A letter to Greg Hunt

August 3, 2013

Dear Mr Hunt,

A decade and a bit ago, on a Monday probably just after lunch, you gave your first speech to the Parliament and people of Australia.

It opened with fond words of people who had made a significant impact on you, people important to you in your community, your friends.

It is where I was born, it is where I was raised and it is where I have returned. What I have rediscovered is that Flinders is not the story of geography, beautiful as it is; it is the story of people, great people, many of whom have touched my life and have taught me the true meaning of community spirit—people whom I call friends.

 You expressed a concern for youth:

… all about providing opportunities for our young.

And spoke of meeting common challenges:

One of our guiding values must be compassion, and the heart of compassion is the expansion of people’s liberty

You drew on the wisdom of Menzies and his vision for the betterment of society:

There is absolutely no compassion in a system which, as Menzies described it, `discourages ambition, envies success and distrusts independent thought’.

You spoke of freedom, opportunity, dreams, liberty and love:

So the expansion of people’s liberty is about creating both opportunity and the capacity to exercise that opportunity. With that liberty comes aspiration: the capacity to dream and to hope. And hope is arguably the greatest of all freedoms. That is why William Hazlitt said, `The love of liberty is the love of others.’

You told us what you stand for:

I am for liberalism—clearly, simply, unequivocally.

and its benefits:

liberalism leads to greater fairness …

You continued to explain about how to build a fairer society, about not clinging to the past, about having an open mind:

… we have to have an open society. We have to believe in our capacity to reform, to adapt and to embrace the future, not to cling to outmoded ideas and structures.

With pride you told us again about the value of community to you and about representing the whole community:

I have been granted the opportunity to serve in this chamber by the grace of the electors of Flinders. I thank them for their trust and I pledge to serve as a representative for the whole community.

Then you brought together your ideals and aspirations powerfully and eloquently:

In weaving their stories together, the goal is hope, the vision is an open society and the path is along policies that encourage liberty. If I can assist my constituents and the wider community towards those ends then that will be enough.

Mr Hunt, I admire your words.  And like you, I care about the people of Flinders, the people of Victoria and the people of Australia.  I care about the welfare of our youth, deeply.  I care about the happiness of our community, their ability to succeed in their hopes and aspirations and about their liberty.  Like you, I care.

And yet, I am confused.  I am confused because in all of the care you have for the welfare of your community, for their hopes and aspirations, for their liberty and for fairness, you have told us that you don’t believe all the people in Flinders and wider should enjoy the same freedoms and liberties.  In short, you told us not quite a year ago that you believe some people should be treated differently:

My view, and I have said this before so it’s not a new position it’s what I’ve held for a long while, is that the right step at some stage will be civil unions.  I think that will deal with the concerns of those who have a belief that within the church they have a deep commitment to the notion of marriage and with equality in real terms in terms of rights. So my view is that the likely course of action, and one which I would support, is civil unions.

You told us that some people in Flinders shouldn’t be able to enjoy the same liberties as the rest.  I don’t quite see the fairness here.  Nor do I see how these people can share in the same hopes and dreams as everyone else.  And with a lesser liberty, they have a lesser ability to express their love.

In 2010 the News Ltd Same-Sex Marriage Poll told us 45% of your constituents supported same-sex marriage and that 16% didn’t care about the issue.  What that means is 61% of voters in your electorate are not opposed to same-sex marriage.

Mr Hunt, your words of 2002 are good.  Your words a decade later, not so much.  Have you forgotten about your friends in Flinders, the community and its youth that was so important to you that day, a bit after lunch, when you entered Parliament?

Just yesterday you hosted a Youth Mental Health Forum at Dromana Secondary College with Professor Patrick McGorry.  You said:

“youth suicide is way too high in Australia and we want to help young people understand there is help available when dealing with personal issues.”

Greg Hunt hosting a Youth Mental Health Forum at Dromana Secondary College with Professor Patrick McGorry

Mr Hunt, some of these youth you talk about who are killing themselves are doing so in part because society tells them they are not equal, that they are not the same, that they are not able to celebrate their love the same as their siblings, their friends and their family.

Mr Hunt, your views on marriage equality, the views that tell young gay boys and girls, transgender and intersex youth, that they should be satisfied with civil unions and should not be allowed to get married, are the very views that lower their self-esteem, increase their rates of mental-health issues and ultimately drive them to take their lives.  If you don’t believe me, ask the experts.

Please Mr Hunt, show the people of Flinders, the people of Victoria and the people of Australia that all yours words are genuine and that you do care.  The simplest and most effective way you can do this is by supporting marriage equality.

Sincerely,

Michael Barnett
Ashwood, Victoria

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