A letter to Ed Husic

From: Michael Barnett <mikeybear69@gmail.com>
Date: 3 June 2013 00:25
Subject: An important matter concerning the people of Chifley and all Australians
To: Ed Husic MP <ed.husic.mp@aph.gov.au>

June 2 2013

Dear Mr Husic,

I am writing to you not as a voter in Chifley or even as a resident of New South Wales.  I seek your attention simply as a fellow human.

My aim here is to take you on a journey of reflection and purpose.  I would like you to give me a few minutes of your time and afterwards, at your convenience, hope to hear your frank thoughts.

I want to take you back to early in the afternoon of October 28, 2010.  No doubt a memorable day in your professional life.

In addressing the parliament and people of our great nation, you made reference to “new paradigms” in the very first sentence of your first speech:

While we are no longer able to caucus together, we can still test who has the better shot—somewhere else, where standing orders and new paradigms do not dictate the outcome.

Such a powerful concept.  It talks to new ways of thinking, new ways of seeing the world and new concepts.  Please hold that thought for a moment.

Then you went on to talk of community improvement and enrichment:

… the application of education joined with a commitment to improvement of the self and others has allowed residents in neighbourhoods from Mt Druitt through Blacktown and up to Marsden Park the chance to see beyond the present to a richer future.

It’s rewarding to see you value and recognise people’s love of family, those near and dear to them, and again, improvement thereof:

I admire so much within the people I have the privilege to represent: the value they place on reward after hard work; their decency; their dignity; their faith and love of family; and their support for their neighbours, their community and those ‘having a go’ to make something better.

You invoke the wisdom of Chifley, including his desire to see the Labor movement create new conditions for the Australian people, at considerable expense to the party:

“The urgency that rests behind the Labor movement, pushing it on to do things, to create new conditions, to reorganise the economy of the country, always means that the people who work within the Labor movement, people who lead, can never have an easy job.”

and further, from Chifley, on human happiness:

“The most that we can do is to help the masses of the people and give to them some sense of security and some degree of human happiness.

You talk of parents who have given their all, in blood, sweat and tears, to see their children be able to live a better, happier, healthier life than their own:

Sons and daughters of the blue-collar workers of this country have witnessed that ambition spur on their own parents and then spark within them an ethic of effort, service and sacrifice.

Your mention of education and training brings you to it’s purpose, the prospects of the nation’s youth:

The trade training centres demonstrate, in part, we have an ear to history and a heart for the future of our young.

And in talking about disability it is clear that people’s quality of life is important to you:

… or working to help lift the quality of life for people with a disability and their carers.

Again you hark to improving the opportunities and lives of the plentiful youth in Chifley:

These issues demand my focus because they stand as challenges to our young and Chifley is a young electorate, with a third of its residents aged 19 or under—the second most ‘youthful’ electorate in our nation. We must seize every opportunity to help them fulfil their promise and potential.

You talk of how you can repay your community:

Both of us committed to giving something back to the areas we have been raised in and are still tied so closely to.

and of providing a better place for all Australians by looking to amend the errors of our past:

While we are brought here as individual representatives, we bear a collective responsibility to national life and fortune. Pressing issues affecting the country bind us in national mission. Looming before us is the challenge of environmental repair, the task of addressing the impact of climate change. Regardless of the accumulated contributions of generations before, we are now called upon to correct the damage done.

With great insight you acknowledge that sometimes important issues are bypassed for political convenience.  You also acknowledge that the people don’t forget when good things happens and by whom (and by corollary, similarly the bad).

We will either take decisions on this matter now or avoid them. In so doing, we will either liberate generations of Australians from a poorer future or consign them to it. On this issue, I am conscious of those who are to follow us. I would hope they would judge us in the way we proudly remember Australian generations of times gone past who said that, ‘We bore sacrifice to ensure that our children’s children could live their lives as richly if not better than us.’

Again you talk of Labor’s desire to improve the nation, being the ones to do it first, and of taking the socially responsible actions:

Growing up I saw how Labor governments of the eighties and nineties appealed to a sense of national purpose to build a better country. We are drawn now to what I would describe as a generational purpose. We cannot be distracted by the notion of waiting for others before committing to action ourselves—seduced to embrace a form of ‘climate change isolationism’, to make us shirk our responsibilities—as if hoping our consciences will be secure in blaming others for our own unwillingness to take up our environmental obligations.

Clearly the theme running through your speech, and through your psyche, is on building and improving the nation, on individual freedoms, community cohesiveness and maximising our collective experience:

I argue that the question of how we organise ourselves to improve society continues to evolve. We are now driven by a new quest to establish a balance between the hunger for individual freedom and the need for us to act collectively. My overarching desire is to ensure our collective actions can help individuals and their communities reap their full potential.

Perhaps the crux of your speech, from my perspective, where you allude to the qualities I would hope every politician brings to public office, that of respect, open-mindedness, vision, humility and humanity:

My fundamental world view rests—at its core—on the notion of balance. I do not just tolerate alternate views; I remain open to them, I learn from and grow from them—and I value differences in our society and in our debates about the future of our society. We should celebrate our different skills and ideas, while realising that at some point we must combine our energies and effort for the sake of community and country.

With succinct clarity you speak of political short-sightedness, of taking the convenient path over the path of greatest merit:

And politicians cannot expect that perpetual electoral victory through short-term, tactical wins at the expense of hard but necessary reform will honour the country we love and work for.

Again, your insight is visionary.  You talk of the ills of fear-mongering, of being courageous, of making sacrifices and again, of enrichment:

Fear is not what should be used to win or run government. It is what we beat back with the courage within government; courage to prove we can be better than who we are. Ultimately, we are all in this journey together. We will make sacrifices together and we will be enriched together.

You talk of the legislature, of civic responsibilities, of suppressing liberties and of balance:

The laws of this land have a big part to play in bringing back some balance. If we all have a stake in the success of our country we should ensure we savour a fair share of that success. In this place, this issue remains a critical concern to me because, with respect, we are not—as some would describe—a ‘market democracy.’ We are a democracy which operates a market economy. We have civic responsibilities and economic priorities. It is worth remembering that in some parts of the world, the hand of the market works one way while another hand suppresses the liberties of those that live and work within it. Again, a concentration on balance should guide the decisions we make in this House.

With great pride you speak of the sacrifices your parents have made to give you and your siblings the best opportunities in life:

Mum and Dad, I dedicate this speech to you, your dreams, your journey, your toil:
… no migrant undertakes the dislocation and sacrifice to reach these shores and set up a new life upon them with any aim other than to provide a better life for their family …

You go on to speak of possibilities and what we can achieve when we aspire for the best in each other:

When we harness all the goodwill and talent across all the corners of this land, from the first owners to the recently arrived, we build one of the greatest countries on the planet.

Again you draw on sagacity, this time from Dame Enid Lyons, in regard to legacy:

I am aware that as I acquit myself in the work I have undertaken for the next three years, so I shall either prejudice or enhance the prospects of those who wish to follow me in public service …”

You talk of responsibility to community, representation and again on improvement and building greatness:

I would hope to acquit myself in the way that any other member would seek to in this place where my faith, and its emphasis on bettering ourselves within an acknowledgement of responsibility to community, will be my companion in my efforts to represent all the residents of the diverse electorate I am honoured to represent, regardless of their background, respectful of their faith and values, without reference to their vote for my party or not, and supporting those efforts designed to build a greater community for our area.

And lastly, in words that I could not write better than you:

In drawing my contribution to a close, I make these final remarks. Life has taught me about the power contained within the black letter of the law, recognising implicitly that these laws may enhance or constrict individual or collective freedoms. Our decisions can and do impact on the lives of others and the way they live their lives. My preference will always be for government to bring in laws that aid individuals in pursuing their endeavours, exercising the greatest breadth of their freedoms, found upon a pre-eminent aim of enhancing the quality of life for communities across the country. The exercise of individual will best occurs within a framework of considered decision making along with accountability and responsibility for individual actions, particularly where there is a potential for impacting on the well being of self and others.

Mr Husic, your speech was good.  I hope you reflect on it’s values frequently, as I am confident they embody your essence.

Just recapping, in your first speech to the nation you spoke of new paradigms, community improvement, betterment, family and love, self-sacrifice, happiness, generational improvement, prospects for the nation’s youth, repaying the community, amending the errors of our past, political convenience and the harm it can wreak, fear-mongering, courage, civic responsibilities, suppressing liberties, parental sacrifice, aspiration for the best, lasting legacies, responsibility to community, and most importantly, of freedoms.

By now you will be wondering why I have led you on this journey.  Let me explain.

Like yourself, I too am the parents of immigrants.  I was born in the same 12 month period as you and so no doubt, we likely have seen a similar experience growing up as Australians.

My parents speak English as their first language and were born in English speaking countries, but their parents and grand-parents came from tiny Eastern European villages.  My parents and their ancestors left many countries – Russia, Poland, Lithuania, England, New Zealand and Rhodesia – often in times of war, or with the spectre of it looming, to give their children the same better life that yours wanted for you.

Many in my family were not so lucky, as it was not just their dreams that went up in smoke.  And others, they escaped the horrors by hiding in forests and living on instinct and adrenalin.

I understand some of my extended family even survived Siberian camps for being political dissidents.  Can you imagine that sort of nightmare, just for daring to speak out against the political views of the day?

I mention this because you and I are the product of survivors, of people who against the odds, gave of themselves at huge personal expense, simply so they could see a better life for their children.

To my point.  Mr Husic, in all of what you have eloquently written, in all of what you stand for, in personal and political life, I ask of you to reflect on this journey and put it in the context of how supporting change to the law to allow any two consenting adults the right to marry each other will be in line with the values you stand for.

I ask you to put aside any prejudices you may hold, and similarly any prejudices the people of Chifley may hold, and simply reflect on the values I have led you through here.  In doing so, think about any sacrifice to the party that may be necessary to achieve a better outcome for the community.  Think about the values your mentor in Chifley instilled in you, of new conditions and of human happiness.

Remember, in your own words, that your preference “will always be for government to bring in laws that aid individuals in pursuing their endeavours, exercising the greatest breadth of their freedoms, found upon a pre-eminent aim of enhancing the quality of life for communities across the country.”

Linked to intolerance of homosexuality is the chilling reality of youth suicide, self-harm and mental health issues.  These are devastating for individuals, families and their communities.

Linked to intolerance of giving equal rights to same-sex couples is homophobia and the devastation that can accompany that in the form of physical and emotional violence perpetrated against those who are confident enough to express their affection for each other in public, whether it be by way of declaration of their relationship, holding hands or any other form of physical display of affection.

On the other side, there is a distinct advantage to the self, to the family and to the community by legislating for equality.  There is the increase in personal well-being, inclusion in society on an equal basis, equality within the family and the community, economic benefits, and so on.

There is also the associated decrease in all the above mentioned negative factors.  In particular, a decrease in the rate of youth suicide in Australia could not come soon enough.

Mr Husic, if you truly are committed to working for the betterment of your community, if you wish to correct a few errors of the past, if you want to give something to those parents who want the best for their children, and if you want to leave a lasting legacy for doing what is good for your community, not just what is good for you or your party, you will stand on the side of equality and put your name to removing all discrimination from the Federal Marriage Act.

Sincerely,

Michael Barnett.


Background article:

`No way’ to gay marriage
LABOR POLLIES GIVE THUMBS DOWN TO BILL

Ben McClellan
Blacktown Advocate, Dec 7 2011; p3

BOTH federal Blacktown Labor MPs will vote against same-sex marriage next year.

After the ALP national conference voted to amend the Marriage Act to support gay marriage on the weekend, Chifley MP Ed Husic and Greenway MP Michelle Rowland told the Advocate they wouldn’t back the bill because their electorates overwhelming opposed it.

Blacktown state MP and NSW Opposition Leader John Robertson, whose 19-year-old son Aidan is homosexual, spoke in favour of gay marriage at the conference.

“I’ve got three kids. I’ve got a son who is gay and I want all my kids to have the same opportunities in life,” Mr Robertson told Channel 7.

Ms Rowland said that while she was opposed to making gay marriage legal she was still committed to ending the practical discrimination that many gay people faced.

She said 85 laws had been amended to remove discrimination in areas such as superannuation, immigration, child and family law.

“This is an issue where many people, including myself, hold deep views either way,” she said.

Mr Husic said the community wasn’t ready for the change.

“Personally I am not opposed, but I have to represent the views of my electorate,” he said.

“The impression I get is the community isn’t ready to embrace the concept.”


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