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Tuesday, 18 September 2012
Page: 7232


Senator JOYCE (QueenslandLeader of The Nationals in the Senate) (20:25): This issue around the Marriage Amendment Bill (No. 2) 2012 is extremely pertinent to the structure of everything that our nation is and has been built on. If you go to the core of the issue, a child has the right to know who their biological parents are. They have the right to know who both their mother and their father are: who the people were who were the component parts of the initial stages of their life.

Marriage is an institution, a custom, that surrounds itself with trying to reinforce the reality of nature. It is a process that has been created in so many cultures and in so many religions over so much time. Some say it is merely a construct of legislation, but it is not. It is actually a construct of the reality of who each one of us is. Family is the most effective policy that any government can stand behind. The family is the greatest aged-care policy. The family is the greatest law and order policy. The family is the greatest housing policy. The family is the greatest education policy. The family is the greatest health policy. The ramifications of going into that institution of marriage, which is at the centre of what the family is, are way beyond merely a statement of what a person wants and desires.

It is also really important to understand that it is just another reality of the world that you cannot have everything just because you want it. Everybody has to make sacrifices. We all want so much, but marriage itself is a statement. It is not the gaining of rights but the acquiescing of rights. It is basically about stepping away from rights. If you want to keep all your rights then the best way to do it is to not get married, because then you have all the rights. It might not be the ideal set-up. You can have children if you want. You can do whatever you want; there are no real bounds. But the statement of marriage is a statement that you are prepared to acquiesce your rights and to go into a situation where all those rights that you had formerly are not there.

In trying to get to the centre of this issue, it is also important to try not to offend or belittle other people. We live in a time now where there is no novelty in knowing people who are gay. They are around everywhere; they are in everybody's family. That is the reality of the world. But it takes courage to say, 'Just because there is a familiarity and there are so many people I know who are gay, that does not mean I have to agree with everything that everybody wants.' That is another reality. In trying to draw a picture, without trying to belittle it, I might be a Buddhist who wants to call myself a Christian. Well, I cannot. If you are a Buddhist, you are a Buddhist; if you are a Christian, you are a Christian. You cannot say, 'I demand my right as a Buddhist to call myself a Christian.' It is just ridiculous. It is not what you are. It is a terminology that does accept that you can be both.

If you want to be married, because of the requirements of nature, it involves a male and a female connection for the hope and possibility of having children. You cannot do it with a male and a male. You cannot do it with a female and a female. It is just not possible. The institution of marriage stands ultimately behind the reality of nature. It does not matter what piece of legislation we pass; you cannot change nature. You cannot change that reality. But what we can do is go down a path of a new form of social engineering—about which we really have no idea of the consequences. If you believe in conservation, then conservation of the structure of society that has sustained us for so long would be a pretty good place to start.

If we redefine the institution of marriage by legislation we must remember that we are not only redefining it for those of us who are here now but also redefining it for those who were here before us. We are redefining it for our parents, for our grandparents and for all those who have gone before us. We are redefining the relationships that they went into and the sacrifices that they made with some legislative recalibration of the process from this point forward. I think most people whose parents are married would say, 'I know what that was and I know what it wasn't.' We do not want to diminish the relevance of our history and the legacy of who we are.

I understand the concerns that are held by other people who say, 'I feel that if I do not have the capacity to call myself married I will feel diminished.' There is not much that we can do about that. The reality in life is that there are always things that you cannot have. There are things that I cannot have. I think it is really important that in this debate we try to respect everybody's views.

Stacy Aronson and Aletha Huston, in their article, 'The Mother-Infant Relationship in Single, Cohabiting, and Married Families: A Case for Marriage?' in the Journal of Family Psychology, found that children in married homes demonstrated more positive behaviour and scored better on a range of demographic variables. In this study, attitudes about child-rearing, income and social support failed to explain variations in living arrangements, suggesting that the make-up of the family before conception and birth was vitally important.

A growing number of studies have found that children who experience changes in their living arrangements suffer worst development outcomes on average. A study in 2006 by Shannon Cavanagh and Aletha Huston found:

Children who experienced instability had higher teacher and observer reports of problem behaviors than those from stable family structures.

That is not to say that every marriage works out—we know that about 40 per cent of marriages do not—but it is the aspiration of what people go into. Nobody goes into the act of marriage hoping to get divorced; they go into the act of marriage hoping to stay married. To be honest, I have never seen any person who is happy with the fact that they have had an unsuccessful marriage. I have always seen people who wished that their marriage had worked out, who wished it had been better, who wished that they could have had their time again.

So there is a huge weight on the institution of marriage and what goes into it. To say, 'I'm going to compare a dysfunctional marriage with a successful relationship between same-sex people,' is not a fair comparison. Anyone can go to any anecdotal analysis and find same-sex people who are cohabitating happily and you can find lots and lots of families who are very, very happy. And you can certainly go to lots and lots of gay relationships which become bitterly unhappy and you can go to lots of marriages that become bitterly unhappy. But the undisputed reality is that children who have been brought up in a stable relationship with a mum and dad have the best chance—not a perfect chance, but the best chance—to get their best development environment surrounding them.

Other studies show the importance of children, particularly male children, having a positive relationship with their father. In 2006 an article in the Journal of Family Studies used a nationally representative sample of adolescents in the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth. This article found:

Consistent with our initial hypothesis, a more positive father-child relationship is associated with a reduced risk of delinquency and substance abuse above and beyond the effects of the mother-child relationship. These results remain consistent even after using controls for various aspects of mother-child relationships, maternal monitoring and other maternal characteristics, family and household-level characteristics and child-level characteristics.

We interpret this as meaning that fathers matter. Likewise, a study in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry in 2006 found that living in a broken home at age eight increases the chances of children committing criminal offences in late adolescence. These findings are confirmed by a study in the Journal of Pediatrics, which found that children and families without a father are more likely to be in fair or poor health.

Once more, this is not a statement that every child who is in a broken home ends up in poor health or ends up with a criminal record. It is not saying that at all. It is just talking about the realities of the probabilities. Stability in structure that confirms and reaffirms both a mother and father figure is the best environment for a child to grow up in—and, the closer that mother and father figure is to the genetic make-up of the child, the better it is.

Behind all this stands the nature that underpins the reality of what a marriage is. Cultures in so many different areas have reaffirmed this. Cultures with no interconnectivity between each other, which have come up with their ideas independently of each other, have all come to the same conclusion, that a marriage is between a man and a woman, and they have always signified the importance of it with ceremony, with commitment and with a whole range of laws that surround it. Some are backed by law, some are backed by religion and some are backed by custom, but they are all there. And we cannot now just say that we are going to deny the reality of thousands of years of human custom because we choose to, because we are desirous of it, because we want to, because it is our wont—and, because it is our wont, we demand that we ignore all that goes before us because we are desirous of this outcome. You cannot do that. You have to basically take the unselfish position that you cannot have everything you want in the world just because you want it. The statement of marriage itself is not a statement of getting what you want; it is a statement of giving up what you want, and it is a statement of commitment to the purpose.

What is this almost overwhelming political movement to go into every form of tradition and corner and change it, just because there is some group, or some section of a group that is desirous of that? Don't we have to also take into account the possible greater offence to the larger number of people who also stand behind the statement that they are married? Don't their views have some weight in this debate? What about every person who says, 'What about my parents? They were married.' Doesn't that memory, and that legacy, have some weight in this debate? What about the people who say, 'My grandparents were married'? Doesn't that have some weight or legacy in this debate? Why are we always in such a rush to diminish everything else rather than to simply say, 'In this instance I am prepared to make the sacrifice. I can't have everything I want. I am prepared to make the sacrifices.' It is one of those sacrifices that you make in life and that is it. There does seem to be a desire of selfishness that says, 'For me to attain every desire I want, I am prepared to sacrifice the legacy, the aspiration and the structure of what so many more people, and other people, want to keep.'

All of the studies that I have referred to have clearly confirmed that there are great risks if we re-engineer marriage away from being about the family. There are grave risks to the children's developmental outcomes, and surely such outcomes are just as important as anything else. I hope that this debate shows that in Australia, when we need certain things to be evident, to draw us together, when we see the disturbances that have happened on television and we want some communal values, something that basically draws different faiths together, that draws different groups together, that draws different societies together, if there is one linking principle when there are so many other things that divide people, then marriage is it. Marriage is one of those commonalities that reach out across so many ethnic and religious divides. We say that we are a multicultural nation and it is absolutely imperative that there be some linking ethos, something that links all these disparate groups together. If we are going to say, 'No, we won't even acknowledge that,' we will go into that space as well and destroy it, and remove it. What is a linking principle? Has it just become the vibe, the hope—the hope that there is some connection? Or will we make up some grandiose, flowery statement of what links people together, but the statement will have to say that it means absolutely nothing because it might offend some group or somebody? But there is one area which has the potential to draw so many people together because there is a common view across religions, across faiths and across ethnic groups, and that is marriage.

This is a piece of legislation that says, 'Because we have found our way into this building, we can now redetermine the path of history because we are desirous of it. We can now put aside the cultural clique that has been formulated in so many different areas but has done so in a parallel manner. Whether you are in the highlands of Papua New Guinea, or in Renaissance Rome, or on the plains of America, or in Ireland, or in Africa, all these groups have all come to one conclusion. They have all basically found that one of the key structures of society is the family; and the ceremony that underpins the family, that is the inception of the family, is marriage, under a whole range of different names, and despite all of that we are going to say, 'No, because we are now so modern, so clever, that we can put all of that aside, even though we really do not know what the ramifications are.' That is another thing: we do not really know. You want to tear down the structure that underpins society, but you really have no clue what the ramifications are. It is unwarranted.

In closing, this is not a statement about trying to offend anybody. As I said before, every person in every walk of life has to make sacrifices and has to make choices. You make the choice. If you want to get married, then you have to find someone of the opposite sex for that ceremony called 'marriage'. If you want to be in a relationship with someone of the same sex, that is fine, but it is just not marriage. It is something that you may determine and it may have worth, it may have depth, but it is not marriage. I think that if everybody thinks about it logically, it is yet another sacrifice you make which you can put aside and say, 'If you're not prepared to make that sacrifice, then that in itself is a statement that the sacrifice that you would have to make of marriage is probably something that you are not prepared to accept.'