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Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee
Abetz, Sen Eric
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Dr van Gend
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Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee
(Senate-Friday, 4 May 2012)
CHAIR (Senator Crossin)
Dr van Gend
- CHAIR (Senator Crossin)
Content WindowLegal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee - 04/05/2012
SIMON, Mr Daniel James, Research Officer, Australian Christian Lobby
van GEND, Dr David, Chairman, Australian Marriage Forum
WALLACE, Mr Jim, AM, Managing Director, Australian Christian Lobby
CHAIR: I now welcome representatives from the Australian Christian Lobby and the Australian Marriage Forum. It is nice to see you again, Mr Wallace. Dr van Gend, welcome to our committee. We have two submissions from you, which we have numbered for our purposes on the website; No. 147 from the Australian Christian Lobby and No. 199 from the Australian Marriage Forum. I ask you both to provide us with an opening statement before we go to some questions.
Dr van Gend : I am a family doctor and I appear on behalf of the Australian Marriage Forum. Our submission outlines the harms of homosexual marriage, affirms the biological and social truth about marriage and challenges this bill's assumptions about homosexuality. The greatest harm of homosexual marriage is that it means homosexual parenting, and homosexual parenting means that a child must miss out on either a mother or a father. Marriage is a compound right under international law—not only the right to an exclusive relationship but the right to found a family. Therefore, same-sex marriage carries the right to form a family. But any child created within that marriage by artificial reproduction will have no possibility of being raised by both their mother and their father. There are already tragic situations where a child cannot have both a mum and a dad, such as the death or desertion of a parent, but that is not a situation we would ever wish upon a child and it is not a situation that any government should ever inflict upon a child. Yet legalising same-sex marriage will inflict that deprivation on generations of children. That is why this bill is wrong and must be opposed.
Other harms of homosexual marriage include the momentous legal consequence of normalising homosexual behaviour in the school curriculum, with the full force of antidiscrimination law and the consequent loss of parental control over the moral education of their children. We have seen this in Massachusetts in 2003 where within months of the legalising of same-sex marriage the curriculum had to conform to the new normal.
Our submission also examines the suppression of religious conscience and free speech that will prevail once gay marriage is normalised. Finally, we point to the inevitable expansion of marriage equality to include group marriage, or even consensual incest, once the objective meaning of male/female marriage and family has been downgraded to a mere sexual relationship between any committed adults.
Marriage is beyond the authority of any parliament to tamper with. It is not a political or social invention but a social recognition of a pre-existing biological reality: male, female, child. The father of modern anthropology, Claude Levi-Strauss, called marriage a social institution with a biological foundation. He notes that, throughout recorded history, the human family is:
… based on a union, more or less durable, but socially approved, of two individuals of opposite sexes who establish a household and bear and raise children …
All of our marriage ceremonies and laws exist to buttress this natural order, helping bind a man to his mate for the sake of social stability and for the sake of the child they might create. Self-evidently, homosexual relationships cannot create children. Such relationships are of great importance to the individuals involved and demand neighbourly civility, but they do not meet nature's or society's job description for marriage. Nevertheless, homosexuality is not an inborn or unchangeable condition and some gay people are able to maximise their heterosexual potential to the point where they can marry according to the order of nature, with children of their own, as we have just witnessed with the previous speaker.
Political justice, then, has already been done. Since the federal legislation of 2008, homosexual couples in Australia enjoy effective equality in every way short of marriage. The process must stop short of marriage because marriage is about something much deeper than civil equality: it is about a natural reality which society did not create and which only a misguided piece of legislation like the bill before us would seek to destroy. Thank you.
CHAIR: Mr Wallace?
Mr Wallace : Thank you for the opportunity to present our arguments, as the Australian Christian Lobby, in support of the definition of marriage. I want to discuss truth. Homosexuality and heterosexuality are not the same; they are different. This is a biological truth. It is simply incongruous that homosexuality and heterosexuality be treated as equal, because they are so clearly different. In fact, Australian Marriage Equality itself says in its submission:
A critical condition applies to the principles of equality and non-discrimination. They can not apply to things which are inherently unequal or incompatible.
This must cause us to ask: what is meant by marriage equality? It raises the question: equal in what? Is it then that the people be treated equally? Then I would agree, and always have. Clearly governments do, because there is no discrimination against homosexual people in entitlement. Even Justice Kirby could identify none in Sydney yesterday.
We may have been able to claim in our recent apologies to the stolen generations and the forgotten generation that our intent, even if wrongly conceived, was nonetheless to serve the best interests of children. In this case there is no such redeeming moral imperative. This campaign is selfishly focused on the demands of adults who have already run roughshod over the rights of children by causing such nonsense as legislation allowing even a single man to be able to get a child through surrogacy. There is, of course, also no doubt that, if you permit this redefinition of marriage, you cannot possibly deny calls for polygamy and polyamory—demands already being made. If marriage is only about love then who is government to determine who loves, or indeed how many people love?
But this campaign also has as its objective to limit freedom of religion and conscience, despite claims to promise to preserve it in two of the bills. The committee must acknowledge the lack of integrity in promises to protect freedom of religion here—certainly in those two bills—while the same activists are demanding all the time that the protections of the church and people of faith be removed in the concurrent review of antidiscrimination laws.
The chair opened the hearing by mentioning the number of submissions, so in the interests of truth I request the committee to make a statement on its degree of confidence in the fact that the submissions received represent individual Australian opinion and have not been falsified. In August last year, when MPs were required to report back to parliament on their consultation with their electorates on this issue, the scale of falsification of submissions was extreme. As just one example, Malcolm Turnbull announced that, of 4,000 emails received claiming to be from his electorate, 1,700 proved not to be. This campaign has been full of mischiefs, from the misrepresentation of fact to the demonisation of alternative views and the falsification of electoral support. I believe this committee has a responsibility, first, to re-establish the truth of the claims of fact and popular support that have so misled the public perception of this issue; second, not to create vulnerabilities for church and people of faith and their freedom of religion and conscience; and, third, to meet the parliament's responsibility to the children of Australia to protect the concepts of motherhood and fatherhood which marriage enshrines and which are so increasingly essential. Thank you very much.
CHAIR: Thanks, Mr Wallace. The first thing I want to actually say to you is in response to your comments about the validity of the submissions that the Senate has received. I very clearly place on record that the staff in our secretariat have worked enormously hard over an incredibly long period of time to process 77,000 submissions. It is one of the largest submissions totals the parliament has ever received. I am not sure if you are aware that each and every one of those is treated as an individual piece of correspondence and it is tagged and recorded and entered into a database and replied to and read by each and every one of the staff to ensure that there is no adverse comment. Submissions that do have adverse comment are pulled out and are treated by the committee and we write back to the people and suggest to them that they need to either resubmit or get rid of the adverse comment. We can only assume that when people send us submissions the name and the address and contact details that they provide are accurate. The Senate, in itself, has no capacity to verify that other than this: people do actually get a response back and an acknowledgement of the submission that they have sent in to us. So each piece of paper is treated as correspondence.
Mr Wallace : Could I say, first of all, I really appreciate the workload on the parliament to do that and I understand that. I do believe though that the way that this inquiry has been set up—and I do not say that this was in any way intentional—is such that we have reduced this inquiry to the status of a cheap public poll. My understanding is that a huge percentage of those submissions that are received are simply template submissions and more than likely have just been generated by people without any comment on them—or with very little—or generated with cut and pasted comment. I believe that, even in the case of ones that have come from us, the Senate has to apply due consideration to the considered submissions—in other words those which have actually put forward an argument and a weighting as to the effects.
CHAIR: Can I just say to you that is why we have 358 publicly available submissions on our website rather than 77,000. We have been particularly careful to not turn this into a for-and-against debate. There are 115 submissions on the website from individuals in favour of legislation and 115 from those against. The rest are from organisations. Maybe that is the way people are now responding to Senate committee inquiries across the board. I have just been involved in legislation, called Stronger Futures, that changes Indigenous policy in the Northern Territory and there were hundreds of form letters, produced by an organisation called Concerned Australians, which had the same three or four paragraphs and people just simply signed the bottom and sent them in to the Senate committee. This may well have occurred in this case with people either for or against the legislation. Nevertheless, I want to reassure you that, when the report is written about the submissions that we have received and the content of the arguments, we will look at the legality and the validity of the arguments that would either support or not support this legislation. That is what we are concerned about. I am not, as chair, simply going to hand down a report that says this bill should be supported because the majority of submissions say so. We will look at the aspects of this piece of legislation. We have the reputation of the Senate's Legal and Constitutional Committee to uphold here and this committee prides itself on putting together good legislation, not public opinion. So I want to make that really clear for you so you can understand where we are coming from.
Mr Wallace : I appreciate that. Could I just ask, though, that, given the fact that individual MPs were able to check whether or not the submissions coming to them in their case were valid or not—against, presumably, electoral rolls, and I assume there is some software available to do that—could I encourage the committee to do that, because I would certainly want to know that those opinions were from Australia and they were from individuals that actually exist.
CHAIR: We will look at your comments about that. We may or may not have further discussion about that. It will clearly really depend on the time. But this is not a committee that writes a report based on public opinion; this is a committee that will write a report based on good legislation or otherwise.
Mr Wallace : I agree with that.
CHAIR: Okay. Thank you.
Senator ABETZ: Thank you. I do not think anybody is questioning the hard work of the committee secretariat, but it is known from time to time that individuals and organisations will put in false letters, claims, use false names, false identities to try to bolster the number count. Indeed, Ms Hanson-Young is frowning there—pity that Hansard cannot pick it up. We do know that on election day there are some individuals that go around polling booths and vote not once, but twice up to 10 times. So if people are willing to do that on election day, it is quite reasonable to presume that if you feel passionately one way or the other in this debate one might also be tempted to do it. Therefore, Mr Wallace, can I say that I think your injunction to us to be careful about the number count is a very wise one from practical experience.
Can I turn to the actual issue of the legislation that we are debating, and that is the issue of marriage being related to family and procreating. Is there any rationale as to why marriage should not be allowed between close blood relatives but for the possibility of children and the consequences of close blood relatives getting together and having children between them?
Mr Wallace : I will leave that to Dr van Gend to answer, if I could.
Dr van Gend : Just on that, because there is a topical case out of Europe only a few weeks ago. The European Court of Human Rights heard a consensual incest case between a brother and a sister. The report is that Patrick Stuebing argued that he and his sister had the right to a family life. In Germany this case had led to calls that the laws on consensual sexual relations between adult relatives be changed.
The European Court of Human Rights said that the main basis for refusing this and for punishing incestuous relationships was 'the protection of marriage and the family'. That makes sense when marriage is understood in its present form. But my question is: how long will the courts sustain this notion of protecting marriage and the family once homosexual marriage has, if you like, breached the Levee of sexual taboo that alone protects the biological order of marriage and family? Because, if we say that marriage no longer requires different genders then by what rational principle should it be limited in number. If marriage, as the marriage equality people say, is all about love and commitment then, seriously, why should three mature adults or a suitably contracepted related pair of adults not be able to be committed to each other and to love each other and to affirm their commitment by marriage equality? This is what happens when we cut marriage adrift from the rock of nature—from the mammalian model of male, female and offspring which we have been given and which our social institutions simply reinforce. If we cut ourselves adrift from nature itself there is no rational principle by which we can say no to group marriage of consenting, committed adults or even, as we see from this court case, the challenge of incestuous consenting marriage of suitably contracepted couples.
Mr Wallace : We monitored the discussions yesterday in the hearing in Sydney. It was interesting that it was very evident that when presented with the question: 'If you cross this line, how on earth do you deny, do you discriminate against, anybody who loves someone else or loves any number of people?' the proponents of same-sex marriage fell back on the argument that we are only talking about this bill. Surely the committee, the Senate and the rest of the parliament must be thinking about the consequences of this bill. If those consequences are so evident and demands have been made—already here in Australia but certainly overseas through litigation and court cases—then how on earth can we hermetically seal this and say that we make a decision on this only on the basis of what it says here and not on what the consequences have been proven to be overseas?
Dr van Gend : To give one legal opinion, rather than our opinion, in only March this year the former chair of the bar association in the UK, Lord Daniel Brennan wrote:
After all, if you can abolish the most important pre-condition of marriage - namely that it requires a person of each sex—why should you be able to retain other pre-conditions, such as limiting it to only two people?
In the Netherlands, where same-sex marriage was introduced in 2001, “cohabitation agreements” have been used to give three-way relationships a measure of legal recognition.
Senator ABETZ: It seems to me that if you do argue about the issue of 'love is all you need' or whatever then, as you have indicated, the fact that those logical extensions are not embraced by society at this stage leads to those who are supporting this bill to retreat, to try to—as you described it, Mr Wallace—hermetically seal it off and say, 'This is just something on its own.' But you do have to test these measures on the basis of: what is the underpinning, what is the rationale, and can that rationale then be extended to other scenarios? Clearly, even with the professors who we had before us earlier this morning, there was in my mind no real capacity by them to say, 'If it is okay to change the definition in relation to it being male-female, why should it be only for two persons? If you can start fiddling with one area of the definition, why not with the other?' I think you make that point well. Thank you.
CHAIR: Mr Wallace, in discussion with my secretary I have been informed of a couple of things which I should add to acknowledge how we operate. There is no requirement that you have to be an Australian citizen to submit any submission to a parliamentary inquiry. We had Margaret Somerville from Canada speak to us this morning, for example, and I understand the number of submissions we got from people overseas for this inquiry was absolutely minimal, but we did get them. A couple of individuals tried to submit six, seven, 10 or 12 times, but you only get one go. If we got 10 submissions from one person then only one is entered as a submission; the other nine are discarded.
Senator ABETZ: That is, if they gave their right names on each occasion.
CHAIR: Yes, but there is no capacity for any Senate committee, really, to actually check the validity of 77,000 submissions against an electoral roll. Mind you, not everyone in this country is on the electoral roll. The committee itself determines how we run our inquiry. To the best of our knowledge, one submission is recorded as a submission. It is acknowledged and is tabulated for the public's information.
Mr Wallace : Okay.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Dr van Gend, are you a member the Australian Medical Association?
Dr van Gend : Yes.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I take on board what you have submitted to us in your opening statement about what you believe to be the negative impacts of marriage equality, but I struggle to find any empirical evidence put forward by anyone in relation to where it has happened overseas. Putting that aside, the Australian Medical Association's clear position is that discrimination against same-sex-attracted people can lead to poorer general health outcomes. Would you agree with that?
Dr van Gend : Yes.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Okay. So if were able to reduce—
Dr van Gend : Sorry, if I could clarify—unjust discrimination.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Okay, but the Australian Medical Association do not qualify that. They have said that discrimination against same-sex couples can lead to poorer health outcomes. Later on today we have the Australian Psychological Society, who have some statistics in relation to some of these things, such as a 248 per cent increase in generalised anxiety amongst same-sex-attracted couples due to the discrimination they face. So, if we can for a moment put aside your view around marriage and children, can you see that institutionalised discrimination against somebody because of their sexuality can lead to poorer health outcomes; and, therefore, if we can do something from a public policy perspective to address that, shouldn't we?
Dr van Gend : I do not think, as public policy, that the foundational institution of society should be changed in order to act as a tool of therapy for adults, to raise their self-esteem by a few points. No, I do not think so. And that is my experience as a treating doctor. If there is, as you describe it, a negative impact from institutional discrimination—which I take to mean the inability of homosexual people to marry—I think that must be so tiny in the scheme of homosexual suffering as to be almost trivial. I say that because when I talk with friends or patients about their issues—and I spend a fair bit of time helping them through their depressions or crises—they have never talked about social attitudes towards their condition as being an element in their suffering; they always talk about their struggles with the compulsive nature of their sexual addiction and they talk about the grief they have in their complicated relationships, and then they talk about the medical consequences, AIDS being only the most serious of many. These as points of truth, of true clinical experience, are what make these men and women suffer. The idea that a significant element in their suffering is the fact that, for thousands of years, marriage has been between a man and woman is something I find quite laughable, and I hope that serious-minded people in the Senate will not give in to what in some ways is a form of emotional blackmail, which is that if you do not change the Marriage Act you are complicit in causing gay suicide. That is drawing such an outrageously long bow that I think it should be treated with a certain disdain.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: How do you—
Mr Wallace : Senator, could I just comment on that too?
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I will come to you, Mr Wallace, but I am interested in the doctor's perspective on this because a large number of the submissions that we have received do deal with and speak of the mental health issues and other health related impacts of discrimination—and, yes, society's view of the differences between somebody who is homosexual and somebody who is heterosexual. I am not sure, Doctor, whether you have been able to go online and look at the submissions, but a number of them are from young people, young Australians, and they are very frank and very honest about the fact that they feel they are considered second-class citizens because of something that is not their fault, something that they cannot change, and the impact that that has on their beliefs and their development. Then we hear leaders in our country—not just political leaders; community leaders as well—suggest that they do not deserve to be treated equally to their brother or sister or schoolmates. Surely we do have a responsibility to do something about that. If your submission is that changing the Marriage Act is not the silver bullet for that, I can accept that. But the idea that young people have put in submissions to this inquiry is: 'When federal legislation and the Prime Minister say I am not equal, when I am struggling, what on earth am I meant to take from that?'
Dr van Gend : One must grant that there is some small element in some homosexual suffering that is due to their frustration at not being able to marry. But I say that, from my experience, that must be so tiny as to be off the radar in most cases—
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: But you—
Dr van Gend : Can I complete?
Dr van Gend : And while changing the Marriage Act might act as psychological therapy for a small number of people, that is not a reason to change the fundamental institution of society. You also have to weigh against that the harms that will flow from same-sex marriage being normalised which I alluded to in my introduction. We will thereby establish, effectively, the norm of a motherless child, because if you normalise a marriage without a woman you are normalising a family without a mother, and that, in effect, is to condemn future generations of children to being brought into existence by surrogacy or IVF with no possibility whatever of knowing the love of a mother. That is a grave offence against those children. The relationship between mother and child is the most foundational relationship in existence, and that will be dispensed with as being insignificant if we normalise the homosexual marriage of two men. So you must weigh the grave social consequences against the proposed therapeutic psychological benefit to certain people. In that scale of justice, there is no argument for your position, Senator.
May I just add one useful thing—a reference for you. In the British Journal of Psychiatry in 2003, when investigators looked at 1,000 homosexual adults and 1,000 heterosexual adults to try to find the consequences of gay bullying at school or subsequent harassment and other psychological stressors, they made the point that the prejudice in society against gay men and lesbians may lead to greater psychological distress—and we grant that point. They also say:
Conversely, gay men and lesbians may have lifestyles that make them vulnerable to psychological disorder. Such lifestyles may include increased use of drugs and alcohol.
This is vital, because the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare in 2010 found that more than double the rate of homosexuals than heterosexuals had used illicit drugs recently and, likewise, alcohol intake was 25 per cent versus 16. These are risk factors for depression and suicide, but is it society's fault that heterosexuals or homosexuals drink or use drugs? I think not. And in progressive Canada, where gay marriage was legalised in 2005, homosexual lobbyists themselves in 2009 were still citing drug abuse and alcohol as being several times higher amongst gays. So this is the point: are we to understand that substance abuse by heterosexuals, with the risks of depression and suicide, is their own fault, whereas the exuberant rate of substance abuse in the gay scene is the fault of homophobic society? I think not, and I think we have heard this type of emotional argument elsewhere on contentious matters.
We have heard now that, if we refuse gay marriage, we are promoting teen depression and suicide. We used to hear that if you limited abortion you were making women die in the backyard. We used to hear that if you refused cloning you were going to make children die of diseases they would not have died of. And we even hear that, if you limit immigration, people will self-harm and kill themselves. This sort of over-the-top emotional blackmail should have no place in serious argument, and I hope that my comments help the senators to put the relevant size of potential suffering through public attitudes against the far greater size of the intrinsic risk of the homosexual lifestyle and the great harms to society of normalising homosexual marriage.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Dr van Gend, I would agree with you that we need to have this discussion without, as you put it, the emotional blackmail. I would suggest that many of the things that you put in your opening submission—and that indeed were in Mr Wallace's opening submission—do exactly that. It is fearmongering around giving equal rights to a section of the Australian community. These are citizens who can fight for our country, teach our children, look after us as doctors and nurses, cook our meals and clean our houses, yet, because of their sexuality, they are not considered equal and it is considered that if we give them equal rights under a civil marriage act somehow the sky is going to fall in. That is the most fearmongering analysis that has been put to us.
Mr Wallace : Excuse me, Senator; I totally reject that. The fact is that these people are equal in every way but they are different. If I find the best school in Sydney is a girls school and if I have two boys, is it discrimination that I am not allowed to send my boys to that school? Of course it is not. It is a matter of biology. Your supposition is completely invalid and I reject completely your assertion that we have been fearmongering.
I would also like to say this in support of why Dr van Gend just said. He mentioned the fact that in Canada there was homosexual marriage. He said that, despite the claims by people that 'you give us same-sex marriage and the suicide rates will drop; there is the terrible situation we have of the health in the homosexual community and the fact of it is that all this will change', it did not some five years afterwards. In the same way there is Massachusetts. In 2001, three years before same-sex marriage, homosexual teens were nearly four times more likely to attempt suicide than heterosexual teens; it was six per cent to 31 per cent. In 2007, three years after same-sex marriage, homosexual teens were nearly four times more likely to have attempted suicide; it was six per cent to 29 per cent. There is simply no justification in this, and it has been used as emotional blackmail and should not be allowed to prevail in a discussion of logical reason.
Senator PRATT: In no way do I want to impinge on the free speech of any of us here, but the Australian Psychological Society have submitted:
Evidence from the United States ... suggests that legislation that bans same-sex marriage, and the associated expression of inaccurate, negative, demeaning and hostile viewpoints about same-sex attracted people and their families, contributes directly to an increase in psychiatric morbidity among same-sex attracted individuals living in affected areas.
And they did that through a number of studies. You do seem to have conceded that indeed the nature of these public debates does impact on people.
Mr Wallace : We have not put the public debate forward. I find it quite amazing actually that activists would subject their own people to a discussion of their lifestyle where the inevitability is the revelation of the adverse health impacts of that lifestyle.
Senator PRATT: What—the innate wrongfulness of them? Is that what you are arguing?
Mr Wallace : No, Senator, you are not trying to listen to me, I think. I said the negative health impacts, which are well documented, in levels of depression, in levels of drug abuse, in levels of alcoholism and of violence in relationships. In all these measures homosexual relationships are drastically worse off than heterosexual relationships. It is well documented.
Senator PRATT: One of the things that help all people—and this is documented and this is why people want access to the institution of marriage—is by virtue of the fact that the institution is seen—and upon analysis can be seen—to give stability and exclusivity to those relationships. I would argue that when you look at those reported wrongful things, as you would argue, in lesbian and gay society you see—
Mr Wallace : Health realities, Senator.
Senator PRATT: they exist in mainstream society, they exist in heterosexual society, but that people seek access to the institution of marriage as a way of making their lives neat and tidy for those purposes. Dr van Gend, you spoke about people catching HIV. I would put it to you that in society heterosexual people catch STIs if they are sexually active with many partners. That is by no means simply a heterosexual or a homosexual thing. Would you agree with that?
Dr van Gend : I am afraid I would not, if you are talking about AIDS. As you know from the Kirby report of last year, it remains the case now, as it has since I was a medical student, that 85 per cent of all new cases of AIDS in Australia are in men who have sex with men. It is effectively a homosexual disease and always has been in Australia. We also know that in this city, Melbourne, and in Sydney 20 to 25 per cent of men still do not use basic barrier protection when having homosexual intercourse. So, again, if you want to talk about medical risks, these are serious, grave, lifestyle risks, and that is what I think Mr Wallace was alluding to. I do not really see what bearing that has on marriage.
Senator PRATT: It does by virtue of the fact that when people form exclusive relationships they are unlikely to catch STDs and by virtue of the fact that when you look at the epidemic—
Dr van Gend : Can I correct that, Senator?
Senator PRATT: it has clearly been argued by the church upon many instances that that kind of exclusivity is done for that purpose. When you look at a rights based approach to these issues, it is clearly documented that equality is the best practice when it comes to the prevention of HIV transmission and that rights based approaches actually prevent the transmission of STDs. That is proven worldwide and is a very important issue. It also relates to sexual violence against women and the fact that women can be vulnerable to catching STDs because of those kinds of issues as well.
Dr van Gend : I would simply respond that you are now bringing in a marginal public health justification for overturning the foundation of society on top of a marginal psychotherapeutic justification for the self-esteem of affected people. These are relatively trivial compared to the damage that will come to society, the harm to children who will be forced to live without their mothers and the horrendous impact upon freedom of conscience and freedom of speech that will necessarily flow when the thought police of our society have this magnificent new club in their hand, so that anyone who disagrees with the homosexual normal will be considered to be hate speakers and offenders. I have experienced this in a small way myself in Queensland before the Anti-Discrimination Commission so, believe me, I know how hostile people are to anyone, even a family doctor, who defends a child's right to both a mother and a father. All I plead with you is to have perspective on the relative therapeutic benefits, both psychologically and in public health, of overturning marriage versus the vast cultural harm and harm to children that will flow. If you weigh those in the scales of justice, I think you have a non-question.
Senator PRATT: I would contend the evidence is the other way.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: My question is to Jim Wallace.
CHAIR: Mr Wallace.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Mr Wallace; I apologise. Do you accept that the views that you put forward are not necessarily supported by churches and other religious groups across the country—
Mr Wallace : No, I do not.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: The evidence that I have of that in particular is the fact that the Victorian Council of Churches has issued a very strong statement saying that they are distancing themselves from your organisation's comments.
Mr Wallace : Senator, I am very happy that you have raised that particular incident. We inquired into that situation. The Victorian Council of Churches ended up in almost open revolt as a result of that media release.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: It is still on the front page of their website.
Mr Wallace : That is right, but it was released by an executive without any authority. I happen to know that a huge number of the members of the Victorian Council of Churches have said that they are prepared to withdraw themselves from the Victorian Council of Churches as a result of the action without any authority for the executive to issue that. I would need to check my figures, but it so happens that a huge number of members of the Victorian Council of Churches that are represented there are signatories to our documents, both in August and in December—and these are the denominational leaders—saying that they supported our position. So this was absolutely mischievous but it was pretty par for the course in this campaign. I would be very happy to provide the committee with statements, if necessary, by members of the Victorian Council of Churches—and I am sure they would be prepared to give them to me—which would completely rebut that contention.
Senator ABETZ: Could I ask that we ask that of him as a committee, because as I understand it all the individual members of the Victorian Council of Churches actually support his position.
Mr Wallace : A great majority. I would not claim 100 per cent, but certainly it would be the great majority. It was totally mischievous of a rogue executive to issue that media release.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: As it stands, it is on the front page.
CHAIR: We are going to finish there. I thank the three of you for your time this afternoon and for your two submissions.
Proceedings suspended from 12:42 to 13:22