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Wednesday, 24 August 2011
Page: 9309

Mr PERRETT (Moreton) (11:03): 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.