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Thursday, 12 August 2004
Page: 26518

Senator BARNETT (3:00 PM) —Firstly, I want to acknowledge those in the gallery today who are here to support the Marriage Amendment Bill 2004. I acknowledge those who last week were among the 1,000-plus who attended the forum on why marriage matters. I acknowledge the hundreds and thousands of Australians who support the government on this bill. But in light of the time constraints we are in and the agreement with the other parties, I seek leave to incorporate my speech in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The speech read as follows—

I rise to welcome the Labor Party's back flip on the Marriage Bill 2004, but I also want to highlight Labor's rubbery and duplicitous attitude towards the institution of marriage, that so characterises the approach the new Labor Party has towards the policy process in this Parliament.

This political party has lost its soul, largely because the Latham version of the Australian Labor Party, judging by his recent actions, would sell its soul in the twinkling of an eye to grab hold of power. This party is cynically manipulating the political process and cynically treating Australians with contempt.

I respect the Democrats and the Greens for their opposition to marriage being solely between a man and a woman, because they have been consistent.

But for Labor, oh no. This party is trendy one day and conservative the next, depending on the audience. Its leader will sup with the Greens one day and sup with the foresters the next, and tell both sides what they want to hear. This is Labor's juke box of ideas, which involves dialling up a position and running with it until it has served its useful purpose.

They treat the Australian people like fools, but I know the Australian people are smarter than that, and they are seeing right through this veneer.

The Labor Party's manipulative acrobatics on the Marriage Bill is an insult to all Australians and specifically the one thousand people who travelled to Canberra a week ago to attend the marriage forum organised by the National Marriage Coalition.

I pay great tribute to these people who are totally dedicated to the ideals of Christian living, where marriage is honoured as a loving and mutually respecting relationship between a man and a woman. Where children in this institution are protected and nurtured to grow and prosper in a safe and balanced environment.

These are the people I respect. In particular I acknowledge Jim Wallace of the Australian Christian Lobby, Warwick and Alison Marsh of the Fatherhood Foundation and Bill Muehlenberg of the Australian Family Association. They were the organisers and prime movers who helped to make the forum such an overwhelming success. As the forum's parliamentary convenor I nearly booked the Theatrette which holds 250-odd people. So, having over 1000 in the Great Hall was fantastic in such a short time frame. I also acknowledge the forum speakers including in particular Professor Patrick Parkinson of the University of Sydney, the Rev Dr Margaret Court, Professor Tom Altobelli, Mary Louise Fowler of the Australian Family Association, columnist Angela Shanahan, Bill Muehlenberg of the National Marriage Coalition, Dr David Van Gend, Babette Francis of the Endeavour Forum, Major General “Digger” James, and the Hon Richard Gee of the NSW Council of Churches.

Those who attended travelled long distances from every State and Territory of Australia in many cases because they cared. They were concerned that if the current workable definition of marriage was watered down the great value of marriage to our society, our families and particularly our children, and their children would be irreversibly diminished.

Prime Minister John Howard spoke at the forum because he cared. He knows that the character of a nation is expressed through the values it shares.

In his speech Mr Howard said—“I have a very simple view about the issue that is currently before the Federal Parliament, and that is to insert affirmatively into the Marriage Act the definition of marriage that we have always commonly understood in our society. It expresses the fundamental Judeo-Christian view, and that is that marriage is a life long union between a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others”.

This is the big difference between John Howard and Mark Latham. The Opposition Leader will poach or plagiarise any idea or ideal and snatch it for himself, until it becomes expendable.

John Howard has demonstrated courage in the face of opposition and ridicule, being prepared to stand firm, saying he won't sacrifice or diminish important Australian values for the sake of fashion, to fit with trends in some overseas countries, or to satisfy the carrion cry of vocal minority groups.

John Howard's actions as Prime Minister are predictable, certain and reasonable, creating a sure path forward for the Australian community. Labor's back flip on marriage shows that the Latham Labor Party is predictable only where populism resides.

The great virtue of John Howard's Prime Ministership is that what you see is what you get. With Mark Latham, what you see is anything you want it to be.

With John Howard you don't get smoke and mirrors, prevarication or confusion. You see, it is a shame we need to have this debate at all to make a stand on something so simple as marriage. There should be no confusion about its definition, and indeed no need for a Senate inquiry.

John Howard has demonstrated commitment when it may be a populist stand among some people for this Government to open up marriage to common law or parliamentary re-definition, but I am proud to say the leader of this Government is not so fickle.

With John Howard you do not get equivocation or procrastination on such basic fundamentals as marriage.

I believe that marriage is a bedrock institution worthy of protection, and I will do all that I can and in my power and persuasion to ensure that that institution is protected, especially from the Labor Party's duplicity. The institution of marriage has endured for thousands of years and across countries, cultures and religions. It is a social institution which benefits family members and society, and it does provide for stability in society. It also provides a solidly-built roof under which children are nurtured, protected and raised. It specifically benefits the children and is designed to ensure their welfare is maximised.

I believe that the Labor Party in June this year tried to covertly kill off the Marriage Bill. On the one hand they said that they supported marriage; but on the other hand they also said they supported overseas adoptions by same-sex couples. Frankly, in my view, that is illogical, irrational and inconsistent.

The Labor Party referred the Marriage Bill to a committee for some 14 weeks, hoping not to be forced into making a decision until after the election.

They said `we support marriage' but when the Howard Government introduced the marriage only bill Labor refused to support it. Yes they refused!

An article in The Australian on August 10 said

“Labor had promised that it would not vote for the bill until a Senate report into the issue had been handed down.”

Gay activist Rodney Croome accused Labor of reneging on its promise to wait for the Senate report. Mr Croome and I agree on that fact at least. Labor has done a back flip.

I believe in the view of the vast majority of Australians that children, including adopted children, should have the opportunity, all things being equal, to be raised by a mother and a father. Labor opposes this proposition.

Labor is happy to allow same sex adoptions and the Labor shadow Attorney General Nicola Roxon said exactly this early in the week. If they support our Marriage Bill but oppose the Government's same sex adoptions bans, why the need for an inquiry?

As our Deputy Prime Minister John Anderson said on August 10 —“The continued division and duplicity within the ALP over the preservation of marriage shows yet again that they are incapable of governing Australia.”

In this debate it is instructive to detail what Mark Latham has had to say publicly in recent years about, Christianity, religion and how these views sit with Labor's back flip on the Marriage Bill.


“As an agnostic I have strong reservations about organised religion. It strikes me as too doctrinaire and, when it comes from the pulpit, too authoritarian.”

- The Third Way: Why the Left lacks common sense on poverty. Australian Financial Review. February 7, 2000.

2. Asked about his religious faith, he said: “I'm best described as an agnostic. I think there is a world beyond, a spiritual world...but it hasn't presented itself...I can't say it's this religion or that religion. just haven't had that personal connection.”

- Sydney Morning Herald. April 19, 2004

3. “The only reason I can see for opposing the bill is religious fundamentalism . . . . We have the news overnight of the Archbishop of Sydney standing down because of serious child sexual abuse allegations made against him. We have the horrific situation in the United States where the Catholic Church has been ripped to the ground by the allegations, and proven instances, of child molestation.

“People are living in fear in what is happening to young, innocent children in the hands of the Catholic Church. Yet the hierarchy adopts a pious, sanctimonious status where they want to lecture others about family and moral issues. This demonstrates the problem with religious fundamentalism. .

- Research Involving Embryos and Prohibition of Human Cloning Bill 2002: Second Reading. August 21, 2002.

4. “The Catholic Church is....losing popular faith and public support. The Catholic Education Commission in particular is an example of a flawed and authoritarian hierarchy...

- States Grants (Primary and Secondary Education Assistance) Bill 2000: Second Reading. September 5, 2000.

5. is the Lyons Forum a group of religious zealots? Is it a group of fundamentalists with a Bible in the top drawer and a Hustler magazine and a box of tissues in their bottom drawer? My answer to my constituents who are posing those questions is that they are all of the above. They are narrow; they are social engineers; they are zealots; they are fundamentalists...”

- Income Tax Rates Amendment (Family Tax Initiative) Bill 1996. Cognate Bill: Family (Tax Initiative) Bill 1996: Second Reading. September 19, 1996.

6. `Abrechtsen is another filthy hypocrite. Who is she to lecture people on civility? She is someone who hates feminism, describing other women as `totalitarian' and `self-obsessed' just because they support paid maternity leave.

- Grievance Debate: Politics: New Correctness. August 26, 2002

In conclusion, let me say that one of the reasons for the Labor backflip on marriage is the almost record number of submissions to the Senate inquiry. Some estimates put the number over 10,000, some are over 12,000. This is an incredible response in such a short time, with an overwhelming number supporting the Government's initiative. Latham's Labor could see the writing on the wall, and, combined with the 1000 plus attendance at the marriage forum in Parliament House, knew they had to do a back flip.

I believe the silent but overwhelming majority of Australians support the view that marriage should be between a man and a woman and that same sex couples should not adopt children.

I am proud to have played a part in researching and writing a letter to the Prime Minister in March and signed by 30 Coalition backbench colleagues, recommending that the Marriage Act be amended. This bill we are passing today is the culmination of a lot of effort and support from across Australia. Today if we are successful in passing this Bill, and I expect it to be, it will be a watershed event.

In fact on this historic occasion I believe the vast majority of Australians will be saying thankyou, and what a relief. Why did we need to go through this debate in the first place?

On a personal note I have been overwhelmed with support and encouragement, and I want to thank all those Australians who have stood up to be counted and expressed their views. God bless them, and God bless Australia.

Before concluding I want to express the utmost concern regarding Labor's announcement on August 4, where shadow Attorney General Nicola Roxon at the Marriage Forum said:

...we are committed to introducing religious and racial anti-vilification laws...”

I say to the Labor Party, please provide the details. Put them into the public arena so that they can be assessed and analysed. Labor also has policies for same sex couples and adoptions. The community wants to see the details, lest my suspicions be confirmed that behind this veil of support for the institution of marriage, a Latham Government would have an agenda to appease the Left wing of the party, and ultimately undermine the new marriage laws being passed today.