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

My letter to the five Victorian Federal senators, Jacinta Collins, Michael Ronaldson, Mitch Fifield, Scott Ryan and Stephen Conroy, who’s position on marriage equality is currently undecided or undeclared.

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.

Michael Barnett.

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