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Monday, 3 June 2013
Page: 5006

Mr HAYES (FowlerChief Government Whip) (20:16): In rising to speak to the Marriage Equality Amendment Bill 2012, I start by acknowledging that there are very strong views on either side of this argument and also within the community. This is the third time that I have spoken on the issue of same-sex marriage. The first was on the member for Melbourne's notice of motion back in 2011 where we were called upon as members of parliament to consult with our communities. The second was on the member for Throsby's private members bill. Each time that I have spoken on this matter it has triggered an avalanche of correspondence in my electorate office.

I take up the point that the member for Denison just made with respect to a conscience vote. I think it is appropriate for members to have a conscience vote on this matter. In saying that, I must declare that I am coming into this debate with a strongly held personal view. My personal view is, and has always been, that marriage is between a man and a woman. I have been told that I am out of step with society and I have been accused of imposing my personal views on the community. It has also been said of me that I have been doing the bidding of the Catholic Church. I, like everybody else, can be influenced by my upbringing, but I have gone to some great length to ensure that I do not impose my personal views on my community.

At one of the ALP conferences, as you would recall, Madam Speaker, where I think you and I both spoke, I got written up for having a view which was not necessarily popular. I got written up then as a vile, rotten politician. This is an issue of conscience and it should not be subject to politicking. It should not be subject to focus groups and surveys or influenced by external negotiations. It is your own personal position. If your views can be so easily affected by external forces, I think that says more about the person than anything about the subject matter that we are discussing.

Recently I was in a discussion with a very good friend of mine, Jim Marsden, a prominent solicitor in Campbelltown. Clearly he has a very strong view about marriage equality and is concerned that my view is out of step with the community. His late brother, John, was a leading solicitor, a champion of civil rights and a person associated with the contemporary developments of Campbelltown. He was a good friend of mine, like his brother, but John was gay. But that in no way affected my relationship with him or diminished my respect for him, his professionalism or the friendship that we shared. But I just cannot find it in me to apologise for the personal views that I hold.

In this debate, I am challenged to put the community view ahead of my own beliefs. In accordance with the motion moved by the member for Melbourne back in 2011, I consulted with my electorate. I actually went to great lengths to do so. I received vast amounts of correspondence. I received four petitions; three of them had over 400 signatures each and the fourth had, from memory, 150 signatures. I conducted an online survey, as I know many other members did, and the feedback I received was overwhelming. I undertook the survey using the same basis that others members used; as a matter of fact, I think we all used the words that were in The Sydney Morning Herald to assess it. However, I got a vastly different result. There were 395 participants in the survey, and the responses demonstrated that in excess of 92 per cent of my electorate were opposed to same-sex marriage. Because I reported it that way, the view was that my survey must have been doctored somehow, but I have no reason to do things like that.

My electorate is very multicultural, it is certainly socioeconomically challenged, and people with disabilities are overrepresented. But it also has a very strong and active, vibrant religious enclave. As I said, I will not come into this place and apologise for my own personal views, but I certainly will not come in here and apologise for the overwhelming view taken by my community.