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Wednesday, 16 June 2004
Page: 30563


Mr WAKELIN (5:25 PM) —Marriage is a special event and, in a changing world, the Marriage Legislation Amendment Bill 2004 simply attempts to recognise that. Marriage is an important symbol to the wider community as well as to the two people involved. It is a statement of two people's intention to be together for the whole of their lives, and that is the way that most people in Australia see marriage. As the member for Grayndler reminded us, with social change all about us and with a community that has moved, in his own words, `a long way', it is entirely appropriate that we should bring into this place an endeavour to make the primacy of the parliament ahead of the courts. That is, it is our responsibility as elected members to be the voice of the people. I believe the people have a very clear view about this, and their view is that marriage is a very special event between a man and a woman. To leave it to future judgments of successive courts means the people do not have a say—that is, their only say is through us in this place.

I am quite delighted to have the opportunity to speak on this bill. But I think it is even more remarkable that society has come to this and feels the need to state what marriage actually is. The legislation deliberately does not attempt to define biologically a man or a woman, and I think that is prudent. So, the sole purpose, as far as I am concerned, is to recognise marriage as an important symbol and as a special event. It states to the community the intention of two people, with the hope of family and community, to have children and continue the generations.

I am somewhat amazed at the opposition's position. As the member for Dickson advised us, if you were to listen to the speeches you would believe that Labor is actually opposing this legislation. But of course it is not. I find it quite remarkable that I can listen to those speeches and think, `I am sure that they are opposing it,' knowing that opposition members are actually going to vote for it. As I say, I find that quite remarkable.

Perhaps it is worth mentioning that the word `marriage' in the English language is in itself an adequate description. I agree with the wording in the legislation about how we attempt to define marriage, but a relationship between a same-sex couple is—not denying in any way the legitimacy or the genuineness of those relationships—a different form of relationship. There is a fundamental difference in that kind of relationship. You can call it something of equal status if you must but, to my mind, it is certainly not marriage.

If we look at our society over the last 25 years, we see, for instance, the new Family Court regulations from the Lionel Murphy days and the increase in the marriage breakdown rate. We have had many debates in this place, and many parliamentarians have participated, through the parliamentary committees, in discussions about the Child Support Agency. If ever there was a state intrusion into relationships between individuals—particularly men and women in this land—there is nothing more intrusive than the Child Support Agency and the Family Court. To say that this parliament should not be bothered about defining marriage is something that I find quite remarkable.

I suppose that some people might argue that the rate of marriage breakdown in our society questions, in itself, the state of marriage. But the really interesting thing to me is that people, once having married, can go on and marry two or even three times. So there is something very special, and people start with great ambitions in their relationships. But fundamental to those relationships and the children that may follow is stability, love and the support that every young person and every child is entitled to. I do not think anyone is going to try to argue or deny that, within the institution of marriage, within the relationship and the responsibility of a mother and a father, there is no stronger way of expressing those responsibilities than through marriage.

In supporting the legislation before us today, can I quickly sum up by saying that marriage is special, it is an important symbol, it is about family, and it is about nurturing family and the stability of our society. It is important that we recognise the stresses and pressures that are on marriage. With this debate in the parliament we are reinforcing the value of marriage and what marriage is, and I think it gives clear leadership in a way which is very much needed. As I said, I am disappointed that the Labor Party cannot be more direct in supporting this legislation. They sound like they are opposing it, but in fact they are going to support it. I believe that the vital thing that this parliament should never forget is that this is the only voice that the people have. The High Court does not give the people a voice, the Federal Court does not give the people a voice, but this place does—as inadequately as it might do sometimes. This place is the only place the people of Australia will have a voice, and I am absolutely delighted and proud to give voice to those people who I know will welcome this legislation in support of marriage.