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Monday, 21 November 2011
Page: 9029

Senator BERNARDI (South Australia) (16:37): Recently a number of parliamentarians reported back on their electorate-wide consultation about the issue of gay marriage. It was heartening to read that an overwhelming majority, and some say as many as two-thirds, maintained their constituents broadly supported preserving marriage as being between a man and a woman. Of course, when Greens MP Adam Bandt suggested a system of consulting and reporting back, he never thought this would be the outcome. Given the Greens advocacy for almost everything that undermines the bedrock institutions of Western civilisation, it is a safe bet that he was expecting the response to vindicate his world view. Unfortunately for Mr Bandt, but fortunately for many of us, the innate wisdom of the electorate has recognised the importance of one of the most enduring institutions of society: traditional marriage.

Marriage has historically been the union of a man and a woman for life with the intention of raising a family. It has proven itself as the most sustainable and effective social support and training environment for our future generations. Within this ideal, children benefit from having both a male and a female role model. Of course, despite such a circumstance being the ideal for the nurturing of our children, we cannot ignore the fact that families today come in many different forms. Whatever their construct, we must also acknowledge that where children are protected and nurtured by a caregiver or caregivers who love them unequivocally they are better off than millions of other children around the world. That said, simply because families take many different forms, and some with a measure of success, does not mean we should stop recognising that what is best for children is living with a mother and father who have a strong, respectful and enduring love for one another.

That is one reason I think we need to preserve marriage as the gold standard of relationships and not allow the term to be applied to unions other than those between a man and a woman. To describe other types of relationships as being 'marriage' would reduce the important role that traditional marriage plays in one of the most important building blocks of our society, the family.

This motion is part of the current push within our parliament to broaden the definition of marriage. Once again, this demonstrates the salami-slicing encroach­ment by some on our important institutions. Only two years ago the progressive Left pushed and were successful in granting to all relationships the legal status and benefits accruing to married couples. This was well received by many within our community. However, there were some who voiced concerns that this was simply another step on the road to undermining the institution of marriage itself. To assuage these concerns there were assurances given by some in this chamber, and Senator Joyce referred to the bipartisan commitment that marriage being between a man and a woman would not be challenged during this parliament. Perhaps it will, but I hope it is not. But those assurances have not stopped the continual push to claim yet another of our social and cultural mores in the name of progress.

Leading the charge against our social institutions, in this case marriage, is the Greens party and some willing accomplices within the Labor Party. They, like many others, claim to represent the majority of people on this issue and yet find it hard to deal with the fact that their pursuit of these matters is not in keeping with the outlook or priorities of mainstream Australia. This motion is symbolic of the true agenda of the Australian Greens and it also highlights their priorities. Since the Greens first used their political clout to drive the direction of the Gillard government, we have seen their version of the national debate rotate around gay marriage, euthanasia and a massive green tax that will not be of any environ­mental benefit. These are not the priorities of mainstream Australia, and anyone with a true understanding of their concerns would know that.

However, the Greens led government insists through this motion and others like it that mainstream Australia supports the Greens social agenda, in this case the suggestion being that a growing majority of Australians want to change the definition of marriage as being between a man and a woman. I would dispute that claim, not only because it serves my personal views but because I dispute the Greens' continuing claim that a majority of people want Australia to become a republic. They have been maintaining that position from before the 1999 referendum. The fact they were wrong then, evidenced by the massive defeat of that referendum, has been entirely lost on those who live in a virtual green dream world.

In respect of the particular statement made in this motion from Senator Siewert, I realise that some members in this place have very strong opinions on this subject—strong opinions that lie on both sides of the argument. Indeed, I have a strong opinion on this myself. In many respects that was recognised when MPs in the other place consulted their electorates at the behest of the Greens and reported back to the parliament. According to the Greens, if you don't like the outcome, you just make claims like they have in this motion and you soldier on.

Those who advocate along the lines that the Greens do talk about 'marriage equality'. I believe we already have equality between couples in a committed relationship, according to our laws. In fact, that is what we passed two years ago. The fact that the term 'marriage' is applied to the union of a man and a woman with the permanent intent to maintain that union is not inequality but the recognition of the important role, both real and symbolic, that marriage has in our society. Accordingly, I will not stop advocating for the preservation of marriage as being between a man and woman. As Senator Joyce said, it is not just a contract between two people; it is a contract within society itself.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT ( Senator Crossin ): The time for debating this motion has expired.

Question put:

That the motion (Senator Siewert's) be agreed to.

The Senate divided. [16:48]

(The Acting Deputy President—Senator Crossin)

Question negatived.