8 year old Abbey writes a letter to Prime Minister Tony Abbott on Marriage Equality

August 5, 2014

It really doesn’t get more heart-felt or political than this letter written by our 8 year-old niece Abbey today.

Tony, listen to the kids!

Michael.

To Tony Abbott
my name is Abbey and I am 8 years old.
My unkls are gaye and we had to go to
New Zeland to have ther wedding it is going
To be on TV it’s called Living with the Enemy they
wont to get marred in Astralea but thats eligle
I will write to you once a day for a week.
P.S. I wold like the law changed.

20140805 Abbey's Letter


A letter to Dr Dennis Jensen, MP for Tangney

April 27, 2014

April 27 2014

Dear Dr Jensen,

I wish to convey a concern of mine that affects the residents of Tangney.

First, allow me to reflect on some themes from your first speech to Parliament, nearly a decade ago, in November 2004.

You spoke of your past, growing up in a harsh Apartheid South Africa, and how it influenced your perspectives:

Having spent my youth in an authoritarian nation, I have long cherished the notion of the rights of the individual, freedom of choice and expression, and the right of people to succeed in their business, unencumbered by government red tape and restrictions.

I hear the utter despair in your voice as you relate the neglect that erodes the happiness and welfare of so many children of failed marriages.  You point the finger at those parents whose relationships, married or otherwise, crumble:

There are many issues that, on a family by family basis, completely overshadow policies relating to global geopolitics. One of these issues relates to family breakdown. The particularly high rate of breakdown in marriages today means that one out of two marriages will end in divorce. This is painful enough for the adult parties concerned but it is worse for the children of these adults. Where the break-up is acrimonious, things are far worse. Far too frequently the children are used as weapons. Custodial parents all too often blatantly ignore access provisions to punish the non-custodial parent, ignoring the pain that this causes the children. We must not allow these acrimonious break-ups to cause any more pain than is absolutely necessary for children and non-custodial parents.

As a fellow science graduate from RMIT, I am rewarded to see your displeasure at those who challenge our long-standing institutions yet fail to substantiate their claims with hard, reproducible evidence:

Being an analytical person, I tend to take a dim view of sacred cows that are not backed up by verifiable facts.

I note your appreciation for those who put their faith in your ability to represent them fairly and further, your strong desire to increase their well-being:

This leads me to conclude that during this term of the Howard government we should be focusing on positive solutions to the many challenges which we face. I wish to sincerely thank the people of Tangney for voting for me and thereby bestowing this significant honour upon me. I do not take this honour lightly and I assure the people of Tangney that I will do my utmost to see to their best interests.

I trust that the sincerity of your message to Parliament, to the people of Tangney and to all Australians that day in 2004 has not only persisted, but has increased year on year.

With this background on the table I wish to address my concern about a number of claims I’ve seen in the media, attributed to you, that bother me deeply.  Essentially they are about marriage, but also about families.

In 2011 you authorised a letter from your office indicating your opposition to supporting marriage equality on the basis of “overwhelming” opposition from voters in Tangney.

Whilst there may be some opposition to marriage equality in your electorate, I challenge you to substantiate the degree that “overwhelming” actually reflects any form of majority.

The basis of my challenge is the hard evidence that in 2010 News Ltd conducted a poll of voters in Tangney on “same-sex marriage” and found that 41% were in favour, 39% were against and 20% didn’t care.

What this means is that 61% are not opposed to “same-sex marriage”.  Conversely it also means that 59% are not in favour of it.  Whichever way you look at the numbers, there is no simple way to interpret the 39% against as being an “overwhelming” opposition, when on the day of the poll it was closer to a minority view.

Anecdotally I understand, via your then staffer Anna Ogilvie, that you had not actually polled the voters in Tangney on this matter and so you have no actual scientific evidence for the level of support or otherwise for marriage equality in your electorate.

In this letter from your office you state of the amended legal definition of marriage that it “simply recognises marriage as one of the bedrock institutions of society, which is the basis for forming families and which is underpinned by tradition.”

To me that sounds very much like a person talking about a sacred cow.  You refer to marriage as a “bedrock institution”.  As of 2007, using figures from the ABS, about one-third of Australian children were born outside traditional marriage and at that time around one-third of marriages ended in divorce.  To a lay person who does not have your substantial expertise as a PhD materials scientist this “bedrock” looks more to me like “quicksand” if not “clay”.

It would be helpful to understand exactly which verifiable facts helped you form this assertion about marriage.

Last year the media reported you as having said gay marriage was a “social experiment” and would lead to the “dismantling of society as we know it.”

You proudly claim you have “the highest scientific qualifications of all MPs and Senators”.  Indeed, a notable fact.  I therefore ask of you, Dr Jensen, to explain in detail this “social experiment” to me, and supply those verifiable facts you demand that lead you to claim so forcefully that “gay marriage” will be just so calamitous.

I return to your concern about those crumbling marriages that harm so many children.  At present if a person is to get married in Australia, the only option they have is to marry a person of a sex that is a biological binary (male/female) opposite.  Intersex people are not even able to marry a person not of their choice.

Now, you’ll appreciate that in many cultures marriage is valued very highly, which means that for a multitude of reasons, including the happiness of their parents and any subsequent inheritance, people will get married, more so if they plan or are expected to have children.  Can you see where I’m going here?

Because a same-sex option or a non-biological binary option is unavailable, people who need to get married for the aforementioned factors will marry irrespective of whether it is what they would do if they had other options open to them.  Let’s call this “for reasons of convenience”.

So to your concern that you wish to reduce the harm to children who find themselves at the fractious end of a marriage (or other type of expected relationship), allow me to suggest that if the parents are married for convenience due to a lack of alternative and socially acceptable marriage coupling options, perhaps offering the parents a gender-neutral Marriage Act might go a long way to mitigating this harm that deeply troubles you.  It’s a no brainer.

A standard line against marriage equality is that non-heterosexual marriages don’t produce children, or that those that do don’t offer their children double biological parentage and all associated happinesses, etc (“all things being equal”).   Increasingly there is evidence that not only do the children, biological or otherwise, of these same-sex parents not suffer because of the gender of their parents (although they may suffer due to intolerance from others due to it…) but that sometimes these children actually do better.  I know this because I have read the research (and met the children).  I talk of credible, respected research.  Unlike that heavily discredited Regnerus “study” that others who share your views rely on.

In May last year you addressed Parliament on the topic of marriage equality.  You were not kind to the topic to say the least.  You spoke of outcomes and even of “all things being equal”.  In an ideal world, where all things are equal, perhaps we will have perfect outcomes.  But as a scientist and a person reasonably well versed on human conflict, you will know that we don’t live in a perfect world where all things are equal.  In fact, we live in a world that is far from it.

I ask of you, Dr Jensen, how you can ask the people of Tangney to take you seriously, when you repeatedly say one thing on one hand, and something opposite on the other hand.

Things like wanting to reduce the harm to children in broken marriages, but wish to deny those who need to marry the right to marry the person of their genuine choice; or as a scientist asking for verifiable facts, yet peddling tired bigotry solely designed to fear-monger.

You are a scientist who stakes your professional reputation on your academic credentials.  Yet you lower yourself to the level of the ignorant and uneducated when you make those ill-informed assertions about same-sex marriages, same-sex parents, children of same-sex parents and anything that challenges this “sacred cow” “bedrock institution” you romanticise about as if it were a reality.

I implore you Dr Jensen to undertake a rigorous unbiased scientific poll of your electorate on the topic of marriage equality, and publish these results transparently.  Do this in the name of science and of “freedom of choice”.  Do this for the welfare of the families and children of Tangney.  Do this for your children.  Do this for yourself, your career and even for your reputation.

Lastly, I ask you do it for me, so I can marry my husband Gregory, here in Australia.  We married in New Zealand in January because he asked me last September to marry him and he was impatient, mostly because he loves me so much.  All that, plus my parents want to celebrate our marriage (again), this time on home turf.

I should add that Gregory has two adult children, both financially and residentially dependent on him (and emotionally dependent on him and their mother).  I should also add that his children were victims of a marriage breakdown that was a result of a marriage that occurred due in part to family and cultural expectations, and a lack of options.

Gregory and I are not going to be starting a family, so please bear this in mind when you consider telling me that the children of our marriage will suffer because of the gender of their parents.

Most sincerely,
Michael Barnett.
Ashwood, Victoria.


A letter to John Alexander

August 24, 2013

Dear Mr Alexander,

Almost three years ago you gave your first speech to the Parliament and people of Australia as the Member for Bennelong.  Allow me to reflect on a few sections of your address.

Fittingly, you gave thanks to the people of your electorate and promised to serve them fairly:

It is an honour to be in this position, and I am truly grateful to the people of Bennelong for the trust and faith that they have placed in me. However, that honour is immediately replaced with a deep sense of responsibility to do my best, with integrity, honesty and fairness.

Later, in relating your tennis travels through Europe you reflected on a particularly poignant moment:

We played in Poland and were taken to Auschwitz by Harry’s friend from before the war. He cried and we cried.

and in Africa, you tell of discrimination:

I learnt of discrimination travelling to South Africa with Arthur Ashe. He had been granted a visa declaring him an ‘honorary white’. In Arthur’s home town I practised on the adjoining court at the Richmond Country Club; he was the first African-American allowed to play there.

You paint a picture of how your travels around the world as a sportsman have guided you to understand diversity and how this dovetails with the vibrant diversity of Bennelong:

It is these experiences that have provided me with the opportunity for a real life education and has served as preparation for my role as a representative of one of Australia’s most diverse and multicultural electorates. Bennelong boasts nearly every language and culture, attained through a strong history of migration dating back to the English settlers. People have come from every part of the world to make Australia their home. In many ways, Bennelong is modern Australia.

Bennelong perfectly reflects the diversity and harmony we are so proud of in this country. Why do people leave all that is familiar to go half way around the world to start over again? They bring their dreams for a better life for themselves and their families. They bring their courage to ‘have a go’, with the odds stacked against them, playing so far from home.  Our new Australians bring energy, effort, innovation and, most of all, their hopes. Every soul who comes to our country enriches us and continues the constant redefining of what it is to be Australian.

You share the wisdom of your mentor Harry Hopman and of your friend Alan Jones and how this relates not only to how you play in tennis but also in politics:

Playing safe may achieve a short-term goal against inferior opposition, but the ultimate goal would be lost. As Alan Jones says, ‘To win without risk is victory without glory.’

You spoke of opportunities and of being our best:

To realise our country’s full potential, every Australian must have the opportunity to compete and earn just reward for their effort and success.

and you spoke of having visions:

Let us debate in this chamber a contest of ideas, a contest of visions. As with any endeavour in life, true and honest competition unfettered by political bias will produce, in this case, the best plan and the best result for our nation’s future. We need the courage to attack this challenge. It has been ignored for too long. To shirk this responsibility, to say it is too tough, would be an affront to those who fought to make Australia what it is today—our forefathers, who had a plan, an optimistic vision, and who made the most of their opportunity to have a go.

In summing up, you spoke of your children, and of the children of Australia, of their dreams, of opportunities and of wanting the best for them:

What do I want for my children? What I want for every Australian: opportunity—the opportunity to pursue their dreams, whatever they are, and not be restrained by their age, their sex or their colour. Opportunity is to be able to have a go. Opportunity without discrimination is to be given a fair go. We here have much work to do.

Thank you for an ace of a speech Mr Alexander.

I grew up and live in Melbourne, the first Australian-born in my family, of immigrant parents.  My mum and dad settled in Australia in 1973 for a better life, with hopes and aspirations for themselves and their children.  They came via Rhodesia, a country that had an unstable political horizon and felt it was not the place to raise a family.  My Australian birth some four years earlier helped them make the decision to return here.

In my household sport was a life-blood.  My parents adopted North Melbourne as their football team and of many sports at their disposal to support they adopted tennis with an amazing passion.  I was not a sporting child, that was my brother, but I grew up knowing the names of many tennis greats, watching with them many tennis tournaments and sharing with them many highs, and lows, of the game.  It was one of the more enjoyable parts of my teen years, a troubled part of my life.

Mr Alexander, your speech, your visions, your hopes and your aspirations are great.  You have learned much through your life’s journey, and you bring that with you to public office.  Yet you leave me confused, as the great sportsman that you are, where you learned to play fair and where fairness features in your values, why you do not feel compelled to want to treat all Australians equally.

I talk of the right for any Australian to be able to legally marry the one person of their choice, without regard to gender, under civil law.

It would seem you have tried to avoid this issue at best, at worst you’ve joined the ranks of those who don’t speak out for equality, rather, preferring to call for an inferior form of relationship recognition for non-heterosexual relationships.

In 2010, News Ltd surveyed the people of Bennelong and found 39% were in favour of same-sex marriage and 21% were indifferent to it.  That’s a whopping 60% of your electorate you won’t be disappointing if you support same-sex marriage.  Clearly a majority.

What of your lessons from touring Auschwitz and South Africa Mr Alexander?  Members of my extended family burned in the ovens of Auschwitz.  I don’t need to tell you of the reality of that particular time of persecution in human history but it might help spark a moment of reflection and compassion if I do.

You write of honorary whites.  Not only did the buses in South Africa have a back, but they also had a slightly back, mostly back, nearly at the back, and a “so far back you could think you were in the bus when you weren’t actually in it at all” back as well, depending on just how much your skin wasn’t shiny white.  You may have even heard of how the government decided at one point it wasn’t going to persecute citizens on whether their skin was white or not, so it labelled everyone green, then decided some were dark green and others light green.

Mr Alexander, what of vision, of hopes, of a fairer Australia where personal attributes are not a limiting factor, where children can have dreams and one day realise them?  What of the dreams for your children and for theirs?

What of the dream my parents had, and still have, that one day I might meet someone I want to marry.  At 44 I now have that special person in my life, his name is Gregory, and I want the right to be able to ask him to marry me.  But I can’t.  I don’t have that freedom, that opportunity, that right, because apparently I’m not worthy of it, for some inexplicable reason.  I am not looking to have children or start a family and Gregory has two grown-up children he parented mostly as a single dad.

Mr Alexander, you are playing a safe game in not supporting marriage equality.  You are not taking a risk and chancing a greater victory for all Australians.  Federal Politics is now your tennis court and sadly you are not scoring the points that will bring a win for, in your words, opportunity without discrimination, to the people of Bennelong and to our nation.

You are sitting on a 3.1% margin in your seat.  You are far from guaranteed a return.  With 39% of your electorate in support of marriage equality and with marriage equality being increasingly shown to be a vote winner around the nation, it would bode you well to show unreserved support for a change to the federal Marriage Act that removes all forms of discrimination.

I will finish up by mentioning that in the darkest of moments during my teenage years, the one candle of brightness for me, my role model of greatness, was tennis champion Martina Navratilova.  I could identify with her, as I struggled to come to terms with my sexual orientation.  It wasn’t her sporting prowess that inspired me the most though, it was her honesty and integrity.  I would like to add the name John Alexander alongside Martina Navratilova.  Please, show me your honesty and your integrity.

Sincerely,

Michael Barnett.
Ashwood, VIC.


A letter to Shayne Neumann

August 14, 2013

August 14 2013

Dear Mr Neumann,

Some five and a half years ago you gave your first speech to Parliament.  It started with your thanks to the people of Blair for placing their trust in you, a representative of the Labor party:

Mr Speaker, it is an honour to stand here today and speak in this chamber as the first ever Labor member for Blair. I am keenly aware of the trust, duty and obligation bestowed upon me by the people of Blair. They voted decisively for change on 24 November, delivering a 10.2 per cent swing to Labor. With emphatic purpose they chose a better way. They voted not for fear and pessimism but for hope and optimism. They voted not for the past but for the future.

You spoke to fresh beginnings, and looking forward, not backward.  You also spoke of your Christian identity, but to maintaining a secular government:

I respect those who hold views which may differ from my own, and I hold firmly—in a good Baptist tradition—to the separation of church and state.

You told us what you believe, of equality and civil liberties:

What do I believe? I believe in reconciliation with our Indigenous peoples. I believe in a republic with an Australian head of state. I believe in multiculturalism. I believe in equal rights for women. I believe in civil liberties. I believe that the rights of the Australian people should be protected by a bill of rights. I believe the law must be utilitarian. I believe the law must help, not hurt.

You spoke of doing more to help people:

I believe in a pragmatic, progressive Labor Party dedicated to practical policies to help people …

and you spoke of working hard, doing more, serving the people and being an upstanding Labor politician:

I have come here to work. I have come here to make a difference. I have come here to make change. I have come here to advocate for the causes in which I believe. I have come here to represent my local community. I have come here to deliver for the people of Blair. I have come here to serve and honour the greatest political institution in this land: the Australian Labor Party.

Mr Neumann, your words impress.  More should share these values.  However I am troubled because as good as it is to hear what you said to the people in 2008, your subsequent actions disappoint.  You see, in 2012 you were one of the 98 against marriage equality and yesterday you reiterated your opposition.

In 2012 the News Ltd Poll on Same-Sex Marriage reported a 44% level of support in Blair, 37% against and 19% indifferent.  That’s 63% not opposed.  Yet you claim your polling on same-sex marriage found 84% against and 16% in favour.  Your polling is in stark contrast to the New Ltd Poll and various polls by Galaxy.

Mr Neumann, where is the hope and optimism, the better future, for the 44% of your electorate who want equal marriage laws for themselves, their children, their friends and their families?  Where is the equality, respect and the civil liberties in voting against marriage equality?  How are you helping people by taking a stance that is rooted in the past, not the future?  And please, tell me, how is this stance supporting a secular perspective, where the church is kept out of government?

Lastly, I ask you, how is upholding a law that hurts people, consistent with your values of supporting laws that help, not hurt?

Mr Neumann, sadly you have not kept your promise to the people of Blair and the people of Australia.  You have also betrayed yourself, and that must be a hard pill to swallow.  I ask you to reflect on your values, look to the promises you made and the values you claim to uphold, and ask yourself how voting against marriage equality is a consistent position to take, most especially when it is not a value of the Labor Party.

Sincerely,

Michael Barnett.
Ashwood, VIC.


A letter to Kelvin Thomson

August 13, 2013

August 13, 2013

Dear Mr Thomson,

A little over 17 years ago you addressed the Parliament and people of Australia for the first time.  Kindly allow me to reflect on a few concepts in your first speech.

Appropriately you thanked those who helped elect you, the people your purpose is to serve.  You noted it’s the everyday things that can make the difference:

First, I would like to thank the people of the electorate of Wills for the confidence that they have shown in me by electing me.

The people of Wills have had the opportunity to see me in action as a member of the state parliament for the past seven years and before that as a Coburg councillor. Many have told me that they voted for me because they liked my attention to local work and to ordinary constituent problems, no matter how trivial they may seem. That places on me a responsibility to continue that work, and I place on record here my intention to continue doing just that.

You spoke on the past sufferings of those who chose Australia for their new home, a land where they could be live happier than their forebears and have greater freedoms:

Thirdly, I want to say something about why we are all here—not in this parliament but in this continent. Although Australia is an old continent it is in fact a very young nation. I think the reasons why we are all here tell us something about what our public policy objectives ought to be. So why are we here on this island? We came here because we, our parents or a previous generation came to escape features of our former societies which were intolerable and came here in search of new opportunity.

You spoke of equality and generosity:

Some of us have come in search of social equality, from countries with stifling class systems, countries in which power, wealth and opportunity were concentrated in the hands of a few. So we owe to ourselves a spirit of generosity and compassion towards those who are less well off and a spirit of cooperation between employer and employee. We do not need the dog-eat-dog mentality of America, or Britain’s underclass.

You spoke of freedoms:

Some of us have come in search of democracy and freedom of expression, fleeing totalitarian regimes, military dictatorships and countries in which rigid conformism was the order of the day. So we owe to ourselves freedom of expression, freedom of association and the right to join trade unions, and we also owe to ourselves respect for differing points of view.

You spoke of repression and also of tolerance and respect:

Some of us have come in search of racial and religious tolerance, escaping ethnic conflict and brutal tribal repression. So, finally, and perhaps in the present age of atrocities in Yugoslavia and other parts of Europe, Asia and Africa most importantly, we owe to ourselves the creation of a community based on mutual tolerance, respect and understanding.

Mr Thomson, your first speech is commendable as it shows you have a strong social conscience and that you care about the people of Australia.  However it perturbs me that given your values, you do not support equal rights for all Australians.  Nearly one year ago, on September 19 2012, you were one of the 98 who voted against marriage equality.  Why?

You told us that you care for what your electorate wants.  Overwhelmingly they want marriage equality.  The 2010 New Ltd Same-Sex Marriage Poll shows 57% of voters in Wills want marriage equality.  Together with the 18% of voters who are indifferent, 75% of voters in Wills are not against marriage equality.

You said you care about the ordinary things that matter.  For many people, being able to live a dignified existence, in a relationship with the person they love, is very very ordinary.  It’s not about winning the Nobel Prize or climbing Mt Everest.  It’s about being a person in society, the same as everyone else.  Getting married and sharing that experience with your friends and family is pretty darn ordinary if you ask me.  Putting a ring on it and having a few photos, that’s ordinary stuff Mr Thomson.

What happened to your concern for equality, for generosity, freedoms, escaping repression, showing tolerance, respect and understanding?  I trust you still hold true to those values.  But I don’t see you showing them, because Mr Thomson, on September 19 2012 you voted against equality.  On that day you showed an absence of generosity, you were unprepared to revoke the repressive legislation restricting the freedoms of all Australians on who they can choose to marry, and you showed an unfortunate lack of tolerance, respect and understanding.

Mr Thomson, my partner Gregory has a sister who lives in your electorate of Wills.  She passionately wants to be able to see us get married.  I would be surprised if she entertained the very thought of voting for a person who actively denied us the right to get married.  57% of your electorate also want to see people like us be able to get married.  Are you so comfortable in your seat that you can afford to casually dismiss the views of the majority of the people you are elected to represent?

September 7 2013 is Judgement Day Mr Thomson.  Wouldn’t you rather you were returned to office, especially because you supported equality and freedoms?  It’s an easy decision to make and doing so will put you on the right side of history.  It’s never too late to say sorry and make amends.

Sincerely,

Michael Barnett.
Ashwood, VIC.


A letter to Teresa Gambaro

August 8, 2013

August 8, 2013

Dear Ms Gambaro,

Some 17 years ago, in your first speech to Parliament and the people of Australia you made the following statement:

I was delighted to achieve a swing of 12.59 per cent in Petrie. Su Mon Wong, your words stay with me always: marketing is giving people what they want. The reason the coalition won by such an overwhelming majority is that we listened to people and their needs and we gave Australians what they wanted. As social analyst Hugh Mackay has said, people are more likely to listen to us if we listen to them.

You went on to say:

We must not forget our youth, their dreams, their ambitions and their self-esteem. Bert Weir, a personal friend and teacher of mental strength to the staff of businesses and government organisations all over Australia, in his book What happened?, said:

Kindness, generosity, ability to cooperate, inquisitiveness, confidence, sense of humour, creativity and calmness are only some of the . . . important qualities of human worth. How often are these praised? For a child to have a strong, balanced sense of self-esteem, it must be anchored in many different aspects of human beauty and worth.

Reflecting on these statements, and the 56% support for marriage equality in your seat of Brisbane (News Ltd Poll – Same-Sex Marrige 2010) along with the other 19% not opposed to marriage equality, how can genuinely say you are listening to the people in your electorate and giving them what they want?  It sounds more like a case of you not listening to your electorate and not giving them what they want.

As for the youth in Brisbane, these fragile and beautiful people who all to easily fall by the wayside as collateral damage of political expediency and the ego of the self-absorbed politician, what are you doing to further their dreams, their ambition and their self-esteem?  The alarming rates of youth suicide in this country, especially amongst same-sex attracted youth, tell me that you are actually doing nothing.

Dear Ms Gambaro, I am thoroughly disappointed, nay, I am disgusted, that you are taking your electorate for fools.  You are sitting on 1.1% margin and honestly, you do not deserve to be re-elected.  Give your voters the representation you promised them.  Give them marriage equality, and you may redeem yourself.

Sincerely,

Michael Barnett.
Ashwood, VIC.


A letter to Greg Hunt

August 3, 2013

August 3, 2013

Dear Mr Hunt,

A decade and a bit ago, on a Monday probably just after lunch, you gave your first speech to the Parliament and people of Australia.

It opened with fond words of people who had made a significant impact on you, people important to you in your community, your friends.

It is where I was born, it is where I was raised and it is where I have returned. What I have rediscovered is that Flinders is not the story of geography, beautiful as it is; it is the story of people, great people, many of whom have touched my life and have taught me the true meaning of community spirit—people whom I call friends.

 You expressed a concern for youth:

… all about providing opportunities for our young.

And spoke of meeting common challenges:

One of our guiding values must be compassion, and the heart of compassion is the expansion of people’s liberty

You drew on the wisdom of Menzies and his vision for the betterment of society:

There is absolutely no compassion in a system which, as Menzies described it, `discourages ambition, envies success and distrusts independent thought’.

You spoke of freedom, opportunity, dreams, liberty and love:

So the expansion of people’s liberty is about creating both opportunity and the capacity to exercise that opportunity. With that liberty comes aspiration: the capacity to dream and to hope. And hope is arguably the greatest of all freedoms. That is why William Hazlitt said, `The love of liberty is the love of others.’

You told us what you stand for:

I am for liberalism—clearly, simply, unequivocally.

and its benefits:

liberalism leads to greater fairness …

You continued to explain about how to build a fairer society, about not clinging to the past, about having an open mind:

… we have to have an open society. We have to believe in our capacity to reform, to adapt and to embrace the future, not to cling to outmoded ideas and structures.

With pride you told us again about the value of community to you and about representing the whole community:

I have been granted the opportunity to serve in this chamber by the grace of the electors of Flinders. I thank them for their trust and I pledge to serve as a representative for the whole community.

Then you brought together your ideals and aspirations powerfully and eloquently:

In weaving their stories together, the goal is hope, the vision is an open society and the path is along policies that encourage liberty. If I can assist my constituents and the wider community towards those ends then that will be enough.

Mr Hunt, I admire your words.  And like you, I care about the people of Flinders, the people of Victoria and the people of Australia.  I care about the welfare of our youth, deeply.  I care about the happiness of our community, their ability to succeed in their hopes and aspirations and about their liberty.  Like you, I care.

And yet, I am confused.  I am confused because in all of the care you have for the welfare of your community, for their hopes and aspirations, for their liberty and for fairness, you have told us that you don’t believe all the people in Flinders and wider should enjoy the same freedoms and liberties.  In short, you told us not quite a year ago that you believe some people should be treated differently:

My view, and I have said this before so it’s not a new position it’s what I’ve held for a long while, is that the right step at some stage will be civil unions.  I think that will deal with the concerns of those who have a belief that within the church they have a deep commitment to the notion of marriage and with equality in real terms in terms of rights. So my view is that the likely course of action, and one which I would support, is civil unions.

You told us that some people in Flinders shouldn’t be able to enjoy the same liberties as the rest.  I don’t quite see the fairness here.  Nor do I see how these people can share in the same hopes and dreams as everyone else.  And with a lesser liberty, they have a lesser ability to express their love.

In 2010 the News Ltd Same-Sex Marriage Poll told us 45% of your constituents supported same-sex marriage and that 16% didn’t care about the issue.  What that means is 61% of voters in your electorate are not opposed to same-sex marriage.

Mr Hunt, your words of 2002 are good.  Your words a decade later, not so much.  Have you forgotten about your friends in Flinders, the community and its youth that was so important to you that day, a bit after lunch, when you entered Parliament?

Just yesterday you hosted a Youth Mental Health Forum at Dromana Secondary College with Professor Patrick McGorry.  You said:

“youth suicide is way too high in Australia and we want to help young people understand there is help available when dealing with personal issues.”

Greg Hunt hosting a Youth Mental Health Forum at Dromana Secondary College with Professor Patrick McGorry

Mr Hunt, some of these youth you talk about who are killing themselves are doing so in part because society tells them they are not equal, that they are not the same, that they are not able to celebrate their love the same as their siblings, their friends and their family.

Mr Hunt, your views on marriage equality, the views that tell young gay boys and girls, transgender and intersex youth, that they should be satisfied with civil unions and should not be allowed to get married, are the very views that lower their self-esteem, increase their rates of mental-health issues and ultimately drive them to take their lives.  If you don’t believe me, ask the experts.

Please Mr Hunt, show the people of Flinders, the people of Victoria and the people of Australia that all yours words are genuine and that you do care.  The simplest and most effective way you can do this is by supporting marriage equality.

Sincerely,

Michael Barnett
Ashwood, Victoria


A letter to Ed Husic

June 4, 2013

From: Michael Barnett <mikeybear69@gmail.com>
Date: 3 June 2013 00:25
Subject: An important matter concerning the people of Chifley and all Australians
To: Ed Husic MP <ed.husic.mp@aph.gov.au>

June 2 2013

Dear Mr Husic,

I am writing to you not as a voter in Chifley or even as a resident of New South Wales.  I seek your attention simply as a fellow human.

My aim here is to take you on a journey of reflection and purpose.  I would like you to give me a few minutes of your time and afterwards, at your convenience, hope to hear your frank thoughts.

I want to take you back to early in the afternoon of October 28, 2010.  No doubt a memorable day in your professional life.

In addressing the parliament and people of our great nation, you made reference to “new paradigms” in the very first sentence of your first speech:

While we are no longer able to caucus together, we can still test who has the better shot—somewhere else, where standing orders and new paradigms do not dictate the outcome.

Such a powerful concept.  It talks to new ways of thinking, new ways of seeing the world and new concepts.  Please hold that thought for a moment.

Then you went on to talk of community improvement and enrichment:

… the application of education joined with a commitment to improvement of the self and others has allowed residents in neighbourhoods from Mt Druitt through Blacktown and up to Marsden Park the chance to see beyond the present to a richer future.

It’s rewarding to see you value and recognise people’s love of family, those near and dear to them, and again, improvement thereof:

I admire so much within the people I have the privilege to represent: the value they place on reward after hard work; their decency; their dignity; their faith and love of family; and their support for their neighbours, their community and those ‘having a go’ to make something better.

You invoke the wisdom of Chifley, including his desire to see the Labor movement create new conditions for the Australian people, at considerable expense to the party:

“The urgency that rests behind the Labor movement, pushing it on to do things, to create new conditions, to reorganise the economy of the country, always means that the people who work within the Labor movement, people who lead, can never have an easy job.”

and further, from Chifley, on human happiness:

“The most that we can do is to help the masses of the people and give to them some sense of security and some degree of human happiness.

You talk of parents who have given their all, in blood, sweat and tears, to see their children be able to live a better, happier, healthier life than their own:

Sons and daughters of the blue-collar workers of this country have witnessed that ambition spur on their own parents and then spark within them an ethic of effort, service and sacrifice.

Your mention of education and training brings you to it’s purpose, the prospects of the nation’s youth:

The trade training centres demonstrate, in part, we have an ear to history and a heart for the future of our young.

And in talking about disability it is clear that people’s quality of life is important to you:

… or working to help lift the quality of life for people with a disability and their carers.

Again you hark to improving the opportunities and lives of the plentiful youth in Chifley:

These issues demand my focus because they stand as challenges to our young and Chifley is a young electorate, with a third of its residents aged 19 or under—the second most ‘youthful’ electorate in our nation. We must seize every opportunity to help them fulfil their promise and potential.

You talk of how you can repay your community:

Both of us committed to giving something back to the areas we have been raised in and are still tied so closely to.

and of providing a better place for all Australians by looking to amend the errors of our past:

While we are brought here as individual representatives, we bear a collective responsibility to national life and fortune. Pressing issues affecting the country bind us in national mission. Looming before us is the challenge of environmental repair, the task of addressing the impact of climate change. Regardless of the accumulated contributions of generations before, we are now called upon to correct the damage done.

With great insight you acknowledge that sometimes important issues are bypassed for political convenience.  You also acknowledge that the people don’t forget when good things happens and by whom (and by corollary, similarly the bad).

We will either take decisions on this matter now or avoid them. In so doing, we will either liberate generations of Australians from a poorer future or consign them to it. On this issue, I am conscious of those who are to follow us. I would hope they would judge us in the way we proudly remember Australian generations of times gone past who said that, ‘We bore sacrifice to ensure that our children’s children could live their lives as richly if not better than us.’

Again you talk of Labor’s desire to improve the nation, being the ones to do it first, and of taking the socially responsible actions:

Growing up I saw how Labor governments of the eighties and nineties appealed to a sense of national purpose to build a better country. We are drawn now to what I would describe as a generational purpose. We cannot be distracted by the notion of waiting for others before committing to action ourselves—seduced to embrace a form of ‘climate change isolationism’, to make us shirk our responsibilities—as if hoping our consciences will be secure in blaming others for our own unwillingness to take up our environmental obligations.

Clearly the theme running through your speech, and through your psyche, is on building and improving the nation, on individual freedoms, community cohesiveness and maximising our collective experience:

I argue that the question of how we organise ourselves to improve society continues to evolve. We are now driven by a new quest to establish a balance between the hunger for individual freedom and the need for us to act collectively. My overarching desire is to ensure our collective actions can help individuals and their communities reap their full potential.

Perhaps the crux of your speech, from my perspective, where you allude to the qualities I would hope every politician brings to public office, that of respect, open-mindedness, vision, humility and humanity:

My fundamental world view rests—at its core—on the notion of balance. I do not just tolerate alternate views; I remain open to them, I learn from and grow from them—and I value differences in our society and in our debates about the future of our society. We should celebrate our different skills and ideas, while realising that at some point we must combine our energies and effort for the sake of community and country.

With succinct clarity you speak of political short-sightedness, of taking the convenient path over the path of greatest merit:

And politicians cannot expect that perpetual electoral victory through short-term, tactical wins at the expense of hard but necessary reform will honour the country we love and work for.

Again, your insight is visionary.  You talk of the ills of fear-mongering, of being courageous, of making sacrifices and again, of enrichment:

Fear is not what should be used to win or run government. It is what we beat back with the courage within government; courage to prove we can be better than who we are. Ultimately, we are all in this journey together. We will make sacrifices together and we will be enriched together.

You talk of the legislature, of civic responsibilities, of suppressing liberties and of balance:

The laws of this land have a big part to play in bringing back some balance. If we all have a stake in the success of our country we should ensure we savour a fair share of that success. In this place, this issue remains a critical concern to me because, with respect, we are not—as some would describe—a ‘market democracy.’ We are a democracy which operates a market economy. We have civic responsibilities and economic priorities. It is worth remembering that in some parts of the world, the hand of the market works one way while another hand suppresses the liberties of those that live and work within it. Again, a concentration on balance should guide the decisions we make in this House.

With great pride you speak of the sacrifices your parents have made to give you and your siblings the best opportunities in life:

Mum and Dad, I dedicate this speech to you, your dreams, your journey, your toil:
… no migrant undertakes the dislocation and sacrifice to reach these shores and set up a new life upon them with any aim other than to provide a better life for their family …

You go on to speak of possibilities and what we can achieve when we aspire for the best in each other:

When we harness all the goodwill and talent across all the corners of this land, from the first owners to the recently arrived, we build one of the greatest countries on the planet.

Again you draw on sagacity, this time from Dame Enid Lyons, in regard to legacy:

I am aware that as I acquit myself in the work I have undertaken for the next three years, so I shall either prejudice or enhance the prospects of those who wish to follow me in public service …”

You talk of responsibility to community, representation and again on improvement and building greatness:

I would hope to acquit myself in the way that any other member would seek to in this place where my faith, and its emphasis on bettering ourselves within an acknowledgement of responsibility to community, will be my companion in my efforts to represent all the residents of the diverse electorate I am honoured to represent, regardless of their background, respectful of their faith and values, without reference to their vote for my party or not, and supporting those efforts designed to build a greater community for our area.

And lastly, in words that I could not write better than you:

In drawing my contribution to a close, I make these final remarks. Life has taught me about the power contained within the black letter of the law, recognising implicitly that these laws may enhance or constrict individual or collective freedoms. Our decisions can and do impact on the lives of others and the way they live their lives. My preference will always be for government to bring in laws that aid individuals in pursuing their endeavours, exercising the greatest breadth of their freedoms, found upon a pre-eminent aim of enhancing the quality of life for communities across the country. The exercise of individual will best occurs within a framework of considered decision making along with accountability and responsibility for individual actions, particularly where there is a potential for impacting on the well being of self and others.

Mr Husic, your speech was good.  I hope you reflect on it’s values frequently, as I am confident they embody your essence.

Just recapping, in your first speech to the nation you spoke of new paradigms, community improvement, betterment, family and love, self-sacrifice, happiness, generational improvement, prospects for the nation’s youth, repaying the community, amending the errors of our past, political convenience and the harm it can wreak, fear-mongering, courage, civic responsibilities, suppressing liberties, parental sacrifice, aspiration for the best, lasting legacies, responsibility to community, and most importantly, of freedoms.

By now you will be wondering why I have led you on this journey.  Let me explain.

Like yourself, I too am the parents of immigrants.  I was born in the same 12 month period as you and so no doubt, we likely have seen a similar experience growing up as Australians.

My parents speak English as their first language and were born in English speaking countries, but their parents and grand-parents came from tiny Eastern European villages.  My parents and their ancestors left many countries – Russia, Poland, Lithuania, England, New Zealand and Rhodesia – often in times of war, or with the spectre of it looming, to give their children the same better life that yours wanted for you.

Many in my family were not so lucky, as it was not just their dreams that went up in smoke.  And others, they escaped the horrors by hiding in forests and living on instinct and adrenalin.

I understand some of my extended family even survived Siberian camps for being political dissidents.  Can you imagine that sort of nightmare, just for daring to speak out against the political views of the day?

I mention this because you and I are the product of survivors, of people who against the odds, gave of themselves at huge personal expense, simply so they could see a better life for their children.

To my point.  Mr Husic, in all of what you have eloquently written, in all of what you stand for, in personal and political life, I ask of you to reflect on this journey and put it in the context of how supporting change to the law to allow any two consenting adults the right to marry each other will be in line with the values you stand for.

I ask you to put aside any prejudices you may hold, and similarly any prejudices the people of Chifley may hold, and simply reflect on the values I have led you through here.  In doing so, think about any sacrifice to the party that may be necessary to achieve a better outcome for the community.  Think about the values your mentor in Chifley instilled in you, of new conditions and of human happiness.

Remember, in your own words, that your preference “will always be for government to bring in laws that aid individuals in pursuing their endeavours, exercising the greatest breadth of their freedoms, found upon a pre-eminent aim of enhancing the quality of life for communities across the country.”

Linked to intolerance of homosexuality is the chilling reality of youth suicide, self-harm and mental health issues.  These are devastating for individuals, families and their communities.

Linked to intolerance of giving equal rights to same-sex couples is homophobia and the devastation that can accompany that in the form of physical and emotional violence perpetrated against those who are confident enough to express their affection for each other in public, whether it be by way of declaration of their relationship, holding hands or any other form of physical display of affection.

On the other side, there is a distinct advantage to the self, to the family and to the community by legislating for equality.  There is the increase in personal well-being, inclusion in society on an equal basis, equality within the family and the community, economic benefits, and so on.

There is also the associated decrease in all the above mentioned negative factors.  In particular, a decrease in the rate of youth suicide in Australia could not come soon enough.

Mr Husic, if you truly are committed to working for the betterment of your community, if you wish to correct a few errors of the past, if you want to give something to those parents who want the best for their children, and if you want to leave a lasting legacy for doing what is good for your community, not just what is good for you or your party, you will stand on the side of equality and put your name to removing all discrimination from the Federal Marriage Act.

Sincerely,

Michael Barnett.


Background article:

`No way’ to gay marriage
LABOR POLLIES GIVE THUMBS DOWN TO BILL

Ben McClellan
Blacktown Advocate, Dec 7 2011; p3

BOTH federal Blacktown Labor MPs will vote against same-sex marriage next year.

After the ALP national conference voted to amend the Marriage Act to support gay marriage on the weekend, Chifley MP Ed Husic and Greenway MP Michelle Rowland told the Advocate they wouldn’t back the bill because their electorates overwhelming opposed it.

Blacktown state MP and NSW Opposition Leader John Robertson, whose 19-year-old son Aidan is homosexual, spoke in favour of gay marriage at the conference.

“I’ve got three kids. I’ve got a son who is gay and I want all my kids to have the same opportunities in life,” Mr Robertson told Channel 7.

Ms Rowland said that while she was opposed to making gay marriage legal she was still committed to ending the practical discrimination that many gay people faced.

She said 85 laws had been amended to remove discrimination in areas such as superannuation, immigration, child and family law.

“This is an issue where many people, including myself, hold deep views either way,” she said.

Mr Husic said the community wasn’t ready for the change.

“Personally I am not opposed, but I have to represent the views of my electorate,” he said.

“The impression I get is the community isn’t ready to embrace the concept.”



Michael Danby gets groovy on Marriage Equality

May 29, 2013

So, Michael Danby has finally seen the light.  He’s now 100% committed to supporting marriage equality, or the right for non-heterosexual couples to get married.

His office sent out this email yesterday, May 28 2013, confirming his revised position on his support for marriage equality.

My support for any future marriage equality bill

Dear …,

As I have mentioned in my previous correspondence, I have always supported the principle of marriage equality and I am extremely disappointed that Mr Abbott and the Liberal Party continue to oppose marriage equality and not allow their members a conscience vote on this issue in Parliament.

While, I abstained from the previous vote due to this refusal of the conservative parties to allow a genuine free vote on the issue, for reasons outlined in the podcast, the link of which is below, I will support any future marriage equality bill.

I hope that Mr Abbott changes his mind on this issue and allows members of his party a free conscience vote as their continual united opposition to marriage equality will ensure that any such Bill is not successful.

The podcast is of my interview with Macca (David McCarthy) on his Saturday Magazine Program on Joy FM on 25 May, announcing my support for any future Bills regarding same sex marriage.

Regards,

Michael Danby
Federal Member for Melbourne Ports
Parliamentary Secretary for the Arts

And so there you have it.  Michael Danby is now fully committed to removing the discrimination in the Marriage Act that John Howard’s Government installed in 2004 that prevents same-sex couples and intersex people from getting legally married in Australia under Civil Law.

Let’s just hope Michael Danby isn’t at the opera when the next vote comes up.


Australian Gay Rights | YouTube

March 16, 2013


Michael Danby MP, a two-faced abstainer

December 16, 2012

Ah, Michael Danby.  Only interested in grubbing for votes from the Jewish community, but fuck the rest of his electorate.  Peasant.

From a friend this week (Dec 13):

I called Michael Danby’s office this morning and was told that he “abstained” from the marriage equality vote on 19 September.  I think the woman I spoke to then realised that she’d said too much and put me through to a professional PR person, who told me to put all my questions in writing, blah, blah, blah.

So at least we have an answer; he chose to “abstain”.  I didn’t even know you could abstain in the parliamentary system.  Maybe abstaining means just putting up your hand to go to the bathroom …

Most ironic of all is that he chose to “abstain” on marriage equality and then created headlines yesterday for his vicious attack against Bob Carr for abstaining on the Palestine vote.

Correct, the Sydney Morning Herald reported Danby attacking Carr for having abstained:

Mr Danby described Senator Carr’s actions over the UN vote last month – and Australia’s ultimate decision to abstain –  as ‘‘unforgivable behaviour for any minister in any cabinet government.’’

I wish Danby would just say that he doesn’t give a rats arse about gays, that they can go to hell and that his political career, fueled by the Jewish vote, is the only thing important to his overgrown ego.

Danby, I’d tell you to kiss my hairy arse, but that’s a pleasure saved for my partner.


Campaigning on pointless promises | The Stirrer

October 24, 2012

Campaigning on pointless promises is the third piece I’ve had published on The Stirrer.


Campaigning on pointless promises

http://www.flickr.com/photos/opendemocracy

Last night I got home from a solid workout at the gym, cooked myself a healthy dinner and sat down to read my emails.  First cab off the ranks was a story in the Port Phillip Leader: Call for Port Phillip same-sex register.  The story is about City of Port Phillip council candidate, Peter de Groot, campaigning in the Sandridge Ward, on the promise of a establishing a relationships register for same-sex couples if elected.

I would have thought this story more appropriate for the April 1 edition, but the date on the story is October 23 2012.  You see, under the Relationships Act 2008 the Victorian government established a state-wide, legal relationships register, managed by the Victorian Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages.  Read the history of this here.

I don’t see any benefit a new council-based relationships register could offer that a long established state-based relationships register doesn’t already offer.  Council relationship registers don’t even confer formal legal relationship status per se.

To that end, campaigning on a platform that contains a well-intentioned but effectively useless promise smacks of a naive grab for the pink vote at best.  If I was a voter in the Sandridge Ward, I’d be very cautious about voting for a candidate whose campaign platform included such empty election promises.

Rather than campaign on something useless like a council-based relationships register, a better way to spend rate-payers money would be on causes that actually benefit the community.  Consider a safe space for queer youth, a support group for same-sex parents, an anti-homophobia/anti-transphobia campaign for the local community, a social group or friendly home visiting service for elderly, disabled or isolated GLBTIQ people, a queer orphans Christmas gathering, and so on.

Peter de Groot may well be a passionate human rights advocate, as his campaign page describes, but I would hope voters put the honesty, ethics, credibility and integrity of a candidate before their sexual orientation or demographic affiliation.


Michael Danby, supporting Jews over Gays

September 21, 2012

Michael Danby is the Federal MP for Melbourne Ports, an electorate that has sizeable Jewish and gay populations.  He has taken a swing at ABC’s Q&A for hosting a show with Israeli content on the Jewish New Year, at a time when many in the Jewish community chose not to watch television due to religious observance.

Tony Jones, the host of Q&A, explained to that segment of Australia’s population that Q&A focusing half of its program on Monday night on Israel was because he could not get his guest Mr Pappe other than that night. Irving Wallach did a brave job on the program. But I question Mr Jones; the ABC managing director, Mark Scott; and indeed the new chairman, Jim Spigelman. This was a studied insult. Having an academically undistinguished extremist on Rosh Hashana is like having someone from Hizb ut-Tahrir advocate the abolition of Christianity and Australia on Christmas Eve.

At the same time Danby is a member of a political party that is led by the Prime Minister of Australia, Julia Gillard, who believes gay people should not have equal rights before the law.  He also has colleagues, including the leader, who actively voted against the rights of gay people this week.  Conveniently, Danby was absent during the vote.

I have yet to see a single word of support from Michael Danby for marriage equality, despite him being apparently supportive of it.  Further, I have yet to see a statement showing Michael Danby’s outrage at the lack of support from his political colleagues for voting against their party platform.

20120921 Michael Danby on Marriage Equality

Australian Marriage Equality – Where Your MP Stands: Michael Danby

Michael Danby.  Put up or shut up, but don’t have it both ways.


A letter to Joe Hockey

September 14, 2012

From: Michael Barnett <mikeybear69@gmail.com>
Date: 14 September 2012 01:18
Subject: A letter on an important issue, for your consideration
To: Joe Hockey MP <j.hockey.mp@aph.gov.au>

Dear Mr Hockey,

Please find attached a letter for your consideration.

I hope you have the time to afford a frank, personal and most importantly considered response.

Sincerely,
Michael Barnett.

September 14, 2012

Dear Mr Hockey,

Sixteen years ago this week, on a Tuesday afternoon in Canberra you delivered your first speech to the house.  Please allow me to take you back to that day.

You spoke of wanting to make a difference:

I am in Canberra today because I want to make a contribution to the future of Australia.

You told us about your connection to the ANZACs who fought in Beersheba.  You spoke of a country with a proud heritage and a strong connection to this past, and of leadership:

Our leader, General Harry Chauvel … had no choice but to infuse these young men with the belief that the future of the free world lay in their hands.

You told us why they were fighting, what it was they were putting their lives at risk for:

Their charge was more than courage. It was more than defiance against oppression. It was an act of pure faith in the future—and perhaps our finest illustration of that quality that we call the Australian spirit.

You quoted former Australian Prime Minister, George Reid on respect and vision:

There is no country in the world where the people are less paralysed by reverence to the past. There are no people in the world who have fewer fears for the future.

You pondered the connection between the ANZACs and those yet to be born Australian, and told us of the eternal nature of the spirit these brave men upheld:

One might ask what relevance that charge on Beersheba has on the Australians of today. I feel proud to be able to stand here and tell you that its spirit can still be touched by every Australian. I feel proud to think that future generations can have that same defiant spirit surging through their veins.

We heard you tell us never to give up, never to accept second best:

In many ways, Beersheba defines what it is like to be an Australian. To believe in yourself, to believe in the seemingly insurmountable, and to challenge the future.

You spoke of the uncertainty of the future, of changing attitudes and changing values:

Mr Acting Speaker, that future is all around us. The new millennium is approaching at a blinding pace and change is occurring exponentially. I suppose it is understandable for many that this change might be accompanied by growing uncertainty and angst. After all, family life is under increasing social pressure. Long accepted practices and traditions are constantly being questioned.

And then you spoke of the ideology you brought to public office, the ideology you believed would offer a way forward:

Perhaps many of us have forgotten the lesson of Beersheba. That is why I come to this parliament with the inherent belief that the answers to the challenges of the future lie in modern liberalism.

And told us of the values most important to you:

In an age where closely held beliefs and political ideology are frequently scoffed at, I wish to place on record the principles of modern liberalism that I hold dear. These include, firstly, the recognition of the inalienable rights of the individual; secondly, a belief in parliamentary democracy; thirdly, a commitment to improve our society through reform; and, finally, equality of opportunity for all of our citizens.

We heard about the formalisation of individual rights and the government’s place in securing this:

The first principle which recognises the rights of the individual was expressed in 1689 by the father of liberalism, John Locke. He wrote that the very substance of government should be the protection of individual rights, including specifically the rights of life, liberty and property.

And about social justice, liberty, disadvantage and giving a voice to those who were without one:

Despite the work of liberal and social philosophers such as Adam Smith, Jeremy Bentham, John Stuart Mill and Jean Jacques Rousseau, it was not until the end of the 19th century that the concept of social justice was introduced by John Dewey. He wrote that liberty is that secure release and fulfilment of personal potentialities which take place only in wide and manifold association with others. As part of the privilege of enjoying our individual rights, we have an obligation to protect and enhance our community. That includes helping the disadvantaged, caring for the sick, speaking for the voiceless and protecting the weak.

Then you told us about “new and improved”:

The third principle of modern liberalism is our belief in reform. Liberalism has traditionally steered a course between the extremism of the far Left and the reactionary conservatism of the far Right. Liberalism is most comfortable when it is developing new ideas and setting new goals.

And how important equality was to you:

The final finger on the hand of modern liberalism is the classic doctrine of equality of opportunity.

You spoke of your disdain for discrimination, of wanting to ensure future generations were free from it and of how this is a fundamental principle of the Liberal Party:

We cannot afford in our modern and complicated world to tie the hands of our children before they are born, because discrimination from the cradle will lead to discrimination until the grave. Equality of opportunity is a part of modern liberalism that will be most aggressively defended by my Liberal Party. It is the reason why so many of my colleagues in the class of 1996 are here from all parts of Australia. That is what I believe in; that is modern liberalism.

We heard of opportunity, human dignity and how important it was for you to involve your electorate in your journey:

A true Liberal was described by Sir John Carrick in 1967 as someone who was always concerned about the welfare of the individual, for the creation of opportunities, for the preservation of human dignity and the development of human personality. I have no doubt that these modern Liberal principles will benefit all Australians in the days ahead. Most particularly, I want to ensure that the electorate of North Sydney has a prominent role in defining that future.

You spoke of impediments to equality by way of the struggle for women’s rights:

One of these challenges is in the way our community continues to treat women. We should abandon the politically correct platitudes about equality, and honestly acknowledge that there remain entrenched societal and institutional impediments to women’s equal and active participation in either or both the home or work communities.

You spoke of generosity:

The Jesuits have taught me the value of community service and the spirit of giving.

And intellectual rigour:

And my friends and legal colleagues at Corrs Chambers Westgarth have taught me the lessons of professionalism, intellectual discipline and sheer hard work.

You spoke from the heart about your values, and those of Australians past, and their sacrifices, and their spirit:

Over the days of my career I am sure that the principles I hold dear—such as integrity, honesty and loyalty—will at times be sorely tested. But, at those times, I will recall the deeds of the men of Beersheba. I will recall their courage and their fortitude. I will recall the sacrifices that they made for our nation. And I will recall that great Australian fighting spirit.

And in closing you told us of your desire to do the best for all Australians:

Together with the support and encouragement of my colleagues and the inspiration and direction of modern liberalism, we will all begin our journey. We will charge our Beershebas and we will rebuild them—and this we will do for our children and for the generations of Australians ahead.

Mr Hockey, the values and vision you brought to office on September 10, 1996 were exemplary.

In having just relived your afternoon 16 years ago I now ask you to consider your position on marriage equality.  Please keep reading.

Last December you said:

JOURNALIST: Do you support same sex marriage?

JOE HOCKEY: No.

JOURNALIST: So if there was a conscience vote you would be voting against it?

JOE HOCKEY: Yes.

JOURNALIST: What are the reasons behind your thinking on that?

JOE HOCKEY: I believe a marriage is between a man and a woman.

You are entitled to your beliefs, but Mr Hockey, in light of what you said in your maiden speech, about your grandfather who fought in Beersheeba alongside the other ANZACs, fighting for a free Australia, how can you justify this position?

You told us about Australia being a place of opportunity for all citizens, of having new ideas, of vision, of equality, of human dignity and of fighting oppression.

You spoke of the need for a defiant spirit, of reform, an opportunity for all of our citizens, for protection of individual rights and challenging the future.

You invoked the sacred legend of the ANZAC.  You related their sacrifices and spoke of their spirit.

You spoke of questioning long accepted practices and traditions.

You spoke of the obligation to protect the community.  Denying those who are not attracted to the opposite sex the same rights as everyone else further entrenches the belief that we are less worthy.  This attitude has been proven to contribute to worse mental health and welfare outcomes for us.  How is your position on marriage protecting the community in light of this?

Mr Hockey, I ask you how you can stand up before the people of North Sydney, of whom in 2010 69% were not opposed to marriage equality (49% “in favour”, 31% “against”, 20% “don’t care”) and say that you are representing their interests.

How can you honour the ANZAC legend when you uphold the removal of individual rights, liberty and equality?

Mr Hockey, I implore you to rethink your position on marriage equality.  When you stand up as a representative before the people of North Sydney, and the people of Australia, and in the absence of intellectual rigour you subscribe to a position that is against the majority of your electorate and against every value you hold dear, you are not only just betraying yourself but you are betraying the values of the Liberal Party and the values of the entire nation, and in the worst possible way.

Mr Hockey, be generous.  Support marriage equality.

Sincerely,
Michael Barnett.


A letter to Wayne Swan

September 3, 2012

September 1 2012

Dear Minister Swan,

Nearly 20 years ago you entered Australian politics.  It was on a Monday evening in May 1993 that you delivered your first speech as the elected member of Lilley to the parliament and the people of Australia.

In your opening paragraph you stated:

“… my most important task today is to thank the people of Lilley for their support and trust. My commitment to them is to work hard, to listen to their views and to strongly represent their interests in this place.”

In 2010 News Ltd asked the people of Lilley what they thought of “Same-sex Marriage”.  According to the poll 52% were in favour, 32% against and 17% didn’t care.  All up a majority were in favour and 69% were not opposed to it.

You claim you will oppose marriage equality when it comes to a vote.  In what way are you “strongly representing [the] interests” of the people of Lilley in taking this unrepresentative stance?

In your opening speech you paid fond tribute to your parents and spoke of how they taught you:

“… to have respect for their fellow citizens, and to always help those in need.”

You also spoke of how:

“… they believed in an Australia where every person had the right to a fair go, where ordinary people would be able to fulfil their dreams, regardless of where they came from or the social group they were born into.”

I ask you to consider how you are respecting your fellow citizens when you actively plan to deny an entire section of the Australian population the right to the same level of relationship status as everyone else.

How are people who do not choose an opposite-sex relationship getting a “fair go” when they cannot get married to the person of their choice?

How are we able to fulfil our dreams when we cannot plan and have a beautiful wedding, to which we can invite our friends and family, to declare to the world our love for each other, when you plan to deny us that right, just because of the social group we were born into?  Where is the love, Minister Swan?

You spoke of your admiration for the heritage of the Labor movement and of issues important to you:

“In 1978 I went to work for two of the great warriors of the Labor movement—Mick Young and Bill Hayden. With them I received much of my early schooling in politics. They taught me the traditions of the Labor movement, and they taught me the fundamental importance of social justice.”

Tell me Minister Swan how the fundamental important of social justice is playing through when you oppose equality in our society?  How is that upholding the principles of the Labor movement?

You spoke extensively on fiscal matters and employment, and said:

“This Parliament must have a decisive role in reshaping Australia, in recharging the economy and in restoring employment.”

As the treasurer of Australia you should understand the benefit $161 million dollars over three years will bring to the economy and to employment by legislating in favour of marriage equality.  By upholding the status quo your actions will bleed the economy and the job market of this benefit when New Zealand legislates for marriage equality before Australia.  One would not expect the Treasurer of Australia to be financially irresponsible.

Then you spoke of the welfare of children:

“Whatever we do in this place must be aimed at the long term future—the long term future of the nation and the long term future of our children. Policies to achieve that, however, will change over time.

There is increasing evidence that the welfare of same-sex attracted children suffers when they are told they are not equal in society simply due to the gender of the person they love.  Similarly there is growing evidence that children of same-sex couples suffer when the relationships of their parents are deemed to be unequal to those children with married parents.

How does your stance on denying those in loving and committed relationships the right to get married, knowing the negative consequences it has on impressionable children, fit with looking to the future of our children?

Again, you spoke of the proud tradition of the Labor Party, and of its vision:

“The hallmark of the Keating Government is its vision for the future, a vision of Australia as a sophisticated independent trading nation. The hallmark of the Labor tradition is our capacity to think, to develop ideas, and to put them into action in uniquely Australian ways.”

And I ask you, Minister Swan, how is clutching to an out-dated 20th Century value the way to dignify this vision when we are well into the 21st Century?  Supporting a value of a by-gone era is not thinking to the future.  In fact it’s not thinking at all.  In a world where places like our trans-Tasman neighbour, along with the rest of the democratic world, are moving on and adopting marriage equality, you are complicit in holding Australia in a visionless existence.

And lastly, you concluded your first address by declaring:

“The great strength of the Labor Party is its commitment to justice, fairness and dignity. I hope to represent those principles in this House.”

I put it to you, Minister Swan, that by opposing marriage equality, you are not only letting the people of Lilley and the people of Australia down, but sadly, you are letting yourself down, because there is no justice, no fairness and no dignity in denying people equality.

Your sincerely,

Michael Barnett.


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