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Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee
(Senate-Friday, 4 May 2012)
CHAIR (Senator Crossin)
Dr van Gend
- CHAIR (Senator Crossin)
Content WindowLegal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee - 04/05/2012
DUNJEY, Dr Lachlan Peter Charles, Convenor, Doctors for the Family
HALSE, Major Bradley, Territory Director, Government Relations, The Salvation Army Australia, Southern Territory
RIGLEY, Dr Graeme, Divisional Commander, The Salvation Army Australia, Southern Territory
CHAIR: Welcome. We have your submissions. The Salvation Army submission is numbered 235 for our purposes on the website, and the Doctors for the Family submission is numbered 229. Thank you very much for the trouble you have gone to in writing and submitting to us. I am going to ask you to provide us with some opening comments and then we are going to go to questions.
Major Halse : We appreciate the opportunity to come and present in person in relation to our submissions. We want to stress what perhaps most people know but a significant number do not. The Salvation Army is well known for its social, community and welfare services; but, to state what we think is the obvious, we are first a denomination of the Christian church. We have been and are recognised as such since our formation in the 1860s in London and in the 1880s here in Australia. We stand very firmly as a Christian denomination of the mainstream church. As such, much of our practice derives from Christian theology. It is unapologetically conservative by nature in terms of current definitions. We stand very firm on that and therefore this underpins our submission in relation to the issue of marriage.
You have received a copy, within our submission, of what we refer to as our positional statement. I will quote a couple of paragraphs from that which encapsulate what we are saying:
By marriage the family remains the basic source of nurture, of love, of economic and other life supports, of fundamental education and socialization and of spiritual and moral development. Other social institutions serve best as supportive resources.
In the face of emerging alternative lifestyles and modes of living, which in recent years have grown in incidence and open acceptance, The Salvation Army affirms its absolute conviction that the marriage of one man to one woman is a sacred institution ordained by God and that a traditional good-faith commitment to an indissoluble union is one of the most rewarding of life's decisions for any man or woman, providing the optimal conditions for family life.
We stand very firm on our positional statement. We equally stand very firm that we make every effort not to be discriminatory in any way. We serve the broader community and we think that by and large the wider community has acknowledged and continues to acknowledge that the Salvation Army offers its services in all regards to any members of the community regardless of any different opinions about values or lifestyle choices.
The second-last point I would make in my opening comments is that this is a position which the Salvation Army has made internationally. This is not just something which the Salvation Army in Australia, for example, has made and endorses. Regardless of the movement of some jurisdictions around the world, as has been previously discussed, the Salvation Army has always stood firm in seeking to uphold the definition of marriage as pertaining to one man and one woman.
The final comment I would make is that we believe that this is not just about the Christian community; the institution of marriage is about the common good and the common wealth of the broader society.
Dr Dunjey : I appreciate the opportunity to be here and to represent my colleagues. Doctors for the Family was formed to highlight the health aspects of marriage and family and to help ensure a healthy future for our children. Please note that there is no religious basis to any of our arguments. We are very conscious that talking about the health aspects of homosexuality, homosexual marriage and its consequences for future generations and hence our society is not deemed acceptable. However there are problems and consequences, as there are with alcohol and smoking. It has taken a long time to gain community acceptance for telling the truth about alcohol and smoking and the consequences for our children, but finally we are doing it.
Some will argue that people choose to drink and smoke whereas the homosexual person has no choice. Problems of alcohol abuse and smoking are of course recognised to be a complex mix of addictive genetic traits and environment and it would seem that misplaced eroticism and sexual orientation would fit into the same complex pattern. With each of these health issues, there is still the element of choice—as we see with those who have changed their sexual behaviour and sexual orientation. It was only a few decades ago that homosexuals hotly denied that they were born that way, that the gay lifestyle was one of choice and that they would do their best to see that choice offered to children. To suggest that they were born that way was deeply offensive, but it suits the gay lobby now to insist on the opposite.
The purpose of Doctors for the Family is to be a source of information and at times make representations to parliament or appropriate organisations to ensure policies which enhance and preserve the health and future of our nation. We believe that marriage as defined is the basis of a healthy society. Changing the definition to include same-sex marriage has consequences for children of these marriages and consequences for society. We submit that the evidence is clear that children who grow up in a family with a mother and father do better in all parameters than children without.
But it is much more than just those children; it is a whole generation—the normalising of homosexual behaviour through education, with all the health consequences of that behaviour for our children, and the influencing of children to declare their orientation at a time of confusion. It is also significant for the families of their children and it is an interference with the right of families to bring up their children in line with their values and an interference with our freedom to state what we believe without being at risk of charges of hate speech, vilification and homophobia. It is interesting that, since the establishment of the Doctors for the Family website, this has in fact occurred—the patient of a doctor in New South Wales has said he would no longer go to the doctor and I have had a couple of hate mails as well. That is already happening, regrettably.
I will make one further comment—and, yes, this is about homosexuality, but it is not about homophobia. As doctors we respect and love the alcoholic, the smoker and the homosexual, but we will tell the truth regarding the medical aspects of these behaviours. That is our responsibility.
Senator PRATT: It has been put to me—and people's experiences are well documented—that the Salvation Army has discriminated on the basis of people's sexual orientation in delivering its services. How do you manage that?
Dr Rigley : Without any background to that comment, I find it very difficult to understand.
Senator PRATT: I will refer to one particular incident described on a widely read internet blog:
When a former boyfriend and I were homeless, the Salvation Army insisted we break up before they’d offer assistance. We slept on the street instead and declined to break up as they demanded.
It is also notable that the Salvation Army has done quite a lot of advocacy not just on the marriage question but also internationally on homosexual law reform in general. For example, in New Zealand the Salvation Army collected signatures in an attempt to stave off legislation that would see homosexuality decriminalised.
Dr Rigley : I will correct your comments about New Zealand. That was 25 years ago—1983, I believe. There was certainly a lot of concern in New Zealand society at that time and in the Salvation Army, and I am reflecting back on a time long before we had these issues in Australia. The Salvation Army is very much aware of that reaction, and the problem in that situation was that the Salvation Army had a legitimate understanding of its position but became, in a sense, polarised because it came to be seen to be representative of a broader group of society with a whole lot of different attitudes towards homosexual legalisation reform. It is a regrettable situation that took place in another country. It has not occurred in Australia, to be fair. Secondly, I am still staggered by the comment you are making about discrimination in the delivery of services. The army's international mission statement is very clear about non-discriminatory service delivery, and I would be very keen to understand the context of your comment.
Senator PRATT: It was someone's experience as they described it—it is unclear to me what country it was that that happened in. It has also been put to me that in 2004 the Salvation Army threatened to close soup kitchens in New York City to protest the city's decision to require all lenders and charities doing business in the city to adhere to civil rights laws. I suppose these are just a few examples of the wide range of advocacy the Salvation Army has historically done in challenging the rights of GLBTI citizens globally.
Senator ABETZ: It is more assertions rather than examples, isn't it, other than the New Zealand one?
Senator PRATT: I think there are a number of examples.
Major Halse : It is not the case within our ambit of responsibility in Australia. We have a very active and real policy of not discriminating at all. Only a few weeks ago I was hosting a visit by the new Minister for Human Services to our latest homelessness facility in the St Kilda region. That is absolutely open to anybody and in probably the 12 months since it has been opened it has accommodated people, whether they are homosexual or not, in partnerships. Assertions particularly made on blogs are dangerous things.
Senator ABETZ: Do you have any information or experience about the benefit to children in particular of being brought up with a mum and a dad as opposed to, let us say, just one mum or one dad or two men or two women?
Dr Dunjey : There are many such studies. I know such studies can be disputed. One comment is from a Professor Patrick Parkinson and his thesis 'For kids' sake—repairing the social environment for Australian children and young people', which I am sure the committee is aware of. He said:
... if there is one major demographic change in western societies that can be linked to a large range of adverse consequences for many children and young people, it is the growth in the numbers of children who experience life in a family other than living with their two biological parents, at some point before the age of 15.
Certainly we consider there is a lot of evidence for children growing up with mothers and fathers having that identity, knowing who their biological parents are and having the advantage of being brought up by those biological parents. That is a great psychological advantage which cannot occur in the same way with same-sex marriage. There are many others. The British sociologist Patricia Morgan reviewed 144 published studies on same-sex parenting and concluded that same-sex marriages fostered homosexual behaviour, confused gender roles and psychological problems. So there is evidence to show that being brought up with a mother and father is a significant and very important social good.
Senator PRATT: But it must surely be for theological reasons that you are making these assertions today?
Senator ABETZ: With the Salvation Army, maybe, but I am not sure that would be the case with Dr Dunjey. In relation to the institution of marriage, going back a way, I remember when I was at university many of the left wing ideologues who were trying to brainwash me, or educate me, were telling me that marriage was a terrible institution. It was oppressive of women. It was the enslavement of women and so on. Now, similarly, these people some 30 years later, are all of a sudden telling us marriage is a wonderful institution which should be shared by all. I am not quite sure what has happened to the institution of marriage in the past 30 years other than an attempt to denigrate it clearly did not work—for the heterosexual community at least.
Senator PRATT: Gays now want to be part of it.
Senator ABETZ: Yes, or some clearly do. But people like Dr Dennis Altman—a well-known homosexual advocate who makes his views known—would, I think, disagree with that approach. The institution of marriage historically existed before the formation of the state. Have either of you researched in that area, or not? No? Well, we will not go there. If you have not researched in that particular area, I can understand that. Dr Dunjey, have you had—without, of course, naming specific names—people in your care, or the 150 or so co-signatories to your submission had patients in their care, who have dealt with issues that they do not know who their mum or dad is, or sometimes they do not know neither mother or father? What is that do to their sense of self-identity and belonging in the community?
Dr Dunjey : I do not have any evidence from the people who are signatories to Doctors for the Family. I would like to get such evidence and I think that is something in development that I need to do. However, I am aware of other studies, and I cannot quote them just at the present moment, but knowing your biological father and mother is a very significant thing. It is well recognised, for instance, that adopted children need to have that knowledge and that this has become a well-accepted right that children need that knowledge. It is also becoming a right—or maybe it is a right—that children of IVF with donated sperm, where the sperm might have been mixed coming from a hundred different donors, also want to know their roots, their origins. It is just one of those things that we need to know. So, for the psychological sake of the children, yes, knowing their biological roots is extremely important.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: My mother taught me that if I did not have a question to ask not to say anything.
CHAIR: Dr Dunjey, your organisation was formed last year?
Dr Dunjey : Yes.
CHAIR: And these are predominantly through your network of doctors who support, I suppose, the premise and the basis of your submission today. Is that right?
Dr Dunjey : Sorry. What is your question?
CHAIR: How have your colleagues got to know about you? Just through networks, or—
Dr Dunjey : How has it come about? Yes, that is an interesting story. It was primarily through my forming another organisation back in 2006 called Medicine with Morality, which was to talk about divorcing medicine from moral issues and making decisions without moral issues. That is how that came about. We have also looked at the field of conscience. I wrote to those same doctors: it is the only avenue I have. So, at this stage, it is an email and internet contact. It just so happens that most of those doctors have been prepared to back this one as well.
CHAIR: Right, okay—I was just wanting to get some background there. I do not have any other questions, so I thank the three of you for your submissions and for making yourselves available this afternoon: it is appreciated.
Pr oceedings suspended from 14:30 to 14:40