A letter to Senator Fiona Nash

Sep 3, 2012

From: Michael Barnett <mikeybear69@gmail.com>
Date: 3 September 2012 23:34
Subject: A matter of importance, for your consideration
To: Senator Fiona Nash <senator.nash@aph.gov.au>

Dear Senator Nash,

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 3 2012

Dear Senator Nash,

I understand you have not yet declared support for the issue of “marriage equality” or “same-sex marriage”.

I am writing to ask for your support on this important issue.  I say important, not because it is about the right for those currently denied the right to marriage under the law to be treated equally, but because of the ramifications equal treatment under the law has for the self-esteem and welfare of young people, and most especially those in rural and regional areas.

Please indulge me as I take you back to an afternoon in August 2005, just gone seven years ago, as you delivered your first speech as a Senator, where you said:

I am advocating policies that ensure that there is fair and equitable opportunity for all Australians regardless of where we live. As legislators, we must always be aware of the consequences of our actions, of how the decisions we make affect the 20 million people who live in this nation. As Atticus says in To Kill a Mockingbird:

If you can learn a simple trick Scout, you’ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view—until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.

We must be able to ‘put ourselves in another man’s skin’ to ensure we make decisions in the best interests of those we represent.

Your words are sage and commendable.  I implore you to reflect on this wisdom and put yourself in the shoes of current and future citizens of Australia who may want the right to get married before the law, but are currently denied this right.

Fair and equitable opportunity for all Australians includes the same rights for all before the law.  I ask you to put yourself in the shoes of every person you represent in country towns like Young and elsewhere throughout NSW, who may be same-sex attracted are told they are not equal to their ‘straight’ friends and family members.  Think about this in conjunction with the higher rate of self-harm and suicide in rural and regional areas and also amongst same-sex attracted people.  Think about how you have the power to make the lives of these people better, simply by voting in favour of equality.

As a married woman, as a wife, you understand what it means to use a word that tells society you have a spouse, a significant and long-term married partner in your life.  Same-sex attracted people currently cannot attain, or aspire to attain this status.  Yet we are no different.  We have families, some with our own children.  We love and we hurt.  We dream and we achieve.  We cry and we bleed.  We live and we die.  We are no different to you and your husband, no better and no worse.

Please think about what you said that afternoon in 2005 and about how you can make Australia a better place for all Australians.

Yours sincerely,

Michael Barnett.


A letter to Wayne Swan

Sep 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.


A letter to Senators Kroger, Madigan and McKenzie

Sep 3, 2012

From: Michael Barnett <mikeybear69@gmail.com>
Date: 22 August 2012 02:13
Subject: A journey from your First Speech to Today
To: Senator Bridget McKenzie <senator.mckenzie@aph.gov.au>, Senator John Madigan <senator.madigan@aph.gov.au>, Senator Helen Kroger <senator.kroger@aph.gov.au>

August 22 2012

Dear Senators Kroger, Madigan and McKenzie,

Allow me to take each of you back to the day you stood before the Senate and gave your First Speech.  Please take a moment to reflect upon these sage words from your opening speeches, that you delivered to your fellow Senators and to the Australian people.

Senator Kroger,

You told us how your parents gave everything of themselves to make sure you had the best start in life:

“My mother and father did what it took to ensure that their children would have a fair go and be able to give life their very best shot. I have tried to say thank you by living my life in a manner that will consecrate their devotion and selflessness.”

It is clear that you understand what giving without expecting anything in return means.

You later related the wisdom of Thomas Moore:

“Family life is full of major and minor crises—the ups and downs of health … success and failure … is tied to places and events and histories. With all of these felt details, life etches itself into memory and personality. It’s difficult to imagine anything more nourishing to the soul.”

I can tell that you are a person who values families, with strong bonds that tie the people in them together.

Senator Madigan,

You shared with us the words of a great Australian leader, Ben Chifley:

“I try to think of the labour movement, not as putting an extra sixpence into somebody’s pocket, or making somebody Prime Minister or Premier, but as a movement bringing something better to the people, better standards of living, greater happiness to the mass of the people. We have a great objective – the light on the hill – which we aim to reach by working for the betterment of mankind not only here but anywhere we may give a helping hand. If it were not for that, the Labour movement would not be worth fighting for.”

and from this it is clear that you aspire to improving the lives of all Australians.

Senator McKenzie,

You opened your First Speech talking about individual freedoms and notions of equity:

“That we can all sit here today as democratically elected senators, arguing where the line is drawn between individual freedom and notions of equity, means we are truly, truly blessed.”

and later you described the strong sense of social justice that you inherited from your mother:

“The women in my family are strong, community minded, also local sporting heroes and all committed to education. My mother was a primary school teacher. Her commitment to social justice has flowed through to her children, none of whom can resist a good cause.”

Most poignantly though you told us how precious our youth are to society and how vital the social health of country communities is:

“Young people are a precious asset for our future, and our nation needs individuals who are prepared to contribute, who are engaged and who can think critically. … My own family’s involvement in local sporting clubs spans generations and sports. Participating in golf clubs, football, netball and surf-lifesaving is an integral part of what we do and what so many country families do, contributing to the physical and social health of their communities. It is an area that I look forward to supporting.”

Perhaps your strongest statement though is your closing sentence:

“My sincere hope is to contribute to this nation in a thoughtful, constructive and positive manner and to always advocate for regional Victoria.”

because this tells Australia that you genuinely care for the people you represent.

Senators McKenzie, Madigan and Kroger, your values are powerful and passionate.  They convey the sort of Australian values that mean so much to every citizen.

I ask you to reflect on these sentiments from your opening speeches and bear them in mind when you are asked to cast your vote on the issue of Marriage Equality.

Senator Kroger, think about your selflessness and giving others a fair go, like those that your parents gave you.

Senator Madigan, think about bringing something better to the people and giving them a greater happiness.  If the words of Ben Chifley are important to you then striving for the betterment of mankind can only come when you increase the happiness of those you represent.

Senator McKenzie, to you I place the most importance because of the opportunities you can give our young people in rural communities.  Youth suicide is a scourge that affects country towns the worst, and prejudice against same-sex attracted youth drives the rates of youth suicide to alarmingly high levels.  You can be a force for good and give the youth who are most precious to you a role model that will give them a better footing in life.  Tell them that their relationships are something to be proud of and I can assure you that you will have an amazingly positive impact on the health of all rural communities.  That would make you immensely proud and validated.  The father of my previous partner was mayor of the Shire of Murrundindi, a place close to your heart no doubt.  He supported and was proud of his son’s relationship with me.  Please understand that love strengthens families and brings communities together.

I ask you all, Senator McKenzie, Senator Kroger and Senator Madigan, to think about what you stood for when you delivered your First Speech and hold true to those values, of giving life your best shot, selflessness, bringing something better to the people, greater happiness, working for the betterment of mankind, commitment to social justice, good causes, the preciousness of our youth, the health of our country communities and of course, a fair go for all.

Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,
Michael Barnett.


A letter to Senators Collins, Ronaldson, Fifield, Ryan and Conroy

Sep 3, 2012

From: Michael Barnett <mikeybear69@gmail.com>
Date: 21 August 2012 23:48
Subject: A journey from your First Speech to Today
To: Senator Jacinta Collins <senator.collins@aph.gov.au>, Senator Michael Ronaldson <senator.ronaldson@aph.gov.au>, Senator Mitch Fifield <senator.fifield@aph.gov.au>, Senator Scott Ryan <senator.ryan@aph.gov.au>, Senator Stephen Conroy <senator.conroy@aph.gov.au>

August 21 2012

Dear Senators Collins, Ronaldson, Fifield, Ryan and Conroy,

Allow me to take each of you back to the day you stood before the Senate and gave your first speech.  Take a moment to reflect upon these sage words from your opening speeches, that you delivered to your fellow Senators and to the Australian people.

Senator Ryan,

You told us:

“…when the state steps beyond the bounds of its competence, it is the most vulnerable who suffer …”

and that:

“I learned then that democracy and basic human liberties are not relative concepts. We must always guard against the slippery slope of moral equivalence in such affairs.”

You quoted Abraham Lincoln:

“The legitimate object of Government is to do for a community of people whatever they need to have done, but cannot do at all or cannot do so well for themselves in their separate and individual capacities. In all that the people can individually do as well for themselves, Government ought not to interfere.”

and spoke of freedoms:

“Over the course of the last century it is when this is forgotten that the greatest threat to freedom and prosperity arises. Whenever we choose to do something in this place, we are removing the right and responsibility to make a personal choice—from a family, a community or an individual.”

You told us of what it means to be Liberal:

“As a young man I was drawn to the Liberal Party by a key principle: the dignity of each and every individual and the value of their own conscience.”

and of keeping an open mind and living up to the standards of those you admire and respect:

“They taught me a valuable lesson: it is not what you think that matters most; more important is your willingness to discuss it, debate it and maintain an open mind to new ideas. I am proud to say I have followed a long and diverse line of people from that organisation into this place—from Alan Missen to Rod Kemp, as well as members in the other place. I hope to live up to their record, achievements and decency.”

Senator Conroy,

You told us about equality opportunity:

“I have always been committed to providing equality of opportunity. I reject the notion of equality of outcome.”

and about social justice:

“My interests have always revolved around economic and social justice.”

Senator Fifield,

You told us about opportunity, choice, not imposing your views on others and free will:

“…I stand in this place as a Liberal because I am committed to opportunity and to choice. Each of us has our own world view—a frame of reference that informs the decisions we make—but, as legislators, we do not have the right to simply vote to impose our views on the community. We all have free will. The expression of that may not always please us, but it is the right of every Australian to exercise it. That is why in this place I will be influenced, but not driven by, my own personal convictions. My inclination will be towards maximising economic and personal liberty for Australians.”

and you told us about opportunity:

“That is why I am a Liberal today—because I know the importance of opportunity.”

and choice, and fighting those who restrict it:

“As Liberals, we stand for maximising choice; we stand for maximising opportunity. As a coalition government, we need to continually look for ways to maximise opportunity and to fight for it when it is being restricted.”

You told us about your support for diversity:

“Let’s embrace choice, let’s embrace variety, let’s embrace difference and excellence.”

and about the strength and quality of our relationships:

“Ultimately what determines the true quality of our lives is the quality of the relationships we have. Community is what happens when we engage. This engenders relationships we otherwise would not have undertaken in circumstances we would not have otherwise found.”

And you told us about being compassionate and considerate:

“To be a compassionate society means being able to put yourself in the shoes of another and understand what makes them different and why they find themselves in their particular circumstance. This scheme would, in a small way, help engender greater community and rebuild social capital. It is only when we keep coming back to our core Liberal values of choice, independence and responsibility that we find the policies that facilitate opportunity.”

Senator Ronaldson,

You spoke at great length about terrorists and those who impose their beliefs on others, to restrict society’s freedoms.  One of the many points you made on this issue:

“It saddens me that some within the party of Curtin now identify with those that fight freedom.”

It’s clear to me that you are against those who remove people’s liberties.

Senator Collins,

You told us about your strong stance for the rights of women.

“Labor can be proud of its record of achievements for women. I am committed to working towards further improvements in the position of women throughout Australian society.”

and about giving people “a fair go”:

“I look forward to participating in the framing of our nation’s future identity to reflect the Australian ethos of a fair go.”

Senators Collins, Ronaldson, Fifield, Conroy and Ryan, your words are truly admirable.  They convey the best of what it means to be Australian, and collectively they engender the aspirations of all Australians.

When you have reflected on these sentiments from your opening speeches I hope you will bear them in mind when you are asked to cast your vote on the issue of Marriage Equality.  Think about what you stood for back then and hold true to those values, of freedom, compassion, equality, social justice, the rights of women, putting yourself in the shoes of others, embracing difference, opportunity, free will, keeping an open mind, personal choices, governments not interfering, and of course, a fair go for all.

Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,
Michael Barnett.


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