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Thursday, 17 June 2004
Page: 30725


Mr FARMER (9:58 AM) —Just before I speak on the Marriage Legislation Amendment Bill 2004, I note that the member for Fremantle speaks in this House quite regularly about things that are going to happen in the Senate. I understand, since coming to this place, that we each represent approximately 80,000 to 100,000 people in our community. I believe that as elected representatives we should stand up for those people and for what they believe in. But those opposite agree with one side of politics and then leave it up to the Senate to come up with a different answer because they do not have the spine to stand up for what they should truly represent in this place. Much of the legislation ends up in the Senate for debate because the opposition do not say, `This is what we believe in and this is what we stand for.' Instead they agree with the government and leave it up to the Senate to refine the bill before it is passed.

I rise today to speak in support of the Marriage Legislation Amendment Bill 2004 as it has been put forward by the Prime Minister and the coalition government. As a representative of Western Sydney, an area with strong beliefs in the traditional institution of marriage between a man and a woman, I am concerned with the possible erosion of the sacred institution of marriage. The legislation honours marriage between one man and one woman. Up until now, neither the Marriage Act 1961 nor the Constitution contained a clear definition of marriage. The Family Law Act 1975 prevents regulation being made either under the Hague convention or under bilateral agreements to facilitate same-sex couples adopting a child from overseas. The provisions of this bill are to define marriage as a union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, to confirm that unions solemnised overseas between same-sex couples will not be recognised in Australia, and to prevent intercountry adoptions by same-sex couples. I uphold the government's view that marriage be legally defined as such, with the intention of maintaining the Christian as well as the traditional concept of marriage.

By legally recognising the unique relationship of a man and a woman in marriage, we continue to instil the special status of this most fundamental institution in our society. This legislation gives us a rare opportunity to question and to re-examine some of our community's bedrock institutions, such as marriage. The matrimonial institution, worthy of protection, has endured for thousands of years. The union between men and women through marriage, tested over centuries across the world, has become a universal institution. It is a social institution that has formed the very basis of the whole fabric of our modern society and it has always been understood to involve the union of a man and a woman.

Whilst I recognise that there are many different relationships in our society, I also believe that they cannot be given equal status to a marriage between two members of the opposite sex. This bill does not discriminate against any kind of relationship; it simply reinforces the definition of marriage being between a man and a woman as the founding institution of our society. The act of marriage is something very profound and goes much deeper than merely an expression of affection between two people. There is no denying that the expressions of emotion, support and public commitment have been recognised as among the attributes of marriage. Such interests alone do not confer a right to marriage, however. Marriage is not meant to serve a single purpose of individual interests; it is about serving others—our children and our family.

Some may argue that heterosexual intercourse, procreation and family responsibilities are not necessarily inseparable and that there are alternatives. After all, we do live in the 21st century—an era of significant technological and social change, where sexual alternatives are readily accepted by many people in our society. But I ask you here today: why should we do things differently just because we can? Why should we drift away from the basics of our human values and traditions? Simply because we live in a society with advanced technology, where anything is possible and different ways of life are available, is not reason enough to change the sanctity of marriage from the way that it was meant to be. I believe that this is the very time that we should stand up and confirm the sanctity of marriage. I am not saying that two men cannot raise a child or that two women cannot raise a child. What I am saying is that marriage is not just about sex or expressing individuality. Marriage should not be used as a policy tool to be redefined to achieve social goals and should not be defined or legislated by courts and judiciary. It is simply about love and the commitment between a husband and a wife to spend the rest of their lives together, often with the intention to bring a child into this world and to raise a family.

I believe that I represent the 80,000 residents in Macarthur and the majority of the Australian community when I say that the institution of marriage does play a most vital role in procreation, the creation of a stable family structure and stable communities. Surely this must be the reason why the majority continue to choose the traditional family arrangement, believing this best meets the needs of families and the Australian society. Perhaps most importantly we have to teach our children about love and sexuality from a female and a male point of view and give them an equal opportunity to make their preferred choice of lifestyle. It is our responsibility as parents to ensure that the needs of our children are met. Our children, including adopted children, should be given the opportunity to be raised by a mother and a father. The marital family unit is the foremost environment for the education and socialisation of children.

Children learn about their world, and their place in this world, primarily through their parents. A family defined by two parents of opposite gender continues to be the most prevalent social structure in which the majority of children are born, nurtured and raised to perform their role in our society. This is important not only for a society and our families but also for our lives. By supporting this legislation we are encouraging parents to remain committed to each other and to provide their children with an unbiased education about both men and women. This institution of marriage between a man and a woman does exactly this. Even more so, it facilitates a stabilising future and social structure for our children, and marriage and procreation are fundamental to the very existence and survival of our species.

This government seeks to establish its foundation on the basis of the idea of family consisting of one man and one woman. This stable and noble foundation is the basis of all decision making in our social and political development. It is also true that historical changes in our cultural, political and economic conditions have altered some of our traditional notions about marriage as an institution. Nevertheless, the institution of marriage remains the principal basis of our social foundation. We need to promote this view of marriage for what it truly is—a pillar of our society—and it should not be altered.

I am confident that the majority of Australians would agree that the amendments to the Marriage Act 1961 and the Family Law Act 1975 are extremely important and legitimate in ensuring the promotion and support of a most favourable social structure in which to bear and to raise children. The Marriage Legislation Amendment Bill, when enacted, will ensure that marriage status continues to serve its purpose in our society. This is the point that I want to leave with all of you: we need to get back to the fundamentals. Marriage should be between one man and one woman, and the reason God created both man and woman is to procreate. By this we ensure that our values, our traditions and our heritage will live on through our children.