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Monday, 21 October 2002
Page: 5541

Senator HARRIS (8:14 PM) —I rise to speak in response to the House of Representative's message 172 relating to the Members of Parliament (Life Gold Pass) Bill 2002. I want to convey to the chamber that, until I heard Senator Faulkner's vitriolic attack on Senator Abetz, I was not really moved one way or another in relation to the message. I believe that that attack, while it may have been directed primarily at Senator Abetz, was actually an attack upon the entire basis of our parliamentary process. If we look at the procedure that we follow each morning in this chamber, the President before taking the chair reads the following prayer:

Almighty God, we humbly beseech Thee to vouchsafe Thy special blessing upon this Parliament—

we directly request from God a blessing on this place—

and that Thou would be pleased to direct and prosper the work of Thy servants—

so we as senators within this chamber are calling upon God for clear direction for the decisions that we are going to make—

... to the advancement of Thy glory—

that is to the advancement of the glory of God—

and the true welfare of the people of Australia.

We do that each morning when we commence each day's sitting of the Senate. The document upon which our entire Commonwealth is predicated is the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Australia—the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act— and the opening paragraph that we agree to states:

Whereas the people of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Queensland, and Tasmania, humbly relying on the blessing of Almighty God ...

The unity of this nation is based on our relying on the humble blessing of Almighty God. So our constitutional base is that of a Christian society. The process that we follow in this chamber each day is based upon Christian principles. How can we, when it does not suit our purpose, turn our back on those principles and walk away from that basis—the entire foundation of everything that we commit and swear allegiance to when we come into this place? The message from the House of Representatives clearly indicates that it cannot agree to the definition of the word `spouse' contained in the Senate's amendment, which states:

... in relation to a person includes another person who, although not legally married to the person, lives with the person on a bona fide domestic basis as the husband or wife of the person.

Let us look at the biblical definition of a husband and wife, and that of a family.

Marriage is an institution that is ordained by God to satisfy a couple's needs and to provide a sanctuary for the upbringing of children resulting from that marriage.

Upon the question of marriage, Paul wrote in chapter 7, verses 1 to 5 of his Letter to the Corinthians:

Now, to deal with the matters you wrote about. A man does well not to marry. But because there is so much immorality, every man should have his own wife, and every woman should have her own husband. A man should fulfil his duty as a husband, and a woman should fulfil her duty as a wife, and each should satisfy the other's needs. A wife is not the master of her own body, but her husband is; in the same way a husband is not the master of his own body, but his wife is. Do not deny yourselves to each other, unless you first agree to do so for a while to spend your time in prayer; but then resume normal marital relations.

We could not find a more defining definition than that of a husband and a wife—that is, a person who has entered into the sanctity of marriage.

We talk about consistency in our laws. How do we achieve consistency in our laws? We achieve consistency by looking to that direction that we request each morning when we commence each Senate sitting. If we want to have even more clarification than that, let us look at some of the quotes from our eminent High Court judges. I would like to cite Her Honour Justice Mary Gaudron in the Wakim case in 1999:

However, the judiciary has no power to amend or modernise the Constitution to give effect to what Judges think is in the best public interest. The function of the judiciary, including the function of this Court, is to give effect to the intention of the makers of the Constitution as evidenced by the terms in which they expressed that intention. That necessarily means that decisions, taken almost a century ago by people long dead, bind the people of Australia today even in cases where most people agree that those decisions are out of touch with the present needs of Australian society. The starting point for a principled interpretation of the Constitution is the search for the intention of its makers.

I go back to the section of our Constitution that I quoted from, which clearly sets out that our Constitution is an act entered into by the people of all of the states that were in existence at that time `humbly relying on the blessing of Almighty God'. So it is with some sadness that I see in this place such an attack upon the basis of our Constitution and upon the process upon which this chamber relies on a daily basis, and that is direction from Almighty God. The day that we return to that, we will see laws in Australia that are, as our prayer says, to the glory of God and the welfare of the Australian people.