My dear friend, Victorian gay rights activist, Michael Barnett, has written to Deputy Prime Minister Wayne Swan regarding his opposition to same-sex marriage.
It is a brilliant letter which exposes the hypocrisy of Swan’s stance when measured against the values and ideals he espoused in his maiden speech to parliament.
Mr Swan is yet to respond, but I believe this letter needs to be far more widely circulated.
It is certainly time that we held to public account those politicians whose fine sounding words so rarely match their actions.
From Michael Barnett, to Wayne Swan:
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.
Michael’s blog: Mikey Bear
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