriage Act in my view violates the sanctity of marriage and allows same-sex marriage to, in fact, redefine the meaning of marriage itself.

Prior to the 2005 by-election, when I was elected, I used to lay down a series of markers for the electorate as to who Chris Hayes was and what he stood for, irrespective of party politics. I felt it was important for the community to be able to gauge who I am as a person. I advised that I did have a union background. I advised also that I ran a small business. I spoke of my then 29-year marriage to Bernadette, about raising a family locally and boasted proud of being a grandfather. Importantly, I also advised the community that I personally hold religious beliefs as I am a practising Catholic, and I shared this information with people so they could sense who Chris Hayes was as a person. Clearly, a person's background has a measure of influence in terms of their views into the future. Having said this, I in no way believe that my personal views on an issue such as same-sex marriage overshadow the views of my constituents. In fact, I strongly believe that I was elected to the parliament to reflect the views and values of the residents of Fowler.

With this in mind I report the results of my consultation with the local community. I liaised with the members of my local electorate directly, both formally and in street meetings. I certainly received extensive correspondence on the matter. I received four petitions and I conducted an online survey. The feedback that I received was overwhelmingly in opposition to same-sex marriage. In the survey that I conducted on my website I invited people who visit the website to answer the question, 'Should the federal government legislate to recognise same-sex marriage?' Of the 395 votes cast, over 90 per cent said no. I received three petitions which contained over 350 signatures and a fourth containing 150 signatures. Furthermore, I have received over 400 personal letters from constituents stating their wish for the preservation of the traditional definition of marriage and have requested I highlight the importance of the stability it provides, not only for children but for society at large.

The overwhelming majority of emails received in support of same-sex marriage, from people involved in the marriage equality campaign, were in fact sent from outside of my electorate. Irrespective of my opinion on this matter, I say that I acted impartially in my liaison with constituents. At one request for a personal meeting I met with Jessica. Jessica is a lesbian who is in a long-term relationship with her partner. Enabled by the fact that she is transsexual, Jessica and her partner are planning to have children in the future. I came away from the meeting thinking that she is a very open and honest young woman, very passionate about her beliefs and certainly genuine in her regard about family. I accept on good faith the reasons why she did not register her relationship: that she believes that a civil union differs greatly from the meaning of marriage. I say that on the basis that I was very impressed with her candour, notwithstanding the fact, as I indicated to her, that I could not personally support her position.

I note that this debate is highly controversial. However, everyone is entitled to their view. Following the expression of my view at the last New South Wales Labor conference I was written up as a vile, right-wing politician. I do not apologise for my beliefs and I certainly will not apologise for the overwhelming view taken by my electorate. I thank the House for the opportunity to participate in this debate and I thank the member for Melbourne for moving his motion and making it possible. (Time expired)

10:48 am

Photo of George ChristensenGeorge Christensen (Dawson, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

For most of us a marriage proposal might be a momentous, exciting event, but you will have to forgive me for not getting too excited about the proposal that I and 148 others received in this place last year. My lack of excitement perhaps stems from the fact that it was an indecent proposal, or at least a pointless proposal. A motion directing members of the House of Representatives to represent the views of their electorate suggests we have been told how to do our job. Did we really need to be asked to canvass our constituents' views on the issue of same-sex marriage? Let us not mistake what is going on here. This is a motion that is one gutless step towards trying to change the law on marriage. It is a motion that says, 'I have not got the guts to put up the same-sex marriage bill because I know it will be defeated right now, so I will just throw the concept out there so you will get used to it.'

When I am talking to people in my electorate of Dawson they have more important concerns than this—concerns about the carbon tax, concerns about the poor state of local roads and the state of the Bruce Highway—and they think the government should have those concerns too. However, I did throw it out there through the media that I was happy to get people's views. We have had GetUp pushing this cause—the Labor-Greens' front GetUp attempting to skew public opinion. Emails generated by GetUp remain few and I was able to personally respond to those emails as they came in. I responded because I wanted to determine if they were actual constituents, because there were no names or addresses to verify if they were. In many cases they admitted they were not from my electorate and in one particularly worrying case the owner of the email address knew nothing about it at all. So, GetUp—this paragon of grassroots social democracy—has been out there trying to subvert the democratic process with fake emails coming in from people who know nothing about what they are supposed to be signing up to. What a disgrace!

With all the verified constituents who commented to me on this issue, tallied up as of 10.20 this morning, 78 were for same-sex marriage in my electorate; 456 were against. That signifies two things to me: one, there is a lack of interest in my electorate on this issue and particularly that people see it as a side issue; and two, from those who do take an interest in this issue, there is strong opposition from the electorate of Dawson. While I have my own view on this matter, the view that I hold here today is shaped by those genuine concerns from people in my electorate. The only time same-sex marriage garners anything in terms of support is when it is dressed up as something that it is not.

When opponents are called homophobic, when they are attacked for discrimination or being a religious nut or a dinosaur, to me it just shows how weak the arguments in favour of same-sex marriage actually are. The issue has been dressed up as discrimination but that is not what it is. It is not about religion, either. It is actually about marriage, and to talk about same-sex marriage—I am sorry, but that is just not what marriage is. Marriage is a legal, exclusive and permanent union of a man and a woman, and that is by its definition. That is what marriage is. That is what marriage is in just about every country in the world and has been before Christianity. That is right: the religious nuts did not invent marriage. They simply recognised, revered, encouraged and supported what has always been the foundation of society.

Marriage is the very foundation of humanity. It is the bond from which families are born, the basic building block of society. To water down the definition of marriage is to weaken the foundation of our society, and that is what the Greens would have us do. Marriage is between a man and a woman, not between a woman and a woman or a man and a man, or a man and three women for that matter, or a man and a woman and another man. The definition of marriage is the only argument we have against polygamy. If we would open the door to same-sex marriage, no valid argument remains against polygamy or the multiple other type of unions that could be out there because the term 'marriage' becomes meaningless. So, although a majority of members accepted this marriage proposal, I am afraid this is one issue that my electorate of Dawson is very happy to leave at the altar.

10:53 am

Photo of Andrew WilkieAndrew Wilkie (Denison, Independent) Share this | | Hansard source

I am pleased to ever so briefly summarise the electorate of Denison's views on marriage equality. The motion of this House to gauge the views of the electorate I applauded and went to some trouble to comply with, including advertising in the Mercury newspaper and in my newsletter, as well as by meeting with all constituents interested in discussing the issue. In total, I received over 1,300 emails and letters, mostly from people in the electorate. I have met personally with some 50 constituents and over 350 people packed into the main lecture theatre at the University of Tasmania to attend my public forum on the issue.

The one point both opponents and supporters of same-sex marriage agree on is the enduring value of marriage. Both marriage equality advocate, Rodney Croome, and Presbyterian minister and opponent of same-sex marriage, Campbell Markham, described marriage as a bedrock institution during their contribution to the public forum. However, Mr Markham and many others who share the view that the current definition of marriage as a union between man and woman should be maintained do so based on the belief that marriage is intrinsically linked to bearing and raising children, arguing the bedrock of society is family and the bedrock of family is marriage between a man and a woman.

Many constituents expressed the view that marriage should not be about the emotional or sexual connectedness of adults but ultimately about the needs of children. They pointed to a number of studies to argue that the needs of children are best served if they are brought up by both biological parents. Moreover, there was strong support for the widespread Christian belief that same-sex marriage 'will undermine the very fabric of God-ordained marriage' and ultimately have a very negative influence upon families, children and, therefore, our society as a whole.

Some constituents said homosexuality is unnatural, and therefore same-sex marriage is unnatural. One gentleman quoted the English bishop and philosopher Joseph Butler to make his point, saying, 'Everything is what it is and not another thing.' Occasionally concern was raised at the consequences of loosening the definition of marriage, citing the risk of polygamy, paedophilia and even bestiality. Some constituents voiced concern about the possibility of legal action being taken against churches opting to exclude same-sex marriages, even in the event where safeguards are put in place to prevent such an eventuality. That governments have removed discrimination of same-sex couples in most legislation and that Tasmania, among other jurisdictions, allows same-sex unions, was cited frequently as going far enough.

On the other hand, constituents supportive of same-sex marriage believe that without the right to marry same-sex partners are unable to live as free and equal citizens. They argued such a denial equates to discrimination and rejection of their most basic human rights. Mr Croome argued:

Denying us the right to marry the person we love sends out the message that our love is not as good and our commitment is not as strong as it is for those couples who can marry. It says we are second-class citizens against whom it is okay to discriminate.

This was illustrated by a mother who expressed disappointment that her heterosexual child was free to marry, while her child who was in a long-term same-sex relationship was not. In many cases, concerns were not with the churches, which are seen as having the right to decide who they marry, but with the inequity in the Marriage Act which is legislative discrimination.

Law expert Dr Olivia Rundle noted that while recent legislative changes in theory allow same-sex couples to access certain legal rights, the ability to enforce these rights remains uncertain. She concluded that marriage remains the only universally recognised relationship that allows couples to formally commit to lifelong unions.

Some constituents were of the view that legalising same-sex marriage would, in fact, strengthen the institution of marriage by reinforcing its value in modern society. Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Commissioner, Robin Banks, even suggested that by challenging us to rethink traditional gender roles same-sex marriage has the potential to lead to greater equality of the sexes.

While many people in Denison feel strongly about marriage equality, I dare not hazard a guess at the numbers for and against, not least because both camps claim a majority and have polling to prove it. What I do know for sure is that the government needs to find a way to address this matter that will recognise fundamental principles and respect both sides of the debate.

10:58 am

Photo of Kelly O'DwyerKelly O'Dwyer (Higgins, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Central to this motion today is the idea that members of parliament in this place should consult with their constituents on important issues, including that of same-sex marriage. The member for Melbourne, Adam Bandt, said in his speech in the House:

We want those who are still stuck in the old way of thinking to go out and engage with the people in their electorates to find out where they are now at.

Imagine my surprise when I went to look for Mr Bandt's survey on his website. Nothing. I looked for his community forums. Nothing. Don't get me wrong. There were a lot of 'click here if you agree with me' petitions, but no survey about how you could tell him what is important to you. He has asked members in this place to do what he himself is not prepared to do, and that is to genuinely consult with his electorate about the issues important to them.

When challenged on this issue on JOY 94.9FM, Adam Bandt said, 'We did have a consultation. It was the election.' He said:

I went to the election saying 'I want to make this an issue.' I stood on this as a platform and I expressly said, 'One of the reasons I asked people to vote for me was so it was understood that this was an important issue.'

I could be stating the obvious here, but I thought that everyone in this place was elected on a platform. Tony Abbott, Leader of the Liberal Party, ruled out a carbon tax at the last election. Warren Truss, Leader of the Nationals, also ruled it out. The Prime Minister herself, only six days before the election, said, 'There will be no carbon tax under the government I lead.' The only person in the House who explicitly ran on a platform of imposing a carbon tax was Adam Bandt. He is one representative in this place amongst 149 others. If you take Mr Bandt's argument to its logical conclusion, that is that he has a mandate to implement his platform, why then does he ignore the mandate provided to all other members of this place on the issue of the carbon tax? Why does he get to pick and choose?

Mr Bandt said in his original speech on this motion that 'recent polling shows the majority of Australians support a move to full equality for marriage'. He reiterated this again today. Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young has stated that such surveys are 'proof, or evidence, that the law needs to be changed'. Yet again they do not apply the same test on other issues, including the carbon tax. Both the recent Newspoll and Galaxy polls clearly state that the majority of Australians are against the carbon tax. Yet the Greens refuse to listen. This is hugely hypocritical of them.

As the federal member for Higgins I did not need a motion to tell me how to do my job. Unlike the member for Melbourne, since becoming a member of parliament I have sought the views of my electorate by conducting 10 community forums in different parts of Higgins, by regular listening posts at my 23 train stations, regular mobile office meetings at shopping strips and regular meetings with my constituents and community groups.

I also have a survey on my website and have directly mailed this survey to 17,234 people in my electorate. In my newsletter that is distributed to every household, I have also asked people to fill in my survey online. My survey asks people to let me know about the top four issues that concern them. There are 15 issues listed, including same-sex marriage, but I also give constituents the option to fill in their own issues or to provide more detail. The result of my survey to date is the top four issues that people identify are government waste and mismanagement, investment in mental health care, choice in education, and securing Australia's borders. That is not to say that same-sex marriage is not an important issue to many people in my electorate; it is. For some it is a decisive issue and the one that will determine their vote, but there are also other issues in my electorate of Higgins that are important to the people who live there.

There can be no question that social change is complex. There is a need for those who want to make change to take the community with them. I think it is important for representatives in this place to have time to reflect on social issues. I will always do just that. This reflection is something that should be ongoing, assessed and reassessed.

It is my view that arbitrary deadlines have more to do with political grandstanding than achieving genuine community consensus. In my view the Greens have done more to put back this debate and discussion than to move it forward, to coin a phrase, because they have tried to play politics with it. They have stood on platforms with people who have denigrated those who have a different view as homophobic. While there are some people in the community who are, sadly, homophobic, this is not the majority view. Name-calling will never be a persuasive argument. It will not convince people. It is, ultimately, dishonest. It does not go to the core arguments. And can be used as a tool to silence people.

As I see it, there are two aspects to this debate but only one element that has received the headlines. The first is whether we should recognise a union between two loving adults of the same sex. The second is about children and whether same-sex couples should have the same access as heterosexual couples to IVF and adoption. I know that there are people with goodwill and deeply held personal views on both sides of this debate. Unlike Adam Bandt, I have met with these people. I do not denigrate them for their view. I have listened. And I have also shared with them my personal view that I do not believe that the churches, mosques or synagogues should be forced to marry anyone that they do not want to. I have shared my view that strong and stable relationships are the building blocks of any society. Like my colleagues in the coalition, I support measures to end discrimination against same-sex couples in Commonwealth legislation. I have shared my view in support of civil unions for same-sex couples. And I have also shared my view that there are legal implications that flow from same-sex marriage. And those legal implications affect children. As a society, something that has serious consequences for children and for family deserves very serious scrutiny. As a result, the threshold for making change to existing laws on this issue is, in my view, high.

It is my view that the people who want change bear the onus and responsibility for making the argument for that change. I have not been convinced by the need for change at this time.

11:03 am

Photo of Graham PerrettGraham Perrett (Moreton, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

In speaking to this motion, I say that I received 2,270 survey responses from people who completed my web survey, met me on street stalls, met me in my office or sent me a letter or an email. After removing non-electorate folks, I was down to 1,373 responses. I note that I do not include my constituent Carl Katter, Bob's brother, in my numbers, as he came out, so to speak, in the media last night and I closed my survey yesterday. The breakdown from the survey is as follows: support current definition of marriage, 604 or 44 per cent; do not support current definition, 728 or 53 per cent; and unsure, 41 or three per cent.

Before I detail how I shall interpret my constituents' votes I shall provide a brief history of marriage. The best available evidence has marriage at 4,351 years old, as my advice is actually a year old. Beforehand, families consisted of loosely organised groups with several male leaders, multiple women shared by them and then children. As hunter-gatherers settled down into agrarian civilisations, society needed more stable relationships. From this, there is evidence of marriage ceremonies uniting one woman and one man in Mesopotamia. Marriage was then embraced by Hebrews, Greeks and Romans, although male Hebrews could take several wives and Greek and Roman marriages were not monogamous for men.

In ancient times marriage had very little to do with love or religion. Through marriage a woman became a man's property and was used to produce heirs. If wives failed to produce offspring, their husbands could give them back and marry somebody else. As the Roman Catholic church blossomed in Europe, a priest became necessary for a marriage to be legally recognised.

In 1563, at the Council of Trent, it was written into canon law. This change improved the lot of wives, as their husbands had to respect them more and divorce was forbidden. Romantic love crept in as a reason for marriage only during the Middle Ages. With the surname Perrett, I am proud to say that many scholars believe that it was invented by the French. Love did change marriage and wives no longer existed only to serve men, although in many cultures they were still owned and gave up their name to symbolise this surrendering of identity.

Sources of English law relating to marriage include the common law, ecclesiastical courts and the parliament. In English laws, marriage was a civil contract that required a religious ceremony, so if the elements of the contract were met there was then a union of a man and a women for life to the exclusion of all others. Obviously certainty about the bloodline of heirs flowed from these civil contracts but love was not a contract requirement.

Statutory marriage laws were not passed in the UK until Lord Hardwicke's Act of 1753. We jump forward 100 years to my home state of Queensland where the Registration of Births, Deaths and Marriages Act was passed in 1855. Like the state of Victoria, in the 1860s most colonial governments were obsessed with controlling who Indigenous Australians married. In Queensland it was to prevent miscegenation by preventing black-white unions. In Western Australia it was to absorb blacks into the white population by preventing black-black marriages.

When women gained the right to vote in Australia in 1901, marriage became a union of two full citizens, and the notion of ownership of women has gradually faded ever since. Since Federation, race has intruded into personal marriage arrangements. For example, during World War II men in our occupation forces in Japan were refused permission to marry the women they loved if they were Japanese because of the White Australia policy.

In 1959, during the Commonwealth parliamentary debate on the first national Marriage Act, the media ran hot with the news that in Darwin the Protector of Aborigines refused Gladys Namagu permission to marry her white fiance, Mick Daly. Under pressure in the House, the Menzies government promised such discrimination would never be written into Australian marriage law. Marriage law remained unchanged until 2004. But it is worth noting that other laws changed around it, such as no-fault divorce by the Whitlam government and the law recognising marital rape. Before this such a charge was inconceivable as the husband owned his wife's sexuality. In 2004 the Marriage Act was changed to refer exclusively to a union between a man and a woman.

Nearly 20 constituents came to see me and assured me that marriage only existed so that people could have procreational sex—that is procreational and not recreational. As a Catholic I am familiar with this framework, although I did marry an Anglican. When I asked these constituents if men and women should be able to marry even if they could not have children, they were untroubled. So when I consider that what the nation states approach to marriage should be, I must reject for logical inconsistency the notion that only people who can naturally have children should be allowed to marry.

I reject out of hand the fecund versus barren test; we are talking about humans, not cattle. I know that faith is illogical. That is why it is called faith, not logic. Thankfully I do not have to explain my faith to the Pope, to Pell, to people like David Marr or to anybody else. It is a private matter between me and my God, so while my faith informs any decisions I might make about marriage, it does not dictate how I decide. The main reason I believe that I should be guided by my survey results is that a change will cause less harm to young people. Too many constituents told me their children were bullied and belittled because they were same-sex attracted. Some were even driven to suicide. I cannot sit idly by while the nation is complicit in this harm. It is time for this nation to protect committed, monogamous relationships, whatever the gender of the adults who wish to have their relationship recognised by the state. (Extension of time granted)Today is Wednesday. If we change the Marriage Act right now and tomorrow same-sex attracted people were able to get married, how would my world be different on Friday morning? Will I wake up next to my beautiful wife of 16 years and say, 'You look cheaper'? I will not be doing that for a lot of reasons.

It has been put to me that bringing in marriage equality will somehow cheapen my relationship because it is supposed to be only between a man and a woman. I am sorry, but I will not be thinking about same-sex couples, my neighbours or anybody else when I wake up in the arms of the most beautiful woman in the world. I will not be thinking about my neighbours—hi to Grant and Norma, Jenny and John—or anybody else. I will be thinking only about my wife. It is time for everybody, every adult in Australia, to be given the same opportunity, to wake up with their own loved one—obviously not with my wife. It is time for everyone in Australia to be given that opportunity.

11:10 am

Photo of Alex HawkeAlex Hawke (Mitchell, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I also rise to speak on the motion of Mr Bandt, the member for Melbourne, in relation to same-sex marriage. I note and I am very grateful that the member for Moreton has committed to bringing up his children as Anglicans and as Parramatta Eels' supporters. It is fantastic to hear. We enjoy a good role of the football field.

This is a very important issue and, unlike some previous speakers, I do not have an intrinsic problem with being asked to consult with my constituency. I think it is a bit of a moot point because that is what we all should be doing in the House of Representatives. This is not the Senate; we do not need to be instructed to talk to real people. We spend our whole lives doing it. Indeed, in my constituency I have the highest rate of couples with dependent children of any electorate in Australia, according to the last census. I have one of the highest rates of mortgages, one of the highest rates of McMansions, the lowest rate of single parents in the country and one of the lowest proportions of renters. It is a very homogenous society. Unsurprisingly, of course, that would lead people to come to me and speak about the value of marriage as being between a man and a woman.

One thing that I did not hear in the member for Moreton's presentation—I am a great studier of history and I think he made some good historical points that there have been inequities and injustices in our past societies—is that there has still not been a good argument put forward about why we need to go down this particular path that is being advanced about redefining or doing something to marriage as an institution itself.

We live in a secular society. I am a strong Christian myself and I have strong views about marriage. But I do believe that in a secular society we have to have legal recognition of unions of all kinds, without fear or favour on religious or other grounds. That would lead us to the conclusion that we have a civil union in Australia today. I have presented that view to the activists that have come to see me in Australia, and I have no problem with civil unions or legal recognition of partnerships between same sexes or otherwise. That would be the next practical, logical step for us to take at this point in society today. However, I think these activists that are seeking to make change today are not looking for that. They are looking to do something to the institution of marriage, an institution which has served us so well historically. Yes, it has been for procreational purposes, historically speaking. Marriage has had an important foundation and value and it is not always that way, but it has a historical societal reference that you cannot remove from it—nor should we seek to remove it. It has a great value going forward to have marriage defined as between one man and one woman. It does not mean we do not recognise other unions. It does not mean that we should not give them the same legal status or rights, but we can preserve that great historical institution that has meant so much to us and will continue to provide so many benefits to our society.

I can tell you that my society functions very well in the electorate of Mitchell. We do have families with kids. It is a great place to live. Crime is low, people work hard, things go well there. I see well-functioning families of all shapes and sizes as the bedrock of this country. It does not necessarily mean there is always a man and a woman. I came from a single-parent household myself. But well-functioning families and family units, we all agree, are things that we should seek to encourage and maintain by government policy. I do not think it would be a step forward for us to redefine the Marriage Act and change what has been a working, functioning and successful institution in our country today. I think it would be a step forward to ensure that discrimination and other forms of not recognising other legitimate unions between people are removed. There is broad support for that out there in the community. There is broad support in my community. Most of the same people who are very strongly in favour of traditional marriage recognise that it is practical, responsible and sensible to move down this path of having legal recognition of same-sex unions. But that does not mean a redefinition of marriage itself or attacking marriage as a concept. I think it does have a great historical and important role in Australia's future and in nations in the future. I think this is a foolish attempt and that we get a lot of the division and problems that we are seeing in our society today with this attempt to redefine marriage.

I am not sure why that is an objective of the activist movement. We should move towards legal recognition of same-sex relationships in a civil way and treat everybody the same way. People come back with these spurious arguments and say, 'I do not want to go to my partner and say, “I want to civil union you."' We are not going to rewrite thousands of years of human history or change everything overnight. We are not going to do that. But the next logical step at the point of society we are in today is to move down the path of legal recognition of same-sex relationships and afford them the same rights as any other kind of relationship. That would be a positive step forward. Even if I would not personally seek that, or personally not encourage people to do that, that would be a responsible view from a governmental level for us to proceed with.

11:15 am

Photo of Andrew LeighAndrew Leigh (Fraser, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

In a representative debate mocracy parliamentarians have a responsibility to do more than simply reflect opinion polls. If that were our only job, you would replace us with machines that phone polled the electorate and voted accordingly.

Leadership is about careful judgment. But you cannot exercise that judgment without listening. On this issue I have been struck by the willingness of hundred of Canberrans to share their stories with me by email and in person in my electorate office, community forums and mobile offices, stories told with dignity, grace and humility. Some people who have contacted me oppose changes to the Marriage Act. They argue that marriage has a long history of being only between a man and a woman. They say that marriage should protect the reproductive relationship and as much as possible give children the opportunity to be reared by their biological parents.

Brent and Wendy Budarick came to my Jamison centre mobile office to speak with me and gave me a petition signed by 146 people that opposed same-sex marriage, and I thank them for that. From a similar perspective Gordon of Ngunnawal told me that the family unit 'is inherently and naturally based on the procreation and raising of children by their natural mother and father'.

But most people who have contacted me would like to see a change to the law on the basis of equality, removal of discrimination, and social justice and acceptance. Cheryl of Downer wrote of her gay daughter who has had a number of friends suicide over a period of two years because of the stigma placed on gay people. She wrote:

I believe that the strength of marriage will not be undermined by the equality of all people in seriously committed relationships to have the right to this recognition and the legal protection it offers. My heart cries for the young people who have been placed in circumstances so severe that the loss of life is the only course of action they can see as a way forward.

Another constituent, who preferred that I not use her name, related how her six-year-old asked, 'Mum, why aren't you and mummy married?' She wrote to me:

I want to celebrate the relationship I have with my partner fully in the way heterosexual people can in our country. And my kids should be able to celebrate with us! And it is very sad to have to tell them that the only reason was because our government would not let us despite a lot of people in our country having no issue with it.

Alan Verhagen of Watson has lived with his partner for 15 years and told me of the couples he has watched stick by their same-sex partners for decades. As long as marriage excludes same-sex couples, Alan said:

I feel it devalues those relationships. It sends a message that those relationships are not as real or valid as different-sex relationships. I feel it is time to send a message that same-sex relationships are as real and valid as same-sex relationships.

Dianne and Ian Hinton of Palmerston told me about their son, Ivan. I would like to welcome them to the public galleries today. They wrote to me:

He has found a wonderful man, Christopher. They bought a home in a typical family-oriented suburb, Ainslie, a home that they are renovating within a wonderful community that has not once treated them specially or separately because of their sexual orientation. They are registered foster carers and will make wonderful parents. In 2008, after being together for six years, they were married in Montreal, Canada.

Sandra from Page urged me to amend the Marriage Act so that same-sex couples can marry because, in her words, 'Marriage should be about love and commitment, not exclusion or prejudice.' Sandra wrote that in those countries where same-sex marriages are allowed 'the fears of those who opposed reform have proven unfounded'. As the mother of a gay son it broke her heart to see what she considered 'segregation and discrimination against him'.

Finally, we should not assume that this debate simply pits believers against atheists. Brendon from Page wrote to me after returning from mass on Sunday to say that he would like his friends who are in same-sex relationships to have their relationship recognised as marriage if that is what they choose. A serving army officer who is a practising Catholic wrote to offer similar sentiments, as did Lin Hatfield Dodds, National Director of Uniting Care Australia. I note that there is even a Christians & Equality group.

In closing I would like to thank all of those who have taken the time to share their stories with me and apologise that in five short minutes I can only relate a small portion of the deeply moving stories that have been shared with me. I hope we can continue to deliberate this important issue with the dignity and respect it deserves. I thank the member for Melbourne for moving this motion.

11:19 am

Photo of Darren ChesterDarren Chester (Gippsland, National Party, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Roads and Regional Transport) Share this | | Hansard source

In joining this debate the first point I would like to make is that really, as members of this place, we do not need to be told by the Greens or the member for Melbourne in particular when we should consult with our electorates on issues and what issues we actually need to raise with local people. I think that is something as members of this place we do on an ongoing basis. I personally often distribute surveys in my electorate. I attend many functions. I have street corner meetings, like a lot of other MPs, and am available to people to raise any issues of concern whatsoever. For their own sake to avoid being seen as hypocritical on this issue perhaps the Greens will submit a motion calling on all members to consult their communities on the carbon tax and then provide that feedback to the parliament.

Whilst this motion is not about whether MPs are for or against same-sex marriage, I want to state my position from the outset. I support the recognition of legal rights within same-sex relationships but I do not support changes to the Marriage Act. Although there is no legislation currently before the parliament, if such a bill were presented, I believe that all political parties should grant their members a conscience vote. It would be my intention to vote against such legislation.

Having said that, I hasten to emphasise a few other points. I believe it is also extremely important that we continue to work as a community to eliminate discrimination against people on the basis of their sexuality, just as it is important to eliminate discrimination against other minority groups in our communities. I think it is also critical that we support homosexual people, particularly younger people, as they often grapple with their sexuality in regional areas and are heavily overrepresented in incidences of self-harm, mental health issues and, most tragically, in taking their own lives.

Finally, I would like to make the point that today's debate is not the end of the issue and I do not believe it should be. There are many people in my community who will be bitterly disappointed with the views that I have expressed and there are others who will see this as a cause for celebration.

It is a divisive issue in our community and I believe we need to respect each other's views as we discuss the merits of same-sex marriage and other issues facing homosexual people in our communities. I think it is particularly unhelpful for people on either side of this debate to descend into name-calling and abuse. We need to have a very moderate and a very respectful discussion in our broader community. I believe it should be possible to be opposed to same-sex marriage and not be typecast as being bigoted or homophobic, as some in my community have tried to portray my position. I do reject that assertion and argue that nothing could be further from the truth. I have several gay friends and gay relatives and I respect them as I respect people who support the traditional definition of marriage. Even amongst the gay people that I know there is a divided view on whether same-sex marriage is actually that big an issue for them. If I can recall conversations where we put that forward as an issue of debate amongst ourselves, their feeling was that there are other, far more important, issues facing homosexual couples in the community than this issue of same-sex marriage. But as I said, there are divided opinions in the community.

In terms of undertaking my own consultations in Gippsland, any person who has contacted me and asked for a meeting to discuss this issue has been given that opportunity. I have listened to their concerns and accepted many of the valid points that they have sought to raise with me. I have met with parents and I have met with friends of gay people and listened to their views as well.

I also note the formation of an online forum, a friends' group for supporters of same-sex marriage in Gippsland, which has several hundred followers and has been a constructive debate, I believe, in my community. Like other members, I have received petitions both for and against same-sex marriage. My own recent survey distributed in newspapers throughout the electorate of Gippsland attracted 700 responses.

I will stress at the outset that being a newspaper based survey it should not be construed as some sort of scientific opinion poll, but I did receive strong feedback from the community and 64 per cent of respondents were opposed to same-sex marriage. I do not use that to justify my position in any sense, but merely to indicate as a matter of interest in the electorate of Gippsland that 64 per cent of respondents to a survey preferred to keep the current system in place. That varies very significantly to other opinion pools I have seen in other electorates around Australia.

I stress again that I have also received many emails and petitions on this issue. The majority of people who have contacted me from actually within my electorate have been opposed to same-sex marriage. As I have done so to date, I intend to continue to participate in this public debate because I think it is an important one and I will participate in a very moderate and respectful manner. I am hopeful that the issue will not become unnecessarily divisive in the wider community.

My position on this issue is not meant to be disrespectful to people who hold strong views to the contrary. Having consulted with my community I believe that the majority of Gippslanders support a more traditional view of marriage. I thank the House for the opportunity to provide that feedback.

11:24 am

Photo of Shayne NeumannShayne Neumann (Blair, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Since the last federal election I have conducted 96 mobile offices in my electorate from Springfield in the east up to Moore in the north-west. Since this motion was moved in parliament I have conducted 16 mobile offices where people have raised issues in relation to it. I have had 700 constituency contacts—emails, phone calls, letters, faxes and people coming to see me to discuss this issue.

There are 580 in support of retention of the current definition of marriage between a man and a woman and 115 people supported a change. Overwhelmingly, the majority of people in my electorate support the position that marriage should be between a man and a woman. That is the definition under the Marriage Act. That is the definition that is supported by the Australian Labor Party, and I have been a candidate in three elections as the candidate for Blair on behalf of the Australian Labor Party. I have supported that position at national conferences. I have supported that position in branch meetings and regional meetings in my electorate and beyond. I have always taken that view. That is a personal view that I have accepted from my religious convictions, a personal view that I think accords with the history of human experience. It is a position which is supported by people of many faiths, including the many Australian Christian leaders who have come out today in relation to the issue; 50 Australian national leaders of Australian churches have endorsed a document on the importance of marriage as a legal institution that promotes and protects the identity of children and interdenominationally recognises their right to know, have access to and be nurtured by both a mother and a father. It is not just people of the Christian faith but people of the Islamic faith and Jewish faith and other religious viewpoints who support this particular position.

I have many friends who are gay and lesbian. I have good mates, like Andrew and Clinton. My sister-in-law Rhonda has been in a relationship with Marion for about 15 years. I get on famously well—in fact, probably better—with Marion than I ever got on with Rhonda's husband previously. I love Marion. I love my sister-in-law Rhonda, and I respect the right of all Australians to be included in Australian life.

I have supported change in the reform of family law and other areas to support the rights of gay people. In fact, I supported that with motions at party units in Queensland and at regional conferences. I am pleased that this government has seen fit to protect individuals through changes in relation to superannuation, taxation, family law and other areas with more than 85 pieces of legislation amended to end discrimination for people in gay and lesbian relationships.

That is the position adopted by this government. It should have been done by the previous government. I do take umbrage at the fact that this motion demands that we, as federal members, are responsible for consulting with our constituents. I do this all the time and you cannot remain in this place unless you do so. I think it is important that we do that. I rejected the idea of an online survey because I feared it would be susceptible to manipulation. I checked every single person who contacted me to make sure they were on the electoral roll, so I am confident that of the 700 people who contacted me every single one of those lives in my electorate.

I think it is crystal clear that the majority of people in my electorate of Blair, which makes up 70 per cent of the population of Ipswich and all the rural area known as the Somerset region, believe that we should include people from gay and lesbian relationships in the fullness of Australian life but that marriage is an institution by definition between a man and a woman and that should be retained because they believe it is a fundamental institution. I do not believe that there is consensus in this country to change the definition of such a fundamental, familial institution as the family unit with a man and a woman being married.

The motion is that what we should do in relation to this issue is listen to our constituents. We do that all the time, and I have in my electorate of Blair.

11:29 am

Photo of Luke SimpkinsLuke Simpkins (Cowan, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I also welcome the opportunity to make some comments, although rather briefly, on this motion today. At the last federal election I received just over 50 per cent of the primary vote, which I think is probably the first time that has happened in the electorate of Cowan. So I would like to believe—and certainly from the times I have been out on the streets and in shopping centres and doorknocking— that in most respects I represent the interests of my community very well. Although I am as regular as I can be at the Warwick Church of Christ I do believe that the way I feel about things is pretty much the way most people in Cowan feel about things.

On this occasion I certainly take the opportunity to thank the people of Cowan who have expressed their views to me on the issue of same-sex marriage. Many have done so. I still have emails coming in to me today on this day set down for this debate. I state that those who have made their views known have done so strongly and utterly supporting the existing definition of marriage. The results have been overwhelming, with 903 supporting the definition of marriage as it is whilst 103 supported a change. Yet, despite the overwhelming result, I do thank those that did make their views known on both sides of the issue. However, it is worth saying that most of those who supported a change in the definition sent form emails which of course then required verification as to whether they were actually local people. Some then, realising what it was about, recanted on their support for same-sex marriage when we questioned where they were and their support for same-sex marriage.

In a lot of respects what was involved was a ticking of a box on a website. But on the other side, when you looked at the emails—and I looked at them as they came in—there was some more personal involvement in the writing of the emails. I think that this is possibly a lesson for those advocates who encourage contact with MPs by ticking boxes on websites that you need to try to engage people so that they can personally express their views rather than just clicking so that it is exactly the same email time after time. Again, for those that on both sides put a passionate and motivated individual effort into their contact with my office, I do appreciate that, because those matters are heartfelt. I certainly put more confidence in those sorts of views than in those who just send a form email.

I have just received a contact from a constituent named Eleanor. She sent an email just as I was waiting for my opportunity to speak. She told me that she had tried on many occasions to send an email and she was using it through a particular website—to which I understood she has added some personal comments—and she was under the impression that the website was under a cyberattack because it was in support of the current definition of marriage. It is unfortunate that people have chosen to take their fight and their beliefs to those sorts of extremes that they tend to try to undermine alternative views. As has been said already in this place, it is always a cheap shot to use name calling to try to denigrate people on the other side to make them feel their personal viewpoint is not legitimate because they might be called homophobic.

As I have said in the past, I personally support the current definition of 'marriage' as being the union of a man and a woman. I believe that the natural family needs to be supported and the definition of 'marriage' as being between a man and a woman does this, and this special position should not be watered down under any circumstances. This is my report from the electorate of Cowan.

11:35 am

Photo of Mike SymonMike Symon (Deakin, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

As a member of the House of Representatives, I am constantly gauging the views of my electorate on many varied subjects, not just over the short term but over the long term, as I know many of us in here do all the time. Therefore, it is a pleasure to report to the House from the electorate of Deakin on the motion moved by the Greens, the motion that says that this House calls on parliamentarians, consistent with their duties as representatives, to gauge their constituents' views on ways to achieve equal treatment for same-sex couples, including marriage.

I have received hundreds of letters and emails as well as local petitions on the subject, in particular from constituents who have longstanding, if not lifelong, views on the subject of marriage. Indeed, many people who wrote to me confided that they had never contacted a politician from either side in their adult lives. An issue such as a debate about same-sex marriage causes such people to pick up their pens or hit their keyboards to tell me their views and beliefs.

The statistics in the correspondence did not surprise me, but the volume most certainly did. I received correspondence, met with or received calls from 1,080 people in the electorate of Deakin who have identified themselves as living within the boundaries of the seat and who have been verified on the electoral roll. As usual with any debate these days, I also received a large amount—over 300—anonymous and completely identical emails from multiple and often duplicate email addresses. I also received more than 100 emails and letters from outside the electorate of Deakin and from lobby groups from both points of view.

The terms of this motion called on members to consult with their constituents and it is for this particular reason that I have excluded lobbyists from this report as they are not based within the electorate and will always try to present their collective case in the best possible light. I have also in particular disregarded anonymous and unaddressed chain emails that are clearly the work of various lobbyist groups or their supporters from both sides of the debate.

This motion is about gauging the views of constituents, and in my case the constituents of the electorate that I represent, Deakin. I have tried to provide responses to everyone who has written to me on this issue, but I must admit that I still have a backlog of nearly 200 responses that I have yet to send through, although I have read each and included their views in this report. As the numbers are large, these responses will continue to take many days to complete and send out, but they will be done.

In total to date I have received 65 contacts in support of same-sex marriage. Many of these personally addressed emails went into detail as to why the case for same-sex marriage should be supported, and that number is some 6.02 per cent of the total. On the opposite side of the argument, I have received 1,015 contacts against same-sex marriage, each and every one different in content and with various reasoning and views supporting this position—a percentage of 93.98 per cent. Interestingly, the correspondence received from constituents who do not support same-sex marriage revealed that quite a number support civil relationship recognition.

I would like to note that the federal Labor government's action to introduce reforms that removed discrimination from 85 Commonwealth laws has certainly addressed some of those views—reforms that were presented to federal parliament in 2009 that removed discrimination and equalised treatment for same-sex couples in areas of taxation, social security, health, aged care, superannuation, immigration, child support and family law. I have lived in the electorate of Deakin under various boundaries for 25 out of the last 26 years and I have lived just outside those boundaries for the rest of my 46 years. I am not surprised in the least by the results of this gauging of community views, as it reflects my experience of dealing with issues in the local community over the previous parliament, the term of the current parliament and my time in that community prior to coming to this place. What I find surprising is that some of those in lobby groups are so keen to launch attacks on me for expressing my own views on the subject after they have requested my personal views on the issue of marriage. I believe that marriage can only be between a man and a woman, and I do not support same-sex marriage. That is entirely consistent with the ALP platform that I was elected upon and I will not be changing my personal beliefs or principles for the sake of others' differing views or perceived political gain.

I thank everyone in the electorate of Deakin who has contacted me in this matter and look forward to hearing the contributions of others members to this motion. (Time expired)

11:40 am

Photo of Alby SchultzAlby Schultz (Hume, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to speak in relation to the responses I have received regarding the altering of the definition of 'marriage' to cover same-sex couples. Regrettably, the request for statements to be made by members of this House in relation to this particular issue are an instructive illustration of how this parliament, under this government, continues to lurch further and further away from taking time to address the concerns affecting the majority of Australians.

I have been receiving calls daily in my electorate and parliamentary offices from constituents concerned about the introduction of a carbon tax and the Gillard Greens government's march backwards towards a controlled economy. They are also concerned about matters closer to home, such as families and seniors in the electorate of Hume who are struggling to keep up with the increase in the cost of living to feed, clothe and keep themselves warm. Rather than the democratically elected government of the day focusing on the issues that affect the majority of Australians, we are here to indulge the fantasies of the inner-city elites. This is not a bill before parliament but a motion instructing members such as me to go out and listen to our constituents on a particular issue. After 23 years in state and federal politics and a stint in local government, I am deeply offended at being told by the recently elected member for Melbourne how to do my job. I am not sure what the Greens member for Melbourne does, but apparently he was not aware that as a member of the House of Representatives our role is to represent, advocate and listen to the concerns of our electorate every single day. It is not beneath me to return the favour. Might I suggest to the new member for Melbourne that he spend less time fantasising about neo-Trotskyist social engineering projects and more time in his electorate amongst his constituents.

As I said back in 2004, when I was part of the initiative by the Howard government to amend the Marriage Act to cement the definition of 'marriage' as being a union between a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, I will not be intimidated by individuals in this place or by individuals or groups out in the electorate into moving away from the things that I grew up with—the things my father and my mother taught me about honesty, integrity, principles and my Christian beliefs, which I hold very dear.

Despite this motion's appalling inference that we as members need to be instructed to take on board the views of constituents to extend the definition of 'marriage' to cover same-sex relationships I am on this occasion willing to oblige. From the date this motion was passed by the House, in the electorate of Hume I have had 46 verifiable constituents contact me either by phone, letter, petition or email to express their support for the definition of 'marriage' to include same-sex couples. I thank them for taking the time to share their views with me. By contrast, I have had 636 verifiable constituents contacting me, expressing their desire to see the Howard government's definition remain in place, unaltered. I take from these results that the overwhelming majority of people who are concerned with this issue and who have taken the time to contact me are in favour of maintaining the current definition of 'marriage'. Their view is concurrent with my own.

I represent the majority of my constituents knowing and adhering to the reality that marriage is an accepted bond between a man and a woman. Marriage is a bedrock institution worthy of protection under law. There should be no doubt about what the word 'marriage' means. However, there is a growing evidence to suggest that the commonly accepted definition of the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others is under threat.

Traditional mainstream marriage is an enduring social institution that benefits family members and provides for stability in society. More specifically, it benefits children by ensuring their welfare not only is maximised but is paramount. It is my belief that moving away from the traditional definition of 'marriage' would be to the detriment of our society. Marriage provides stability and a solidly built roof under which children can grow and be nurtured. Quite obviously, we as Australians still hold dear the traditional family values that marriage implies and would like to see those values maintained and protected well into the future.

In conclusion, some homosexual friends of mine for over 30 years agree with my concurrence, and do not agree with what is being proposed by the member for Melbourne.

11:44 am

Photo of Sharon GriersonSharon Grierson (Newcastle, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

In late 2010 the House resolved that members should seek the views of constituents on a specific matter—the ways to achieve equal treatment for same-sex couples, including marriage. I was pleased to speak in that original debate, and I welcome this debate. It is good for members to hear the views from all around the country. We have different electorates. I have an inner-city electorate, and I welcome the opportunity to hear other people's viewpoints from the people they represent.

Like the offices of many members, my office has received many passionate representations both in support of and in opposition to same-sex marriage. I believe it is important to acknowledge there are very genuine and often very deeply held views on both sides of this debate. In my own electorate, since November last year, those that have approached my office in favour of same-sex marriage have outnumbered those opposed. In that time, approximately 800 individuals have contacted my office in writing, by phone call, in person or by email to express their support for removing discrimination against same-sex couples in marriage. In the same time, around 470 people have registered their opposition to allowing same-sex marriage. These results, of course, are not scientific, but there is evidence of substantial community support in my electorate for same-sex marriage, and it comes to me as no surprise. Newcastle is a city that has experienced hardship over many decades and it seems to be able to cut life down to the basics. They believe in a fair go. People who are positive and leading good lives are always given respect.

My own support for marriage equality is clear and longstanding. In 2006, I was the first member of parliament to sign the Marriage Equality Charter, which supports the legislation of same-sex marriage, and since that time I have consistently restated my support, both privately in internal ALP debates and publicly on the floor of the parliament. In my first speech on this matter, I made the point that I do so as a heterosexual mother of two heterosexual daughters. I do so because it is a mainstream issue. It is about the dignity of life, the dignity of love and that ongoing quest that mankind has for some partnering, support or a wonderful relationship that many people have the blessing to share.

I do say it is an issue that goes to the core of the human experience—the need to be loved, to love and the need to have a bond for some people formally recognised in a union called marriage. I have also said that as a public representative, as an individual within my family, my community and with all the people I deal with every day, I address people's issues and concerns, not their sexual preferences. We should not discriminate against people.

I also said in my first speech that I was moved by parents who said to me that of their two children, two sons—and I praise Michelle Latze in my electorate, who started the Parents and Friends of Lesbian and Gay Children—the heterosexual one can marry and the other cannot. It is really important to know that for loving parents the gender nature of their children's relationship is secondary. They want them to be happy. They want them to experience the support of a loving relationship.

My support also runs to the core of my beliefs that made me become a member of parliament and a member of the Labor Party, and that simply is that legislated discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation whether in marriage law, superannuation law, social security law or any other law is unconscionable and should be removed. Labor has a very proud and unequalled record of combating discrimination across-the-board in Australian society—the Racial Discrimination Act 1975, the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 and our removal of 85 pieces of discrimination against same-sex couples from Commonwealth laws. I do not think any other political party has done so much, but we all know that this is the big one. This is the one that people pine for and people express concern for.

I am very pleased to share the views of my electorate. I am very pleased to hear their views, to discuss those with them and to then stand up for my judgement and my personal belief. I will continue to stand up and be counted in support of marriage equality for all Australians. (Time expired)

11:49 am

Photo of Stuart RobertStuart Robert (Fadden, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Defence Science, Technology and Personnel) Share this | | Hansard source

Madam Deputy Speaker, I thank you for the opportunity to lend some comment on the debate on the member for Melbourne's motion on seeking feedback from electorates with respect to the concept of same-sex marriage.

In terms of consistency, I am on the public record, indeed from the time of my maiden speech, of supporting the time-honoured institution of marriage between a man and a woman as the basis—the bedrock—of family values on which children are raised and nurtured. I will continue that degree of consistency in supporting the family; indeed, backing that up having had an enormous volume of calls, emails and petitions through to my electorate. As it stands, it is four to one in favour of traditional marriage for a man and a woman. As to the last minute Get Up campaign, a flood of emails that actually had no names and addresses attached to them, making it a little difficult to verify when they said, 'I'm from your electorate', but with a Gmail account, if I were to exclude those it would take those in my electorate in favour of traditional marriage to 16 to one. I intentionally did not want to skew results by going to my own local church, the churches in my electorate or indeed the very large Arundel Mosque in my electorate. If I were to do that, it would rise from 16 to one to over 30 to one.

In terms of reporting back to the parliament what my electorate is saying with respect to marriage, it is overwhelmingly saying that marriage should remain between a male and a female, which coincidentally aligns with the view that I have held all the time in the parliament. I thank you for the opportunity to share the feedback from the hardworking men and women of Fadden on the Gold Coast.

11:51 am

Photo of Ms Catherine KingMs Catherine King (Ballarat, Australian Labor Party, Parliamentary Secretary for Health and Ageing) Share this | | Hansard source

On Thursday, 18 November 2010 the House of Representatives passed a motion that called on all parliamentarians to gauge their constituents' views on ways to achieve equal treatment for same-sex couples, including marriage. Labor supported the motion, but many of us thought it was a somewhat odd suggestion given that the very job of a local member of parliament is to talk through issues with those who voted for us, weigh the often competing views and advocate for change both within our own party processes and within this parliament. That being said, out of respect for the people who have taken the time to contact me about these issues, I want to share some of the views that have been put to me not just over the past six months but over the course of many years. I also want to put on record the action Labor has already taken in its relatively short time in office to address the inequality directed at same-sex couples across a raft of policy areas.

On the passing of the motion by the House I put up a survey on my website and have had contacts via phone, letter and email as well as petitions. I have also had personal representations from same-sex couples as well as church organisations based in my electorate. It would be fair to say of the 1,800 contacts—and I emphasise that they are contacts; some of them are double, triple and in some instances quadruple contacts from the same person, so the statistical significance of any of those figures would be highly questionable if you were going to analyse them—the views are divided. On the one hand, there are those that deeply believe that the Marriage Act should be changed to reflect the broad diversity of family structures including marriage between same-sex couples. Those of this view believe firmly that the definition of marriage contained in the act discriminates against same-sex couples and is a significant barrier to achieving full equity.

On the other hand, there are those that have a firm conviction that marriage as defined in the Marriage Act can only ever be between a man and a woman and that any change undermines the tradition of marriage and the values that they hold about it. Many of these views, but not all, have come from those who have a religious base. Related to this, some church groups have also raised with me a concern that, should there be any change to the definition of marriage, they could face legal action should they refuse according to their beliefs to marry a same-sex couple.

The views on both sides are passionately and strongly held, and I respect that. I respect that for those with firm religious beliefs the existing definition of marriage is fundamental to those beliefs and they cannot under any circumstances countenance a change. But equally I respect the views of those who firmly believe that just because they are in a same-sex relationship they should not be precluded from having that relationship legally recognised as a marriage under the Marriage Act.

Whilst I have had representations from same-sex couples about this issue, there are two I particularly want to reflect on. The first couple I have known for many years. They have supported me through election campaigns, including attending many fundraisers and even on one case making a frock for me in a campaign. They have been together for many years, raised children together, been through illness together and survived work and family stresses together. They are a couple who, if you ever wanted to point to a loving, successful and deeply supportive relationship, would be it.

The second couple I met more recently and they have been together for some time and were very new, proud parents when they came to see me. Their daughter is now almost three. It was hard as a parent of a child just a little bit older than their daughter not to compare notes on our children's milestones, the constant nagging anxiety you feel about whether you are doing a good job and just how different the world now was and looked with the care of a small child in our hands. I could not help reflecting on what extraordinarily beautiful parents they were and how lucky their little girl was at having such strong, caring, engaged and loving parents. Both of these couples would like to marry but are precluded from doing so under the law.

The issue of same-sex marriage has been raised at successive national conferences and will be the subject of debate at our upcoming national conference. I have been a delegate at the national conference for the past three ALP conferences. I will not be at the upcoming conference. I am acutely aware of the significant work and efforts of the left of the party and Rainbow Labor in particular to progress this issue through our party processes.

Given the time I will just briefly conclude that the constituency statements here are just that. Despite some of the emails we have been getting over the last couple of days, it is just that: an opportunity to place on record the views of our constituencies. It is not a vote on changes to amend the Marriage Act itself. I want to thank those constituents who have contacted me about this issue. From my own point of view I recognise that there are divided views in the community I represent on the issue. I have tried to outline that I have not as yet formed a view on this issue. I am on the public record as supporting the current definition of marriage, but I have to say that belief has been fundamentally challenged by the representations I have had by same-sex couples. Despite not being a delegate at the national conference, I will watch with great interest the debate. (Time expired)

11:57 am

Photo of Scott MorrisonScott Morrison (Cook, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Immigration and Citizenship) Share this | | Hansard source

While I need no reminder from the member for Melbourne about the need to consult my constituents, I am happy to report on what is important to my constituents. I regularly consult them on all issues and prior to the last election I conducted an electorate-wide survey that received more than 2,000 responses. Eighty-four per cent felt the government's border security controls were too soft; 79 per cent were concerned about the level of care available for senior Australians; 63 per cent were concerned about the size of the government's debt; 62 per cent were concerned with traffic and the condition of local roads; 59 per cent were opposed to the government's changes to the private health insurance rebate; only 17 per cent believed there should be a carbon tax to tackle climate change, while 88 per cent believed it would increase electricity prices. The issue before us today did not feature.

Today in my electorate my constituents are concerned about the future of more than 5,500 small businesses who employ between one and 20 people, more than 400 manufacturing businesses and the future of Qantas and Caltex, which each face a difficult future under this government's policies, in particular their carbon tax and increased regulation. My constituents are concerned about the incompetence of this government, their mismanagement of the economy, the rising debt and their addiction to taxes and spending. They are concerned about the bungling of everything they touch, whether it is border protection, pink batts or school halls. They are frustrated that this incompetent government has been placed and kept in power by the Greens in return for pursuing their own agendas.

While the member for Melbourne is out consulting, perhaps he would like to listen to the millions of Australians who are opposed to his carbon tax and his party's alliance with the government or perhaps he thinks, like his leader, they are just whingers or, like the minister for transport, they are of no consequence. It strikes me that the member for Melbourne has some selective hearing.

Since entering the parliament and before I have held a very clear, consistent and public view supporting the current definition of marriage as a voluntary union for life of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others. I maintain this view and issued a statement to my electorate on 19 November last year to initiate feedback from my constituents. In my statements I have always consistently supported the view that no Australian should have to pay a dollar more in tax or receive a dollar less in benefits or superannuation because of their sexual preference. During the last parliament laws were passed to give effect to this objective with the support of both major parties.

The fundamental reason for my position was well summarised by former Prime Minister John Howard, who stated when legislating the current definition:

Marriage, as we understand it in our society, is about children … I think if the same status is given in our society to gay unions as are given to traditional marriage we will weaken that bedrock institution …

For me this is fundamentally about a child's natural right to a mother and a father. I believe that this right should be protected in all Commonwealth laws, especially the Marriage Act. I am extremely disappointed by the decision of the New South Wales parliament to legalise same-sex adoption. However, I do not consider that this error should be compounded by the federal parliament.

Religions and cultures over centuries have held that family is ultimately based on the union of a man and a woman. I do not believe that the tested wisdom of centuries has been overwhelmed by more contemporary arguments. I acknowledge that in today's society too many heterosexual marriages fail. Family breakdown is the primary cause of poverty, disadvantage, mental illness and related conditions in our society today. The biggest victims of marriage failure and family breakdown are children. The social and economic costs of family breakdown are incalculable. This is a genuine national tragedy, not an argument for same-sex marriage. Legal recognition of same-sex unions does not, and should not, require the redefinition of marriage.

Marriage, as I have said, is a union between a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others for life. Legal recognition of a same-sex union should be termed something else. I have no objection to some other form of legal recognition of such relationships in the form of a type of civil union provided such unions do not provide any automatic access to adoption. I appreciate there are many in the community who hold a different view to those I have expressed in this place. Of those who contacted me by mail, petition and email who I was able to identify in my electorate, more than 850 were against changes to the Marriage Act, while over 50 were in favour. I do not seek to represent this as a representative poll—my position will not be determined by such polls—but it would appear that of those who feel strongly about this issue a majority were in favour of retaining the current definition rather than changing it.

As we look at this issue, though, I think we need to be mindful of what the real threats to marriage are in the context of this debate, and I believe that such threats are posed more from within than from without. This debate should remind us that anniversaries in marriage are earned, not arrived at, and we should all work on the sanctity of marriage. (Time expired)

12:02 pm

Photo of Anthony AlbaneseAnthony Albanese (Grayndler, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the House) Share this | | Hansard source

The Australian Labor Party, of which I am a very proud member, has a long and proud tradition of advancing the cause of equality and social justice in our society. We recognise that all men and women are born equal regardless of their sexuality. In my very first speech in this parliament in 1996 I talked about the need to remove discrimination where it existed, whether it be on the grounds of race, gender, class or sexuality. In my first term in June 1998 I introduced a private member's bill to give same-sex couples equal rights aimed at removing discrimination with regard to superannuation in terms of the parliament. I introduced this same bill a further three times without success. I could not even get it debated on the floor of the House of Representatives. Indeed, when I first raised it in the ALP caucus there was some shifting of people on the seats; people were uncomfortable with even a discussion about the issue of sexuality and discrimination.

The world moves on very quickly, and indeed I am very proud that in our first term of office the Labor government amended some 84 Commonwealth laws to eliminate discrimination against same-sex couples and their children in a range of areas—reforms that meant people were treated equally in line with that great Australian tradition of a fair go for all, reforms that it took a Labor government to deliver. At the last ALP national conference the party platform was changed and further progress made. In addressing the conference I acknowledged that history was moving forward on this issue. I said this to the conference:

I have a view that my relationship, because I happen to be heterosexual, is not undermined by someone else's relationship because it is homosexual.

I remain very much of that view. The Australian Labor Party will be debating the issue of marriage equality at our upcoming national conference later this year. There are widely held views within the Labor Party, as a broad based political party, as there are in society. Each and every person is entitled to their opinion and entitled to have their opinion respected. I have long been an advocate of change, but I have also been an advocate who has stressed the need to bring the community with us. This is about inclusion and the debate must be conducted in an inclusive way, one that respects different opinions that are deeply held. I also want to make it clear that I do not support the state imposing its will on particular religious communities in relation to these issues. I think that particular groups of people, if they have that view, have a right not to have the state impose their views on them.

I certainly did not need a motion from the parliament to discuss these issues. I have been engaged with the community, whether they be people from the gay and lesbian community or people from the heterosexual community, who have views on these issues for a very long time. I did not need the motion; I have been doing this for 15 years across a range of issues and I am very proud of the fact that I think people see me as being open and accessible.

In recent times, of course, the number of people wanting to make representations to me has increased. I have met with people, whether they be advocates of marriage equality or opponents, and I respect their views. I have made my views clear at ALP conferences as is appropriate under our rules and I will continue to do so. People know the position that I will take at the ALP national conference. But I think change is difficult for people, and that has to be respected. As the debate goes on, I look back at same-sex superannuation and say, 'Who today says that was a bad reform?' There is now consensus on something that was radical when I introduced that bill in 1998. I think that society is moving forward in terms of giving people equal rights and I look forward to further debate in this parliament. (Time expired)

12:07 pm

Photo of Malcolm TurnbullMalcolm Turnbull (Wentworth, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Communications and Broadband) Share this | | Hansard source

I conducted an online survey on this question of gay marriage and posed the following questions: whether respondents were in favour of gay marriage—that is to say, amending the Marriage Act so that a union between two people of the same sex would be termed a marriage—whether they were in favour of such an arrangement being recognised as a civil union but not defined as a 'marriage', and of course whether they were opposed to either or both. There were 4,000 responses filed in a little over four weeks and of those 2,333 were in the electoral roll as being Wentworth residents. This was not one of those online surveys that people can just click on. Respondents were asked to provide their name and their address so we could check their residence, and were given the opportunity of making comments. I thank all of my constituents and those from other electorates who responded to the survey, and in particular thank those who provided comments, most of which were extremely thoughtful and considered. We have published on my website a representative sample of those.

Of the respondents from the electorate—and the figures for the overall survey were not materially different—72.7 per cent were in favour of gay marriage, that is, 1,698. There were 16.8 per cent—that is to say, 394 respondents—who were not supportive of gay marriage but favoured civil unions. There were 168, or 7.2 per cent, who were against both gay marriage and civil unions, and then there were 73, or 3.2 per cent, who were against gay marriage but did not express a view on civil unions.

Let me share with you some representative comments. The former Premier Nick Greiner said that he supported gay marriage 'as it is self-evidently a matter of justice'. He said:

It in no way stops religions or individuals acting in accord with their conscientious views. Also [it is] not a left/right issue. Support for proposal is consistent with conservative support for marriage and for stable long-term relationships as well as individual freedom.

Ashley Thompson wrote that gay couples' love is of equal value and worth as that between heterosexual couples, and said:

Who are same sex couples ? Daughters, sons, cops, doctors, businesspeople, politicians, artists, parents. In short – Us, We, people, humanity. Love is love.

Dr Alex Wodak, the very distinguished physician from St Vincent's Hospital, said that there were real public health benefits to ensuring same-sex relationships are recognised as marriage. He said:

I have spent the last 30 years in efforts to try and reduce the harms of HIV. We should also do everything we can to help gay couples stay together to protect public health.

There are many other examples of these on my website.

In terms of those who supported civil unions but not gay marriage, they really took almost a semantic view and agreed—as I think, if not all, certainly most members of this parliament would agree—that same-sex couples should have equal rights in terms of fiscal matters and equal rights generally, that there should be no discrimination. They take the view that marriage is, as a matter of definition, a union between a man and a woman, that it is sanctioned by millennia of tradition, that it is of enormous importance to many people on account of that history and their faith, and therefore an equitable balance is to recognise it as a civil union. I guess that is the sort of pragmatic point of view.

Some opponents of gay marriage came from a religious point of view. There were very few that you could describe as homophobic. It boiled down in large measure to this issue of definition. I would simply note that in countries in Europe where recognising what we could call gay marriage has not been a problem it is because they have had a tradition of distinguishing between the role of the state in recognising that union and the role of the church, whereas those functions have in large measure been fused in our tradition. (Time expired)

Photo of Sharon BirdSharon Bird (Cunningham, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I encourage members to keep a close eye on the clock. I am trying to give them the chance to finish their sentences, but please watch the time.

12:12 pm

Photo of Jill HallJill Hall (Shortland, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The issue of same-sex marriage is important and I have taken the opportunity provided by the motion to actively engage with my community on it. The views of my community are very important to me. I have an open-door policy so that people in my electorate can discuss their views with me in any way they choose. I have run an online survey and publicly encouraged people to communicate with me on this issue. Like the survey of the member for Wentworth, the survey that I conducted was not simply a yes-no survey but one that encouraged people to place comments and a variety of views. People can view that on my website. I had 505 responses to the survey. They came out very strongly in favour of supporting same sex-marriage. It was 86 per cent to 13 per cent, and in Shortland electorate that figure came down to 78.4 per cent to 21.6 per cent.

I appreciate that this is only 505 people, but I have engaged with my community in a number of other ways, and that survey will remain there for people to continue to complete. Some people as young as 14 years and others over 60 years of age have completed the survey. The most disheartening thing were a few comments which said that it would not matter what they said or that their views would not be read. In particular, I would like to quote a 14-year-old boy who submitted a very well-researched comment:

I'm fourteen. I should be studying. I know this isn't going to be read and this is an absolute waste of my time, but I'll write it anyway.

I am here to assure you that I take all issues in our community seriously and your views have been heard, along with everyone else's views. That is what this exercise is about: ensuring people's views are heard.

I have received hundreds of letters, emails and phone calls from my constituents expressing their views and I have also used social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter to further encourage community conversation on this issue. I have conducted mobile offices, met with people in their community and had personal meetings with people who made appointments to come and see me to talk about their views.

A wide range of views have been expressed to me and many issues have been raised, such as discrimination, equality, human rights, preservation of tradition, the needs of children and the religious underpinning of marriage. These are some of the comments made by people supporting same-sex marriage:

The definition in the Marriage Act is discriminatory and needs to be changed to reflect the diversity, tolerance, understanding and equality that Australia is striving towards in the 21st century.

Restricting the definition of marriage to one man and one woman elevates heterosexual relationships to a privileged status, thus stigmatising and marginalising gay people.

Marriage is about love, not gender.

The current definition speaks nothing of commitment, love and dedication.

One's marriage does not define another's.

Marriage is whatever society says it is. Our society is ready to widen that definition to include any loving couple.

The definition also includes 'entered into for life'—obviously we've done away with this bit!

And on the other side:

Homosexuality is a curable disease which must be discontinued.

I am all for same-sex relationships that have all the benefits of a heterosexual marriage, but we can't call it a marriage.

If homosexual marriage becomes accepted in law, what is the next perverted barrier …

Marriage was originally something to celebrate a commitment before God. I feel same-sex unions should have something different to celebrate their commitment.

Surely a marriage is for the purpose of procreation.

Civil same-sex marriage is an issue where people on both sides have very strong views, and I acknowledge that. But I am also aware that there is a silent majority in the electorate whose views are difficult to pinpoint at this particular stage. I will continue to gauge the views of my electorate in the lead-up to the ALP national conference at the end of this year. In participating in any debate on this issue, I will be mindful of the views of people in my electorate. Their voices are important in any discussion about this issue, and all voices should be respected. I will continue to engage, as I have said, so that I fully understand the many viewpoints. I seek leave to table a copy of the survey that I have conducted.

Leave granted.

(Time expired)

12:18 pm

Photo of Josh FrydenbergJosh Frydenberg (Kooyong, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Last year the House passed a motion calling on parliamentarians to gauge their constituents' views on the issue of marriage equality. I do not believe that such a resolution was necessary. As a parliamentarian, I consult and meet with constituents on a regular basis to discuss a broad range of issues, including same-sex marriage. Since my election last year, I have responded to hundreds of pieces of correspondence and met with many people on the issue of same-sex marriage. As one would expect, I heard a diversity of views.

I am very proud of the fact that the Australian parliament has legislated in recent years to remove areas of discrimination against same-sex couples. Discrimination has no place in our society. Significant changes have been made to our laws regarding financial and work related arrangements, including reform of our superannuation legislation to introduce the concept of interdependency, giving same-sex couples the same rights as heterosexual couples. These changes were the product of bipartisan support and were a significant step forward.

At issue today is whether we should amend the Marriage Act 1961 and its existing definition of marriage as 'the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life'. This definition was formalised following a coalition amendment to the act in 2004.

I fully acknowledge that there is a growing list of foreign jurisdictions, including Belgium, South Africa and Canada, where gay marriage has been legalised by the state. I, too, fully acknowledge that within the Australian community and within my own electorate there are many people who passionately support an equivalent change for Australia. Their reasons are varied.

I listened to a lesbian couple from Kew in my electorate whose love for their two children and the family they had created was only matched by their love and respect for one another. I received a letter from a local Anglican minister who implored me to support gay marriage, arguing that the state should not impose on the broader community a strictly Christian definition of what constitutes a marriage.

I was emailed by parents of gay children whose single motivation was to see their child happily marry the one they love. The same could be said for the young man who wrote to me on behalf of his gay brother, or the woman who wrote to me on behalf of her gay sister, for all they wanted was to see their sibling get married.

These were all powerful pleas that had an impact on me. I, too, received many visits and letters from advocates in favour of the status quo. Some constituents quoted holy scripture. Others referred to longstanding traditions and nearly all referred to the sanctity of the family unit comprising a mother, a father and children. These arguments were as honestly and as passionately delivered as the views they sought to counter.

It should come as no surprise that in this place there is a similar dichotomy of views between members on this difficult topic. My view is that marriage is a unique relationship between a man and a woman. It is much more than a simple debate about preferred terminology. Relationships between same-sex couples are equally special but nevertheless, by definition, different. These relationships are to be respected and valued for the love that they bring and the families that they build. However, the term 'marriage' should not apply. Civil unions, however, should be an alternative.

I know many people in our community, particularly those younger than me, will not agree with my view on same-sex marriage. I hope they respect my view as I do theirs.

12:22 pm

Photo of Deborah O'NeillDeborah O'Neill (Robertson, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I take this opportunity to also report back to the House on the views of the constituents of the seat of Robertson regarding the issue of marriage and calls for a change to that definition to allow for same-sex marriage.

There are so many issues on which my office received serious and careful representation. The matter for discussion today is one on which I have received a considerable number of emails and letters, telephone calls and conversations. I can assert that, since my election, this is not the issue about which I have received the most emails or letters, but it is very clearly an issue on which there are very different and strongly held views. Where people have contacted me on this matter, I have responded to their correspondence with a letter or email in which I have articulated my personal view, which, for the record, is in line with the Labor Party policy and the position articulated by the Prime Minister—that is, that marriage is, as it is defined in Australian law, a union between a man and a woman. With no disrespect to those who hold a differing view either in this place or in the broader community, it is the view that I retain here today.

In my electorate, I received 560 communications on this matter from identifiable constituents. Seventy per cent were for retaining the current definition. I want to acknowledge the 30 per cent who hold a different view and took the opportunity to participate in this debate and to communicate with me.

I spoke on this matter at the recent New South Wales state Labor conference. Part of my speech that day was reported in the Sydney Morning Herald. I received hundreds of emails and letters from right across Australia. They commented particularly on one part of my speech that was reported, because I believe it expresses one of the real challenges to all participants in this debate. I said then and I say again that it is too often the case in this debate about same-sex marriage that all people who oppose it are maligned as homophobic, intolerant, bigoted, brainwashed by religious indoctrination or intellectually inferior to those who support it. This is not the case.

I want to put on the record that such a view is of itself intolerant and other-phobic. It does not advance anyone's interest to silence the voice of others. I also want to put on the record how proud I am of the federal party for undertaking, following the election victory in 2007, a substantive program of change that saw more than 80 pieces of legislation amended to give LGTBI Australians the same practical rights as other Australians before the law.

With that as my position, what are the reasons for opposing what I call gay marriage and others here call marriage equality? I will attempt to get a couple of them on the record. Firstly, regardless of culture, time or place, the organic nature of the family unit that is the natural consequence of the union of a man and a woman is the key social unit on which a stable society is built. Marriage is almost universally viewed as a legal and social event that is life-generating and understood to be, much more often than not, linked to children. This is a commonly held position in the broad community. It is the position expressed by our Prime Minister and the position held by many people of faith. Many, but not all Catholic people—like me—Islamic people, Jewish people, secular humanists and Indigenous families think of marriage in this way. We prize it. We understand it very certainly as a union between a man and a woman. There is no intention, in holding that view, to slight the view of others. But the depth of belief in the notion of marriage as a union between a man and a woman is not a matter that can be overturned by legislation. No matter how this matter advances or falls, legislation will not change what 70 per cent of the people in Robertson who have contacted me on this bill actually believe.

I want to read into the record the correspondence received from the Organisation of Rabbis of Australasia, who oppose any legislation to legitimise same-sex marriage. They say:

This is not intended to show any discrimination against the gay community, but simply to uphold the sanctity and purpose of marriage, which is the union of a man and a woman in not only expressing their love for one another, but in also bringing future generations into this world.

Ms Gabrielle Tesoriero from my electorate wrote me a single sentence which summed up the views of so many:

It's important that the definition of marriage remains the union of a man and a woman.

This brings me to my final point. The claim that is made here today that the community is already in support of a change to gay marriages is overstated and that community opposition to such a change—as it is in my seat—is understated. As a teacher for many years, I supported all kinds of families. I always knew that was my responsibility as a human being, let alone as a teacher. Yet I hold for myself, and for 70 per cent of the people in Robertson, the right to hold firmly to the view that marriage is that union between a man and a woman. (Time expired)

12:27 pm

Photo of Tony CrookTony Crook (O'Connor, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

As the member for O'Connor, it is my primary responsibility to represent the views of my constituents in parliament on all issues. Over the past several months I have invited feedback from the electorate regarding their views on same-sex marriage. I regularly send a newsletter to my constituents containing information on a variety of issues taking place both in Canberra and through the electorate.

In my newsletter, I requested that constituents contact my office and share their views with me on same-sex marriage. I also advertised this issue in a number of newspapers throughout the electorate. I note, after listening to many of the speeches this morning, that the results that I received were indicative of those in many electorates across Australia. I received 612 responses on this issue, and I thank those people who felt compelled to respond. To break the figures down, I received 373 letters, 138 emails and 12 phone calls, a total of 523 responses, from the constituents of O'Connor highlighting that they do not support same-sex marriage. I received 71 letters, 13 emails and five phone calls, a total of 89 responses, from constituents who support same-sex marriage.

An overwhelming majority of responses felt that marriage is a permanent union between a man and a woman. I would like to acknowledge that the feedback I received by no means represents all constituents of my electorate. That said, I do believe that the comments and feedback I have received broadly reflect the attitude of the electorate towards same-sex marriage. I hope that this position can be understood as being without any disrespect to same-sex relationships. I believe our society needs to continue to have a civilised discussion around this issue. It is vitally important that our society works to remove discrimination against sexual preference.

Many speeches that we heard earlier today reflect that members of parliament right across Australia welcome this discussion, regardless of their political preference. My position is not meant to be disrespectful to those who support same-sex marriage, and I respect the loving relationships that they may share with one another. I believe the electorate of O'Connor is supportive of removing discrimination against sexual preference, while still maintaining the sanctity of marriage as a permanent union between a man and a woman.

12:30 pm

Photo of Robert OakeshottRobert Oakeshott (Lyne, Independent) Share this | | Hansard source

I certainly welcome the motion that was put before the House previously and, as part of an ongoing reflection of consultation with community, this is another opportunity to do that. From my perspective on the topic of same-sex marriage, there are times to lead and times to follow the community. Picking when and why is very much the challenge for all of us in a representative democracy in our Westminster parliamentary system. At all times, right or wrong, a member of parliament should make their own best judgments. On an issue like pricing carbon through an emissions trading scheme, I have chosen to lead community with the national interest in mind. On the issue of same-sex marriage, I am choosing to follow community, again as a matter of judgment and again with the national interest in mind.

Ordinarily I believe in the classical and conservative exposition of representative democracy, that we are elected to exercise our judgment as a vote on the basis of fact and reason tested in debate. We are dealing with customs and traditions in this case that have been built in Australia over a long period of time under the rule of law.

This conversation certainly tests the moral code of not just 150 MPs but of all Australians. After consulting widely and listening closely I still have not heard a satisfactory consensus about what the state's role itself in marriage actually is, nor what it should be. I note, for example, that there are even incursions from traditionally right-wing, conservative proponents such as Tim Wilson from the IPA identifying jurisdictions like France where the state's only involvement is to maintain a register of accredited marriage agencies and it is then up to each religious or cultural institution to determine their level of comfort with the definition of marriage, essentially, and somewhat controversially, removing the statue law of the Marriage Act and relying on a long history of common law interpretation of our norms, traditions and cultures.

The fact is in our jurisdiction and in my electorate as well there is a deep cultural conviction that the state's definition of marriage does matter. Yet at the same time we seem somewhat universally comfortable allowing this same state to interpret that definition broadly for the purposes of administration and interpretation of modern society. As an example I quote from a bill before the House right now—the Fairer Private Health Insurance Incentives Bill—which states:

'Marriage' includes people who live together in a relationship as a couple on a genuinely domestic basis even where they are not legally married.

That is somewhat of an oxymoronic definition.

Marriage is interpreted widely in common law and defined broadly by many statutes and, as far as I can find, narrowly defined in only one statute, that being the Marriage Act. This reflects a process of law reform over decades, based on a growing public rejection of discrimination in age, gender, race and sexuality. Successive parliaments have removed the substantive legal discriminations against de facto couples, whether heterosexual or homosexual.

In 2008, laws on defence, migration, taxation, superannuation, social security and workplace relations all changed to accommodate this principle. Legally sanctioned same-sex marriage is seen by many as simply the last extension of this principle, but for others that I also listen closely to, it is where they draw the line. They see same-sex marriage as an offence to our language and history and an affront to Australian custom, laws and traditions. Despite the reality of same-sex couples legally adopting and having children, some see same-sex marriage as offending nature because children cannot yet be conceived without the biology of both genders.

Unfortunately, even in this place there have been disgraceful attacks and distortions in this debate. I refer to an event in the Great Hall of Parliament House on 16 August which saw a personal attack on one of our colleagues, a member of parliament's individual and private circumstances. More disappointing in my view was that other members of parliament present chose to bear witness to that attack on a fellow member without objection or without clarifying that the issues that were the basis of the attack had nothing to do with or without changes to the Marriage Act. Alongside this, in my view at that same event there were irrelevant, misleading and emotive fears presented as if they were plausible that marriage may become the province of paedophiles or close relatives of the same sex. This is nonsense that diminishes this important debate.

In my community it is roughly a split on the ground. It is anecdotal; about two out of five are strongly opposed, about two are indifferent and about one is strongly in favour. For the proponents I will continue to listen closely, but there is plenty of work on the ground still to do. (Time expired)

12:35 pm

Photo of Bruce BillsonBruce Billson (Dunkley, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Small Business, Competition Policy and Consumer Affairs) Share this | | Hansard source

I spoke when the original motion was brought forward by my colleague the member for Melbourne and put forward some thoughts which I must say were catalytic in receiving many other thoughts in response to my contribution. It is quite clear to me that there is a strongly held, but very divergent, set of views about this topic in the community that I represent, and might I say all sides of the argument have been quite vigorous in advocating their position.

I said at that time and I still hold the view that it is entirely appropriate and reasonable for same-sex couples to declare their commitment and devotion to each other in a public ceremony before friends and family in a way that is recognised by the broader community and the state. I hold that view. I advocated that the parliament turn its mind to civil union legislation to achieve that outcome that would capture the durability, the very particular commitment to each other, the public celebration and declaration and the formal recognition of the relationship. Many people thought my speech was measured. A number thought it was far short of what they were looking for and yet others were saying it was the start of a slippery slope. There were even more strongly and stridently held views that I cannot fathom or factor into a reasonable way forward that would have the broad community support that I think people would be looking for.

What I have learnt is that there is no straightforward answer here. What I have learnt is that the definition of a relationship as a marriage matters profoundly to many people. It is an ambition that is profoundly significant to same-sex couples seeking to have that term used to characterise their relationship. For those that are in what is more traditionally recognised as a marriage, and what the statutes of Australia capture as a marriage, they are profoundly committed to that being the appropriate description of their relationship, so clearly the term matters. The concept of marriage matters greatly and the power of that word matters a great deal to many people.

What is clear to me, though, is forcing a group that have long held the view that that characterises their relationship to expand the kinds of relationships to also be captured by that term is no way of taking people with you. To say that in the spirit of tolerance we should reject the strongly held views of one group about their passion and their sense of connection with the term 'marriage' and they should suck up the fact that others would like to use that term and they should just come to terms with it is not my idea of tolerance. That is a 'it will be this way or no way approach' and I can understand why people would be aggrieved by that. Where that takes me is back to where I started. For those that have entered into a marriage, and the statutes of Australia characterise that, there is a significant proportion of the community that I represent that would like their relationship to continue to be characterised that way and the nature of the relationship which that term conveys to the broader public they connect with, they have a very strong sense of association with and they do not like to see that changed.

For those in same-sex relationships wanting a formal public recognition of the durability, the deep personal commitment to each other, we need to find a better vehicle for that, but I do not believe expanding the term 'marriage' to incorporate those relationships will take the community with everybody.

It was put to me that no-one in a moment of great romance and hope for the future walks up to someone and says, 'Hey would you be in a civil union with me?' I accept the fact that there is no music in the term 'civil union'. I accept the fact that there is no queuing of music and of hopes and ambitions in the future when people talk about a civil union. I think we can find a better characterisation. I would like to see the parliament turn its mind to something along the lines of a committed life partnership that shows the durability, passion and nature of the relationship, that it is about the existence and their being and that it is a partnership that lasts into the future. We need take all views with us as best we can into the future. (Time expired)

12:40 pm

Photo of John MurphyJohn Murphy (Reid, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

In addition to my report to the House on this matter last Thursday, I now further report on the feedback from my constituents and I thank them for so doing. I have received messages of support for my stand on this issue from a wide cross-section of the community, including the religious, non-religious, heterosexuals and homosexuals, the left and the right, men and women. Equally, I have received messages of opposition from others in the same categories. Importantly, the feedback extended well beyond the churches, coming also from the business community, ethnic associations, sporting groups, clubs and so on.

There is no unanimous view in any of these groups of people, even in the gay community, as I have discovered. A number of gay people who contacted me said they opposed all marriage, whether heterosexual or homosexual. Within my electorate, most of my feedback supported the retention of the current definition of marriage. Importantly, most of the feedback supporting same-sex marriage came from outside the electorate.

I have been personally targeted by a campaign that has wrongly assumed that I would simply change my mind under pressure. Some of the emails and letters have been abusive and downright intolerant. One would expect that people asking for, and needing, community tolerance would exercise more tolerance themselves. They assume, wrongly, that anyone holding a position against redefining marriage to include same-sex couples is automatically a bigot. I am not a bigot.

In terms of the member for Melbourne's motion, I also report that despite this campaign against me most of my electorate does not see marriage for same-sex couples as a matter of equality, discrimination or human rights. All of my electorate agree that all individuals are equal. Most of my electorate does not accept that all relationships are equal. My support for same-sex civil unions has also drawn some criticism from sections of the Right in this debate, although they have acknowledged and appreciated my defence of the institution of marriage. I remind members that in 2009 I, too, supported and voted for 85 amendments to Commonwealth laws to remove discrimination against same-sex couples in areas such as taxation, social security, aged care, superannuation, immigration and family law.

My meetings with lesbian couples and single male homosexuals in my office have often started with a little tension, but have always ended cordially with mutual respect, even when we agreed to differ. For example, here is a response from one of my constituents who is gay:

Mr Murphy, I thank you for taking time to meet me Friday last so to discuss the upcoming vote on gay marriage. I entered the meeting with a view that had been formed by reports from press and advocacy groups on the matter. I wanted to hear your views, in person, as I believe disagreements should be met face-to-face and not by means third hand, especially when such matters under discussion are close to one's heart.

Your support in the house for readjustment of federal laws aligning same-sex couples to different sex couples in terms of superannuation and laws is much appreciated. Your stance on rights of an individual to be homosexual when challenged by members of your electorate looking for your support on attitudes with an antigay agenda illustrates that you are an MP that holds dear the rights of a human to be different and are willing to be counted when it comes to defending such rights.

The opinion you have encountered within your electorate in regard to same-sex marriage is understandable, although not welcome by myself, but your attitude in backing civil unions and recognising the same from those joined similarly overseas is very welcome and very much appreciated by me. I realise that we do not live in an ideal world and it is unlikely that the rights of a minority will be wholly recognised as a democracy. However, as you are a product of the democratic process, your efforts on homosexual rights are very much appreciated and I look forward to you carrying on the traditions of Labor representation for the foreseeable future. (Time ex pired)

12:45 pm

Photo of Kevin AndrewsKevin Andrews (Menzies, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Families, Housing and Human Services) Share this | | Hansard source

This motion is being debated because a weak Labor government is once again dancing to the tune of the Greens. Faced with a deep division on their own side, the Labor Party negotiated a compromised motion to request members to go off and consult with their electorates about the issue. I wish to make just three comments about the motion. First, this motion is presumptuous. Members of parliament on all sides consult their constituents on all manner of issues on a regular basis. They do it in a variety of ways and if they did not then they would not be elected in the first place and they would not be re-elected.

The purpose of the motion is really different. It is to provide a voice to the Greens and their left-wing supporters to promote their cause and, like clockwork, the left-wing lobby group GetUp emails its supporters with draft petitions to MPs. In the absence of the GetUp campaign very few people in my electorate had urged me to support changing the long-held definition of marriage, despite regular surveys of my constituents. The number increased after the campaign, but it is still small compared to the many people who responded by writing and emailing their support for the traditional definition. If letters, emails and petitions from my constituents are any indication, the overwhelming majority support the longstanding definition of marriage.

While all Australians are encouraged to express their views, the reality is that there is no widespread agitation in the Australian community for changing the definition of marriage, and if, to the extent I have been able to follow this debate today, I think it is reflected in the debate in this place.

Moreover, the GetUp petition is open to manipulation. A person can enter any name, any email address and postcode, real or fictitious, and an email is generated to a member of parliament. When I responded to the anonymous GetUp generated emails asking the correspondents to indicate their address so that I could check that they were, indeed, constituents of my electorate, just a handful responded, yet the member for Melbourne would have us make laws on this basis. This brings me to my central objection to this process. This parliament is a deliberative assembly, not a congress of delegates. In the famous words of Edmund Burke to the electors of Bristol:

It ought to be the happiness and glory of a representative to live in the strictest union, the closest correspondence and the most unreserved communication with his constituents. Their wishes ought to have great weight with him, their opinion high respect, their business unremitted attention.

He then set out what I believe to be the duty of a member of parliament:

Your representative owes you not his industry only but his judgment, and he betrays instead of serving you if he sacrifices it to your opinion.

As Burke said:

Parliament is not a congress of ambassadors from different and hostile interests, which interests each must maintain as an agent and advocate against other agents and advocates, but parliament is a deliberative assembly of one nation with one interest that the whole, where not local purposes, not local prejudices ought to guide, but the general good, resulting from the general reason of the whole. You choose a member indeed...

he said to the electors at Bristol:

... but when you have chosen him ...

and we would add these days, 'her':

... he is not member of Bristol, he is a member of parliament.

The idea that whatever group can send the most emails to MPs should be the determining issue when making national decisions is misplaced. Equally, the idea that a poll should determine our decisions is inadequate. The member for Melbourne tells us that we should listen to polls. If it is proper that polls should determine our position then I would expect him to vote against the carbon tax, as polls indicate a majority of Australians are opposed to it.

I expect that the member for Banks' motion on the notice paper on the death penalty, if it comes to a vote, the member for Melbourne will vote against it, as polls repeatedly indicate, over many years, support for the death penalty in this country. If, as I suspect, he votes for the carbon tax and against the death penalty, his argument about polls is exposed for what it is, nothing more than a self-serving argument for his cause.

We do not need to be instructed by the member for Melbourne to consult our constituents. I have been doing so for 20 years and I will continue to do so. When the leader of the Greens, Senator Brown, condemns people who come to this place to voice their concerns as whingers, it exposes the hypocrisy of this motion. It seems that the Greens only want to hear the opinions of those who share their views. It is another instance, regrettably, of their totalitarian impulse.

12:50 pm

Photo of Mark CoultonMark Coulton (Parkes, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I have been watching this debate throughout the day. It has been quite instructive and I am somewhat relieved as to the way it has gone. I, too, have issue with the sanctimonious nature of this motion moved by the member for Melbourne which conveys the idea that democracy is as simple as clicking a mouse rather than engagement. I have met with many people in my electorate on this issue and I have not refused anyone access to me.

I say at the outset that I believe marriage is between a man and a woman. At this point in time that is clearly the majority view of Australian society. As time travels on that may change, but at this particular time that is the position. What I have been concerned about during this debate are some of the more right-wing aspects of society and some of the comments that are being made about gay people, which I find regrettable. I have met with quite a few gay couples in my electorate and, while I appreciate their circumstances and fully support civil equality in matters of law, I cannot support their position for same-sex marriages at this time. I am regretful that I cannot help all my people or agree with all of my people all the time, but at this stage I am not in support of same-sex marriage.

Before this motion was moved by the member for Melbourne I was getting no correspondence or email traffic on this matter. Clearly, the overwhelming vibe coming out of my electorate is that the Australian parliament should be concentrating on matters that are far more relevant to the people of my electorate. They are concerned about issues regarding the cost of living, obviously the upcoming carbon tax, education, roads, health and all those other things. They believe that the reason they sent me to Canberra was to represent them on things that are of the utmost importance to them. They resent having the Australian parliament hijacked by one member. We must not forget that there are 150 members sitting in the House of Representatives. I find it deeply confronting that one member, one 150th of the representation of this place, seems to generate the publicity and promote the agenda. I have spoken about this before. I have spoken about the fact that the member for Melbourne and the Greens urban elite are quite happy for people to go snow-skiing and build chalets in the mountains but are opposed to cattle grazing. While they are happy to have exclusive restaurants, they are opposed to people who raise cattle.

In conclusion, I will restate that I do believe that marriage is between a man and a woman. I do respect the gay couples and the gay people in my electorate and acknowledge that they have a different view. But at this stage I stand by what I have said.

12:55 pm

Photo of Paul FletcherPaul Fletcher (Bradfield, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I am very pleased to have the opportunity to speak here in the Parliament of Australia about the consultation that I have been able to conduct in my own electorate of Bradfield regarding the question of marriage for same-sex couples and whether that ought to be permitted under Australian law. I might add that I certainly did not require a motion from the Greens to encourage me to consult with my electorate. Like every conscientious parliamentarian, I consult with my electorate regularly on a very wide range of issues and I am blessed with constituents who are articulate, engaged, interested and are always eager to consult with me. I absolutely welcome that.

One might wonder why the Greens chose to bring this issue forward. Obviously, one possibility is that they have a genuine desire to review the current legal position on its merits. Another possibility is that their overriding interest is to wedge the Labor Party by exposing tensions between the inner-city Left and the traditional working-class base and the right wing of the Australian Labor Party which has tended to represent them.

All that being said, I have certainly carried out significant consultation on this issue along, of course, with the many other issues which have been on the public policy agenda over recent months. I have met with a number of constituents on this question. I do note that almost all of those who have made the effort to make an appointment to come in to see me in my electorate office to speak to me about this issue have expressed the strong view that the current legal definition of marriage should be maintained.

I have received a substantial number of petitions from local church congregations in support of maintaining the current legal definition of marriage such as: the Parish of Corpus Christi, St Ives, with about 110 names on it; St John's Anglican Church, Asquith, with about 20 names; and Ku-Ring-Gai Chase Catholic Parish with about 250 names. I have also received a substantial number of letters and emails on the topic. My staff and I assess those as reflecting significant bodies of opinion from both those who are in favour of maintaining the current legal definition of marriage and those who wish to see it changed, but with the supporters of the status quo a little more strongly represented.

I do want to take this opportunity to thank all of my constituents who have made the effort to contact me to put their views on this very important issue. I have been struck by the sincerity and depth of feeling of those who have engaged with me on this issue regardless of which perspective they take. I think that perhaps may be because marriage and partnership are such critically important aspects of life and of personal identity.

The consultation I have conducted on this issue has fortified me in my views on a number of aspects of this issue. I am very pleased that in recent years Australia's laws have been changed to remove discrimination against homosexuals and same-sex couples. These include changes to laws in the areas of superannuation, taxation, social security, aged care and immigration.

The Howard government reformed the law in several areas in this respect and it was the Howard government that began the process that led to the 2008 legislation of the Rudd government that substantively removed discrimination for same-sex couples. These were all appropriate and necessary reforms. They have taken Australia in a very positive direction and, thankfully, a very long way away from the time when homosexual acts were criminalised.

However, the institution of marriage has a cultural and religious significance developed over many centuries. Traditionally, the institution is based on the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others voluntarily entered into for life. That is the definition set out in our law and it continues to be my view that this definition should remain.

This in no way seeks to diminish the committed and loving relationships, both heterosexual and same-sex, that exist outside of the institution of marriage. In reaching this view I have very much benefited from the perspectives of the people of the electorate of Bradfield, particularly of those who were sufficiently engaged by this issue to reach out to make contact with me on it. While this consultation does not constitute a statistically valid survey it has given me a useful qualitative sense as to the balance of opinion in Bradfield.

In my view, the Howard government accurately reflected the preponderance of community opinion in inserting into the Marriage Act the current definition of marriage and my consultation leads me to the view that this definition continues to reflect the preponderance of community opinion in Bradfield.

Photo of Yvette D'AthYvette D'Ath (Petrie, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Order! In accordance with standing order 193 the time for constituency statements has concluded.

Proceedings suspended from 13:00 to 16:00