A letter to Andrew Laming, MP for Bowman

August 8, 2015

From: Michael Barnett
Date: 8 August 2015 at 13:00
Subject: An urgent message about the mental health of youth in Bowman
To: Andrew Laming – MP for Bowman <andrew.laming.mp@aph.gov.au>

Dear Mr Laming,

I’m writing to you regarding the issue of mental health in young people in your electorate of Bowman.

In your first speech to Parliament in November 2004 you spoke of wanting to help young Australians make a difference about the issues important to them:

Lastly, I want to engage young Australians. Our young Australians out there still do not have the faith in this parliament that I would love to see. How do I convince those young Australians that this political process is one in which they can have faith? How can I convince them that the issues that they want to talk about are ones where we can really make a difference?

You also spoke about knowing your limitations, about drawing from but not being a slave to your lived experience, and realising that celebrating diversity is something you value more than enforcing your ideology on others:

I am grounded by the humility of my limited knowledge. I hope I am guided, but never coloured, by my life experiences. I tell my story not to hammer some ideological stake in the ground but to celebrate the diversity of experiences that are here. Different backgrounds add to the breadth of this parliament…

I refer you to a statement on mental health on your web site claiming:

75% of all mental illness presents in people aged under 25, that’s why I’m so pleased to announce Capalaba is one of 15 locations across Australia that will get a new Headspace centre.

A further such statement on your web site claims:

Mental health is a topic I take very seriously, and for those interested we’ve just announced a new Headspace facility for Capalaba where youth can get early intervention and treatment for drug, alcohol and mental health issues. This kind of facility is the key to prevention and supporting our young people long before they’re rolling into emergency. It’s a passionate topic for many, and the majority of us have been touched by mental health in some way. Let’s work together to come up solutions and constructive feedback so we can support our young people.

It is evident that you not only care about giving young people opportunities, but that you care deeply about their mental health and well-being.  I am confident most people would align with you on these concerns.

What strikes me as a little odd is that whilst you are passionate about these issues, you appear to be lacking the necessary degree of commitment to stand by them.

There is ample evidence that young people who are marginalised and discriminated against due to their sexual orientation or gender identity have poorer mental health outcomes than their peers:

Same-sex attracted Australians are more likely to experience below-average health outcomes including higher levels of depression, due to this prejudice and discrimination. The statistics are particularly alarming for younger and newly-identifying LGBTI people who have consistently higher rates of drug and alcohol abuse, homelessness, early school leaving, conflict with peers and parents and suicide ideation, all directly related to the discrimination and prejudice they experience.[v]

http://www.glhv.org.au/files/writing_themselves_in_again.pdf

Young people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or intersex who are denied hope, opportunity and the rewards of society are those who are most likely to be in need of the mental health services you have campaigned so passionately for.

You voted strongly against marriage equality in 2010 and 2012, and declared in 2011 that you are personally “opposed to SSM [same-sex marriage]” but “support legally-equivalent civil unions as an alternative“.

The masthead on your web site states:

andrew laming mp hope reward opportunity

andrew laming mp   member for bowman   hope|reward|opportunity

I understand you are presently surveying your electorate on the issue of marriage equality and of this you stateI pledge to vote according to your verdict.

You are registered as a medical practitioner Mr Laming and have worked as a GP.  You will no doubt be aware of how risk factors play out in the well-being of people’s lives.  I ask you to think hard about the implications of choosing to vote against marriage equality, knowing that maintaining the status quo is linked to poorer health outcomes.  I also ask you to consider that a vote against marriage equality will obliterate the hopes, opportunities and rewards for the same young people whose welfare you so passionately and genuinely care about.

Polling by Crosby-Textor, the go-to pollsters for the Liberal Party (the party that you are a member of) showed that in 2014 there was very strong support nationally for people aged 18-34 (female: 90%; male 81%).  In 2010 the News Ltd Same-Sex Marriage poll indicated 43% support in Bowman, 40% opposed and 17% indifferent.  That means 60% of Bowman are not opposed to marriage equality.

In 2004 you claimed that you wanted to empower young Australians to actively engage in politics and to speak out about the issues that are important to them.  In 2015 you are asking your electorate to tell you about marriage equality yet you are bypassing the credible polling that exists.  The young people of Australia and in Bowman want marriage equality very much.

You talk of hope, reward and opportunity.  You talk of wanting to reduce the plight of mental health issues in young people in Bowman.  You talk of wanting to give young Australians faith in their parliament.  You talk about wanting to see young people achieve what is important to them.  You talk of knowing your limitations and not hammering your ideology.  You talk of celebrating diversity.  Yet despite all this talk you are prepared to turn your back on it if the unscientific and clumsy polling that you are engaging in suggest you should not support marriage equality.

What exactly are your priorities Mr Laming?  Are they centred around the welfare of your electorate, or are they centred around your further reelection to office?  Because it strikes me that the people of Bowman are not getting the best representation you could give them if you continue to turn your back on what all the evidence is showing.

I leave you with the quote that you borrowed from Robert F Kennedy in your first speech and your closing paragraph.  Perhaps now would be a prudent time to contemplate them.

“It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a person stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope. That ripple builds others. Those ripples – crossing each other from a million different centers of energy – build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and injustice.”
Senator Robert F. Kennedy

While there are no mighty walls to sweep down in Bowman, there are plenty of opportunities for ripples of hope—opportunities to enrich a beloved community, to preserve our Redland character and to provide choice and opportunity for those whose faith has put me here.

In the best interests of the young people of Bowman, their families, friends and communities, I urge you to vote for marriage equality.

Sincerely,
Michael Barnett.
Ashwood VIC


A letter to Dr Peter Hendy, MP for Eden-Monaro

July 20, 2015

From: Michael Barnett
Date: 20 July 2015 at 12:45
Subject: An urgent message about the mental health of youth in Eden-Monaro
To: “Dr Peter Hendy (MP for Eden-Monaro)” <peter.hendy.mp@aph.gov.au>

Dear Dr Hendy,

I’m writing to you regarding the issue of mental health in young people in Eden-Monaro.

Please allow me to take you back to your first speech in Parliament in November 2013, to reflect on the values that are important to you and the issues that you care about.

In opening, you gave thanks to the people of Eden-Monaro for electing you to office and gave a committment to do your best for all of them:

As I said at the declaration of the poll, the first thing I need to say today is thank you to the people of Eden-Monaro. I am greatly honoured to represent this region. I pledge that I will work to the best of my ability for the people whether they voted for me or not.

You reiterated a core value of the Liberal Party:

I joined the Liberal Party because I believed it genuinely encourages people to be the best they can be, not telling them what to be.

I’d like you to pause for a moment and reflect on this sentence.

You spoke of economics, and doing the right thing for your electorate:

I am an economist by profession but let me emphasise I am not an ivory tower ideologue who simply cares between Right and Left. What is important is between right and wrong. We need to do the right thing by the people of Eden-Monaro and all people who live in regional areas. I hope to be a strong advocate in this parliament who can support both good economic policy and the regions.

Making the ultimate point on why I am writing to you, you told of the tragic realities of living in regional and rural Australia:

In health terms, life expectancy is lower by up to seven years, depending on remoteness. People are up to four times more likely to die from accidents. It is up to 2.6 times more likely for men to die from suicides in the bush.

You said that facts are important to you, along with developing an intellectual case for building the nation:

Part of my new job here in parliament is to use the facts about disadvantage to revive the country-city compact. Priorities can be set better; however, we cannot just cry poor. We have been doing that for the last 30 years as our services and infrastructure have been increasingly run down. The intellectual case needs to be built so that we can get that fair share. An intellectual case needs to be built around nation building. I believe that we can further build that intellectual case, and I can help do that.

As a husband and father you promised to do the best to make your family proud of the work you did in public office:

Lastly, I want to thank my wife, Bronwyn, and children, Caroline and Patrick. They are my rock, and what I do is also for them. I hope they can be proud of what I will do in public life.

In closing, you again thanked the people of Eden-Monaro and reiterated your promise to do the best possible for them:

But what I can say in conclusion is to repeat the sentiments of my remarks at the beginning of my speech: for as long as I am the member for Eden-Monaro I will cherish the honour bestowed on me and I will humbly seek to do the best for the people that I represent.

What you delivered on that day in 2013 was a noble commitment to your electorate, one both heart-felt and genuine.

Yet despite your fine words, you are not delivering on them.  Why do I say that?  Simply, you are forgetting what you have committed to the people of Eden-Monaro.

You told them you wanted them to be the best they can be, without telling them what they can be.  How do you tell a young child to go out and do great things in their life, find that special person to share their life and love with, and perhaps raise a family with, if you put limitations on whom they can marry?  Is your campaign promise on marriage more important than your campaign promise to do the best for your electorate?

Eden-Monaro MP Peter Hendy recently said he remained opposed to changing the Marriage Act as that was the stance he took to the last election.

Dr Hendy said it was not an issue people often raised with him.

Many parents raise their children with the expectation in life that they will one day meet that special someone and get married to them, in front of their community, with celebrations, food and drink, gifts and unending love.  Tell me how can a young person aspire to that if they know deep within them they can’t have any of this, under the law, and in their community, because they simply aren’t allowed to marry the type of person they’d genuinely want to?

How is your claim of being opposed to changing the Marriage Act in line with giving that child the best start in life and not telling they what they can be?  Because in being opposed to this reform you are denying them hope, you are denying them participation, you are denying them equality, and you are telling them they can only get married to the sort of person that they would not want to get married to.

When you spoke about the reduced life expectancy of people living in the bush, of their increased chance of dying from an accident or having a higher-than-average rate of suicide, how do you justify promoting attitudes that contribute to these serious problems?

I don’t think you understand the disconnect in your message, because on the one hand you are saying people in Eden-Monaro are victim to factors that reduce their life-span, and on the other hand your desire to deny equal rights to same-sex attracted and gender-diverse people feeds directly into their poorer mental health outcomes, rates of self-harm and suicidality.

Should it be a surprise to you that the underlying reason for the accident of the car wrapping itself around a tree-trunk on a lonely stretch of highway was not due to the state of alcoholic intoxication by the driver, but rather, that as a star player of the local football team he was too ashamed to tell his team-mates that he loved men, and that after years of struggling with this secret of his, the burden became so great that the only way he could deal with his reality was to get himself sufficiently plastered to numb the pain and then slam his car into that tree.  Think of this next time you see a roadside memorial Dr Hendy.

You cannot tell people they are valued and equal members of society when you promote one section of society above another.  When you tell some people their relationships are not equal in merit to those of other people, do not be surprised when you read about the tragic death of yet another young man or woman in a community, the person everyone loved and whose death was totally unexpected.  You should not be surprised when a community is fractured into a million pieces when these deaths occur, because Dr Hendy, you are able to help prevent this, if you really want to.

There is sufficient evidence on what the relevant risk factors are for same-sex attracted and gender-diverse youth:

Same-sex attracted Australians are more likely to experience below-average health outcomes including higher levels of depression, due to this prejudice and discrimination. The statistics are particularly alarming for younger and newly-identifying LGBTI people who have consistently higher rates of drug and alcohol abuse, homelessness, early school leaving, conflict with peers and parents and suicide ideation, all directly related to the discrimination and prejudice they experience.[v]

http://www.glhv.org.au/files/writing_themselves_in_again.pdf

Please read this research and understand the harms young people can face due to prejudice and discrimination.  All children, yours included, need to know they will be loved and cherished, unconditionally.  If parents create conditions or expectations around who their children can love, don’t be surprised when their quality of life suffers.

You spoke of using facts and intellectual cases for nation building.  These are the facts and this is the intellectual case.  A nation is built of people, and if you can’t empower people to be their best, the dreams of building a great nation will fall far short of expectations.

In terms of economic outcomes for the region, you claimed your professional experience as an economist would be of benefit.  There are significant economic benefits for supporting marriage equality.  The wedding industry is huge and the economic potential for the region cannot be understated.  As an economist, how can you hand-on-heart tell the people of Eden-Monaro your refusal to endorse a platform that has known economic benefits could be in their best interests, especially when you hand-on-heart told these same people you would do whatever reasonable measures it took to stimulate their regional economy?

You genuinely care about the people of Eden-Monaro Dr Hendy, but your talk and your walk are going in different directions.  Draw on your Liberal Party values of individual freedoms and of not telling people how to live their lives, get up to speed on mitigating risk factors for same-sex attracted and gender-diverse young people, understand the economic benefits of marriage equality, and do your family and electorate proud by being that strong advocate, not another disappointing yes-man.

If your priority is what is best for the people of Eden-Monaro, you will realise supporting marriage equality is the right thing to do.

Sincerely,

Michael Barnett.
Ashwood, VIC.


A letter to Angus Taylor, MP for Hume

July 17, 2015

From: Michael Barnett
Date: 17 July 2015 at 13:33
Subject: An urgent message about the mental health of youth in Hume
To: “Angus Taylor (MP for Hume)” <angus.taylor@nsw.liberal.org.au>

Dear Mr Taylor,

I wish to convey to you an important concern of mine regarding the mental health of young people in Hume.

First though, I would first like to reflect on your maiden speech to Parliament in December 2013.

In opening, you reminded us that you were representing your electorate:

Mr TAYLOR (Hume) (16:40): I rise with great pride on behalf of the people of the electorate of Hume.

You then described the diversity of Hume and that for the most part the people wanted the government not to dictate how they lived their lives:

My constituents range from ultra-progressives, particularly close to Canberra, right through to hardcore conservatives. But in the middle is a great swathe of people who are fairly moderate and mostly tolerant and who want government to get off their backs so that they can get on with their lives.

Of your grandfather, you spoke of him in the highest regard, how he judged people on their actions, not on who they were.

My grandfather treated every single person with whom he came into contact, from humble truck drivers to senior engineers, with equal dignity and respect. He abhorred snobbery and judged people on character and conduct, not rank.

You told us economics was your passion at university and how you saw the discipline was vital to a functioning society:

At the University of Sydney I found law interesting and rigorous, but it never pushed my buttons like economics. Economics is about making smarter use of limited resources to make people better off. It shapes history and society at every level. Good economics is the key to good government, job creation and funding for world-class schools, health services, roads, railways and broadband networks.

You also told us you learnt how to get to the nub of the issue:

I learnt to think strategically, to focus on the two or three things that really matter.

You spoke of taking on new ideas, putting a stop to harmful ideology and embracing authentic education:

Meanwhile, we must embrace innovation from all over the globe,… We need to get smart, stop the ideological warfare and focus on great teaching.

You told us there are those who need our help the most:

I want to know that we will look after our most vulnerable…

Again, you reminded us whose best interests you are here to represent, namely the people of Hume:

And in this place I will back the parliament over the executive and the judiciary, because it is through this parliament that each of us here is accountable to our constituents.

In closing, you told us purpose of you being in public office was to make society a better place:

Some people say politics is about power. I do not agree. It should be about leadership, service and making an enduring difference to the lives of others. I hope the work I do in this place makes a real difference and will one day make my children proud. Thank you.

In October 2014 you addressed Parliament on the important topic of suicide.  You spoke of how it greatly impacted young people in particular and how the community was working hard to reduce risk factors:

In the Goulburn area, in my electorate of Hume, suicide rates are disturbingly high, particularly amongst young people. Preventing further suicides is a goal motivating many local families, a number who have already lost loved ones to suicide. In 2003 a Goulburn suicide working group was formed to look at positive ways to address the issues and to target risk-taking behaviours.

You reiterated it’s our youth it affects the most and that we must embrace innovation (a value you spoke of in your first speech) to address it:

Three-quarters of all mental illness manifests itself in people under 25. The links between mental illness, depression and suicide are well known and well documented so, as a caring community, we have a duty to continue finding new and better ways to raise awareness about the risks of suicide.

Mr Taylor, I come to the purpose of my letter to you.  I am equally concerned about the welfare of young Australians and how we can do our best to mitigate risk factors contributing to poor mental health.  The inescapable reality is that a percentage of youth in Hume will be same-sex attracted and/or gender-diverse.  There is an understood link between poor mental health outcomes for these people and any discrimination they face:

Same-sex attracted Australians are more likely to experience below-average health outcomes including higher levels of depression, due to this prejudice and discrimination. The statistics are particularly alarming for younger and newly-identifying LGBTI people who have consistently higher rates of drug and alcohol abuse, homelessness, early school leaving, conflict with peers and parents and suicide ideation, all directly related to the discrimination and prejudice they experience.[v]

http://www.glhv.org.au/files/writing_themselves_in_again.pdf

In September 2012 you campaigned against reform to marriage:

When the Post contacted his preferred successor, Liberal candidate for Hume Angus Taylor, he said he would also strive to keep the status-quo.

He didn’t believe the Hume community was “ready” for it and wouldn’t be “any time soon”.

“Social change is slow, and although the proponents of gay marriage are many and their voices are strong, our community is crying out for many things ahead of this,” Mr Taylor said.

“I know some will say that I should show leadership on these sorts of issues, but I will focus my leadership on issues that are less symbolic, and more practical.

“I have sympathy for both sides of this debate, and I understand the indignation that some gay couples feel about this.

“I equally understand the indignation of people who are seriously opposed to gay marriage.

However, I will not be a crusader in driving this kind of change.”

You told us in your first speech in 2013 of your electorate: “in the middle is a great swathe of people who are fairly moderate and mostly tolerant and who want government to get off their backs …”  Are these not the majority of the people in Hume, the ones who want the government not to dictate who can marry whom, “… so that they can get on with their lives.”?

You may want to uphold the status quo on marriage, but you’ve told us to don’t want to uphold the status quo on youth suicide.  You told us you don’t want to be a crusader on marriage equality, but you told us in your 2014 speech you were a crusader for getting a Headspace centre in Goulburn.

If you want to reduce the rate of youth suicide in Hume, if you want to mitigate the risk factors, you need to employ your strategic thinking and focus on the issues that really matter.  You need to be innovative, look to those other places around the globe and see what other enlightened countries are doing and have done.  Maintaining the status quo on marriage is far from innovative, is driven by that ideological warfare you want to put a halt to, and is just not smart.

You say you have sympathy for those denied the right to get married, but in upholding the status quo, unlike your grandfather, you are not treating them with equal dignity and respect.  You say you also have sympathy for those who do have the right to get married, but they will not lose any civil rights if you support marriage equality.  As a politician representing the best interests of your electorate, giving people more rights is not something you should ever back away from.

You claimed the focus of getting into office would be on less symbolic, more practical leadership issues.  Supporting an initiative such as marriage equality, known to reduce risk factors leading to poor mental health, is one such practical issue you can show leadership on.  It doesn’t require funding and it will actually reduce burdens on society.

Marriage equality also has significant economic benefits.  You said economics is about making smarter use of limited resources to make people better off.  It’s a no-brainer, Mr Taylor.  You would have to be a hypocrite to go against marriage equality, simply knowing it brings economic advantage.  You said good economics is the key to good government.  I put it to you that bad economics is the key to bad government.  You cannot say with hand on heart you are undertaking good government while you are willingly limiting economic potential.

Are you looking after the most vulnerable, those innocent same-sex attracted and gender diverse youth, when you tell them the status quo is satisfactory?  These young people, maybe your children, cannot have maximum hope for their future, hope to celebrate life the same as their peers, if you do not support their right to be equal under the law in society.

You told us politics is about making an enduring difference to the lives of others.  You also told us you hope the work you do makes a real difference.  You also want to one day make your children proud.  If you support marriage equality you will make that enduring difference to the lives of others.  It will make a real difference.  It will also make your children especially proud, given research shows the vast number of young people support marriage equality.  Do not be an embarrassing father to them when they see their father shamefully vote against equality.

You have the power to make a difference.  Cross the floor if necessary.  Stand up for your values.  Honour your grandfather’s memory.  Make your children proud.  Tell the parents of those suicide victims that you will do whatever it takes to make sure all children of Hume have fewer reasons to want to take their lives, even if the decisions are unpopular with some.

Thank you.

Michael Barnett.
Ashwood, VIC.


A letter to Ross Vasta, MP for Bonner

July 15, 2015

From: Michael Barnett
Date: 15 July 2015 at 03:37
Subject: An urgent message about the mental health of youth in Bonner
To: “Ross Vasta (MP for Bonner)” <ross.vasta.mp@aph.gov.au>

Dear Mr Vasta,

I’ve been reflecting on the first speech you gave in Parliament, some 11 years ago on November 18, 2004.  You made some excellent points.  Please allow me to journey through them with you.

Opening, you paid significant tribute to the namesake of your electorate, the late Liberal Senator, Neville Bonner:

It is with humility that I stand here before you today as the first member for the newly created seat of Bonner. This seat was named after a great Queenslander who also happened to be a great Liberal, Senator Neville Bonner. Senator Bonner was the first Aboriginal Australian elected to the federal parliament. During his 12 years in the Senate he was a conscientious parliamentarian, respected by both sides of politics. In his 16 years after leaving the Senate he was a much esteemed elder statesman of Australian public life. It is only fitting that his life and contribution to this country has now been so formally recognised and his name given to Queensland’s newest federal seat.

Interestingly, Neville Bonner was far from the conformist, as is noted:

“He crossed the floor 23 times,” says Libby Stewart, a senior historian at the Museum of Australian Democracy. “He always said that he was a bit of rebel,” she adds, “that he didn’t toe the party line, that he was a proud member of the party, but not a blind member.”

You recalled the efforts and achievements of your family:

Always in that time they have worked hard, they have prayed hard and they have dreamed hard.

and how they were instrumental in making Australia the great country it is, one that so many aspire to live in:

… they also helped to build this country and make it the prosperous, decent, open and tolerant society it is today… a beacon of hope and an example showing that people of all races, creeds and colours can live and work together and create a peaceful and successful future for their children.

You spoke of opportunities:

My grandfathers and their families believed passionately in Australia, in the opportunities that Australia offered and the rewards she bestowed on those prepared to work hard, play fair and live right.

and dreams:

They believed in the dream shared by all Australians—a better life and a better future for their children—and they lived that dream.

Understanding that society is about and for people, you said:

… people matter and that with goodwill and people’s support things can be achieved for the greater good.

With wisdom, you declared:

I do believe that governments must govern for all Australians …

Poignantly you said:

I will work to ensure that my constituents do not become forgotten people, and my actions as the member for Bonner will be guided by my beliefs as a Liberal. I believe that the role of government is to remove obstacles so that people can be free to pursue their dreams and realise their potential.

You spoke of supporting families, the foundation of community:

I believe that strong families make for strong communities and we must do everything possible to support them.

As you drew to the end of your speech you reflected on a person of significance, someone you deeply admired:

I would also like to pay special tribute to the late Arthur Scurr MBE, a much respected local community leader in Brisbane’s south side. He was a true gentleman, and his open-mindedness to new ideas, his commitment to the community and his tireless work will be missed by us all.

You gave thanks to your electorate and promised to not disappoint them:

Most importantly, I thank the people of Bonner for placing their trust in me and electing me as the first member for this new seat. My commitment to you is strong and simple: I will work with diligence, commitment and enthusiasm to justify your trust in me.

In closing, you spoke of putting in the effort to improve society:

As I embark on this new journey I hope that—just as my ancestors have, through their hard work, contributed to building this great nation—I too will be able to help to make the electorate of Bonner and Australia an even better place to live.

I admire these values you stand for Mr Vasta, but please allow me to take you further on this journey.

Just over three years ago, in March 2012, you addressed Parliament and spoke of how mental health is a significant issue facing the people, and in particular the youth, of Bonner and Australia:

Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise this evening to bring to houses attention a very important issue in the electorate of Bonner and indeed the wider Australian community – that is the issue of mental health.

The time to tackle mental illness is when it first occurs. The prevalence of mental health problems declines with age. It is our younger Australians – those between 16 and 24 – who bear the brunt of mental illness. Evidence shows that with early and targeted treatment many young people can overcome their problems and lead socially and economically productive lives with lower incidence of progression or relapse.

I can relate to this as I experienced significant mental health issues through my teens and early twenties.  I was still forming my identity in life and was struggling to accept my sexual orientation, for I was entirely without support in this regard for the best part of 16 years.

The inescapable reality is that a percentage of youth in Bonner will be same-sex attracted and/or gender-diverse.  There is an understood link between poor mental health outcomes for these people and any discrimination they face:

Same-sex attracted Australians are more likely to experience below-average health outcomes including higher levels of depression, due to this prejudice and discrimination. The statistics are particularly alarming for younger and newly-identifying LGBTI people who have consistently higher rates of drug and alcohol abuse, homelessness, early school leaving, conflict with peers and parents and suicide ideation, all directly related to the discrimination and prejudice they experience.[v]

http://www.glhv.org.au/files/writing_themselves_in_again.pdf

Only a few weeks ago you indicated you weren’t prepared to state how you would vote if you were offered a conscience vote on marriage equality:

LNP Federal Member for Bonner Ross Vasta said did not want to comment on how he would vote on marriage equality if a conscious vote was called.

“What I’m really focused on is getting on with telling the electorate the good news about the (Federal) budget,” he said.

I urge you to think deeply about your position on marriage equality, on what it actually means, how it aligns with your stated values and how it can make Bonner a better place for its citizens.

You told us of the dreams of your forebears.  Please think about the dreams of the young people of Bonner and also those of their families and friends.  I speak of the dreams that a young kid has to marry the person of their choice, irrespective of their gender, and if they choose, and in whatever way they can, raise a family with their spouse.

Would you want to deny that child that dream, to have their special day amongst their family and friends?  Would you want to deny a child the opportunity to see their same-sex parents get married, whilst their peers can attend the weddings of their opposite-sex parents, should such circumstances arise?

How sad the day when we deny someone the opportunity to celebrate their love in a time-honoured tradition such as marriage.  I trust that you understand marriage is not a prerequisite for child-birth, but that marriage does afford families stability.

You said Australia is a tolerant society, yet your actions disagree with your words, given your strong resistance to tolerating the right for two people to marry, irrespective of gender.  Unlike Neville Bonner, you have yet to cross the floor even once to stand up for your values, your party’s values.  Did you forget that the role of government is to remove obstacles so that people can be free to pursue their dreams and realise their potential?

You spoke of not letting your constituents become forgotten people, yet in not calling for reform in marriage you are forgetting those people who you have said do not deserve marriage.  You are leaving them without, like the one kid that misses out on getting a lolly at a party or the child who gets a broken toy for Christmas.  Would you want your children to be the one who is forgotten or who gets second best?

Reflect on your praise for Arthur Scurr’s open-mindedness to new ideas, a quality you valued in him.  Walk in his footsteps a little.  His shoes sounded big.  Yes, marriage equality is a fairly new idea.  But it brings happiness to families.  It reduces those risk factors that contribute to mental health issues.  It makes families stronger and in doing so, helps build community.  That is your dream.

The people of Bonner placed their trust in you.  They didn’t vote for you to allow their 16-24-year-olds to have poor mental health outcomes or fill the graves in the cemetery.  They voted for you because they knew you could achieve better for them, that you could improve Bonner and make it that better place.

You owe it to them to support whatever it takes to improve the community, and if that is an unpopular decision, if it means crossing the floor at least once, if it means supporting your party’s forgotten values, then that’s what you must do.  For if you don’t, you will have failed the people of Bonner, you will have failed your community, you will have failed Australia, and most sadly, you will have failed yourself and your family.

You have the power to make Bonner a better place.  You have the power to help people achieve dreams.  If you govern for all the people of Bonner, as is your desire, you can make this happen.

Sincerely,

Michael Barnett.
Ashwood, VIC.


Message to Federal MP for Murray Sharman Stone on Marriage Equality & Youth Suicide

July 2, 2015


Sharman Stone - Federal MP For Murray“Our rural youth, descendants of the pioneers who overcame the harshest conditions, now take their own lives at rates which are amongst the highest in the Western world.”

“I want to assure the electorate of Murray that I … willingly take up the challenge of helping to deliver to them … the standards of human services that are essential if our region is ever to reach its full potential.”

Sharman Stone – First Speech – May 6 1996.


Same-sex attracted Australians are more likely to experience below-average health outcomes including higher levels of depression, due to this prejudice and discrimination. The statistics are particularly alarming for younger and newly-identifying LGBTI people who have consistently higher rates of drug and alcohol abuse, homelessness, early school leaving, conflict with peers and parents and suicide ideation, all directly related to the discrimination and prejudice they experience.[v]

http://www.glhv.org.au/files/writing_themselves_in_again.pdf


Sharman Stone voted very strongly against same-sex marriage equality


Remembering Simon

December 24, 2013

Dame Elisabeth Murdoch, Patron of the Australian Family Association, dead at 103 | The Stirrer

December 6, 2012

This article was first published on The Stirrer.


Dame Elisabeth Murdoch, Patron of the Australian Family Association, dead at 103

Martin Cathrae http://www.flickr.com/photos/suckamc/

Last night Dame Elisabeth Murdoch died, aged 103. She was a much loved philanthropist. She was also a patron of the Australian Family Association.

Whilst on the surface a supporter of a cause that supports families might sound warm and fuzzy, the reality is that a supporter of the AFA supports a cause that is intolerant of same-sex attracted people, and intolerant of same-sex relationships. It upholds a definition of marriage that excludes same-sex attracted couples.

The good dame was also the patron of the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute. Today their web page announces:

Her vision and commitment have saved thousands of children’s lives and improved the health of many more living with rare and common childhood conditions.

The irony of this is that her having been a patron of the AFA, an organisation deeply intolerant of homosexual people, is that her good reputation gave credence to bigoted values that have proven links to contributing to the alarming rate of youth suicide, mental health issues and other forms of self-harm.

While she may have been a wonderful person, she linked herself with a disreputable organisation, in stark contrast to many of the values she espoused in her public life.  She sided with bigots and homophobes and we shouldn’t forget that.

Whilst many remember the great good that Dame Elisabeth Murdoch did for society, we must also remember her as a person who upheld bigotry.


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