From earlier this week until 5pm Sunday, 8 October, Australians have the opportunity to submit their opinion on the Consultation Draft from Labor.
This is Labor’s governing document and it contains their current and predicted view towards many Australian issues.
I took particular interest in their policy for same-sex marriage.
116 Labor believes that people are entitled to respect, equality, dignity and the opportunity to participate in society free of hatred or harassment and receive the protection of the law regardless of their sexuality or gender identity. Consistent with this belief, in 2007 Labor audited Commonwealth laws to identify discrimination against same sex couples. In 2008, laws were passed to remove discrimination from 84 pieces of Commonwealth legislation.
117 Labor will ensure that all couples whether married or de facto do not suffer discrimination.
118 Labor will take action to ensure the development of a nationally consistent framework that provides:
The opportunity for all couples who have a mutual commitment to a shared life to have their relationship officially recognised
Equal rights for all couples in federal and state laws
119 Labor will review relationship recognition arrangements to ensure national consistency.
120 These reforms are to be implemented consistently with Labor’s commitment to maintaining the definition of marriage as currently set out in the Marriage Act.
This is essentially as rewording of the current national position which does not permit the marriage of a same-sex couple.
Marriage equality would mean recognition of the validity of the relationship of a same-sex couple; essentially this relationship would be placed on par with that of a heterosexual couple.
Marriage equality would be beneficial for families and society. It would clearly indicate that there is no difference between union of a same sex couple and that of a heterosexual couple. It would demonstrate that we should instead place importance on the love and devotion the individuals feel for one another. Therefore, by not allowing same-sex couples to marry, Labor goes against its commitment to equality, choice and inclusion.
Same-sex marriage would further remove discrimination from the law and bring full legal equality for same-sex couples. It would remove a lingering stigma from these couples and their families. It would remove the stigma of discrimination from the institution of marriage. It would allow same-sex couples and their families to have the benefits of marriage which include legal security and community inclusion.
It would bring Labor policy into line with the 60% of Australians who support this reform, the 85% of same-sex couples who support it, and the 75% of Australians who believe it is inevitable.
I feel that what Labor calls a ‘nationally consistent framework’ is discriminatory and that this kind of marriage, which judges who is fit for this type of commitment based on their sexuality, is insufficient. In this case, we need a new ‘national framework’ which allows a wider recognition for heterosexual and homosexual couples.
Civil union is not marriage. Civil union will never be the same as marriage. The rights and position which marriage recognises for the individuals involved, is not similarly granted by civil union.
Similar problems are posed by the apparent solution of a de facto partnership. There is the difficulty of attaining this status. There are different of entitlements between states and a lack of recognition overseas. There are difficulties in emergencies in terms of decisions which could be more easily made by same-sex spouse.
Additionally, by creating this separate state for same-sex marriage, a second-class status is made for these relationships.
A marriage certificate gives instant and guaranteed access to relationship entitlements. It is more widely recognised and respected than the de facto status or civil union.
In terms of religion, our society governs marriage by civil law and not by religious values. We allow marriage between people of different or no faith. Divorce is allowed though some religious institutions oppose it. Religious celebrants are free to refuse to marry couples whose relationships they do not agree with and this would continue when marriage equality is achieved.
For children, we do not require married heterosexual couples to have children. It would then be a double standard to discriminate against same-sex couples because of this.
Up to a quarter of all same-sex couples are raising children. By allowing marriage for these couples, we provide their children with the same rights, respect and recognition as other children. Furthermore, the Australian Psychological Society has found that children raised by same-sex couples are just as well adjusted, psychologically, sexually, intellectually and socially as their peers.
Change is an undeniable element of life. The rules governing marriage have inevitably changed multiple times. For instance, women have greater status is marriage and divorce is now allowed.
However, in countries where same-sex marriage is allowed, marriage still exists. In fact, the rate of younger heterosexual couples marrying has increased.
The fundamental definition of marriage is that it is a lifelong commitment between loving couples is not going to change by allowing same-sex marriage.
Remember, you can evaluate this draft and have your say on the URL provided.
That’s all for now,
The issue of refugees has been addressed frequently in the media and by politicians within recent years.
John Menadue, former head of Australia’s immigration department, has called the furore surround refugees a “screwed up debate” and deplored the increasing “phobia about boats”.
We have witnessed various offshore processing methods posing as solutions.
We have seen riots caused by discontent and neglect within detention centres on Christmas Island and in Villawood, Sydney.
We have been subjected to inflammatory propaganda concerning the apparent issue of ‘boat people’.
However, if we look at some figures, a very different truth emerges.
Among the richer countries, Australia’s asylum-seeker numbers are not overwhelming. Our country has received only 8250 applications during the last year. This puts it at 15th among 44 asylum-receiving industrialised countries according to the UNHCR (United Nations High Commission for Refugees).
This number of applications is a 33% increase compared to 2009, but it is down a third from figures in 2001.
Compared to the 55530 applications in the US in 2010, 47800 applications in France and 41330 within Germany; these figures are small indeed. Indeed, Australia’s asylum-seekers comprised 1% of total refugees within the world last year.
Within Australia itself, 53% of Australians believe that asylum-seekers arriving by boat should be allowed to face processing in Australia while only 28% wanted to see them deported.
Moreover, in the past decade, the majority of applicants have arrived by air. In reality, it is statements by politicians and the media which have diverted focus to the smaller arrivals by boat.
If we accept all of this information, what else is there to say?
Only that the UNHCR have found that many of the 6800 people (around 1000 of which are children) held in detention centres, do not need to be there. Not only is it unnecessary, but this lifestyle causes significant psychological harm to people - this has included instances of self harm and suicide.
The Opposition has accused the Gillard government of not being ‘tough enough’ to deal with boat people.
The Gillard government retaliated by advocating the unpopular Malaysian Solution (which required them to renounce their previous stance on offshore processing).
Neither of these parties seem able to provide an appropriate answer.
Perhaps they ought to consider something more aligned with apparent public opinion.
Perhaps they ought to locate a solution which allows them to lead ethically rather than squabble ineffectively behind a smokescreen of melodramatic media releases.
snapshot of the turn-out for yesterday’s equality rally.
Labor has already offered to enact the Malaysia Solution and Nauru, in tandem. It has made adjustments to the way the Malaysia Solution would operate in a bid to accommodate concerns. It has even suggested an independent bipartisan inquiry into TPVs, and if that inquiry found TPVs work Labor would look at supporting their introduction.
Gillard said yesterday that it was regrettable that the Opposition Leader ruled out a compromise on the weekend.
“I think it is a time where people are looking to us to put the politics to one side,” she said
Interesting to see some progression with this issue, perhaps we may eventually see a calming of Australia’s refugee fears - and the establishment of some constructive policies.