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Monday, 20 August 2012
Page: 9195

Mr NEVILLE (HinklerThe Nationals Deputy Whip) (20:51): I rise tonight to speak against the Marriage Amendment Bill 2012. From the outset, I would like to make a few disclaimers about this bill. The first is my opposition is not driven by any homophobic leanings. The second is I respect the motion of the member for Throsby and his sincerity in this matter, as indeed I do the member for Cunningham—one of the people I most respect in this chamber. But on the bill I beg to differ.

It is simply my belief that marriage in its current form should remain. In fact, I go further than that. I do not think that it is in the capacity of the state to redefine the essence of marriage as being other than between a man and a woman. It is the framework central to a 3,500-year Judeo-Christian tradition and, until comparatively recent centuries, a commitment which took the form of a religious, ceremonial and legal union which was always between a man and a woman. Even in modern times priests and pastors continue to be the front-line celebrants of the marriage ceremony, though it is recognised in a pluralist society that other non-Christian clergy or appointed civil practitioners deliver the ceremony to those who are not part of the Judeo-Christian tradition.

For the last few centuries, civil unions were held in registry offices, court houses and magistrates' offices and by captains of ships at sea until the advent of civil celebrants in the second half of the 20th century. I do not seek to impugn couples who wish to live together, whether that is in a heterosexual, homosexual, lesbian or platonic relationship. I do not contest their right to have ceremonies of commitment, providing they do not purport to be married. I believe couples who come together in these circumstances should not be deprived of joint ownership of property, entitlement to wills, insurance settlements and superannuation, but I do contest their right to redefine marriage.

I vehemently support the coalition in believing that the definition of marriage contained in the existing provisions of the Marriage Act 1974 appropriately affects the common understanding of marriage in the Australian community—the union of a man and a woman, to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life and, within this framework, for the raising of children. I do not believe that parliaments should attempt to change concepts that have historic, cultural and, in most instances, religious foundations.

Of course, with such a contentious topic as this, it should be not just my view that is expressed, but that of my constituents in Hinkler. In 2011, when this issue was just as topical, I took the step of gauging the level of support for same-sex marriage through a newsletter. I have always found my newsletter was a very good way to get feedback from constituents. Only 14 people were supportive of same-sex marriage, and 595 were opposed to it—that is, roughly two per cent of the respondents in Hinkler were in favour of same-sex marriage. Quite frankly, I was surprised. Even though it is a conservative electorate, I thought the result would have been closer. Along with this, I received 232 letters from my constituents in the form of an open letter to the Prime Minister protesting against any move towards same-sex marriage.

As I have said before, I, like the vast majority of my constituents, believe marriage is and should remain the union of a man and a woman. It seems there is a great push in some sections of society for change for change's sake. But that is not good enough.

Finally, what we have heard in the speeches from the government tonight should not be the basis for a change to the Marriage Act.

Debate adjourned.