August 13, 2013
Dear Mr Thomson,
A little over 17 years ago you addressed the Parliament and people of Australia for the first time. Kindly allow me to reflect on a few concepts in your first speech.
Appropriately you thanked those who helped elect you, the people your purpose is to serve. You noted it’s the everyday things that can make the difference:
First, I would like to thank the people of the electorate of Wills for the confidence that they have shown in me by electing me.
The people of Wills have had the opportunity to see me in action as a member of the state parliament for the past seven years and before that as a Coburg councillor. Many have told me that they voted for me because they liked my attention to local work and to ordinary constituent problems, no matter how trivial they may seem. That places on me a responsibility to continue that work, and I place on record here my intention to continue doing just that.
You spoke on the past sufferings of those who chose Australia for their new home, a land where they could be live happier than their forebears and have greater freedoms:
Thirdly, I want to say something about why we are all here—not in this parliament but in this continent. Although Australia is an old continent it is in fact a very young nation. I think the reasons why we are all here tell us something about what our public policy objectives ought to be. So why are we here on this island? We came here because we, our parents or a previous generation came to escape features of our former societies which were intolerable and came here in search of new opportunity.
You spoke of equality and generosity:
Some of us have come in search of social equality, from countries with stifling class systems, countries in which power, wealth and opportunity were concentrated in the hands of a few. So we owe to ourselves a spirit of generosity and compassion towards those who are less well off and a spirit of cooperation between employer and employee. We do not need the dog-eat-dog mentality of America, or Britain’s underclass.
You spoke of freedoms:
Some of us have come in search of democracy and freedom of expression, fleeing totalitarian regimes, military dictatorships and countries in which rigid conformism was the order of the day. So we owe to ourselves freedom of expression, freedom of association and the right to join trade unions, and we also owe to ourselves respect for differing points of view.
You spoke of repression and also of tolerance and respect:
Some of us have come in search of racial and religious tolerance, escaping ethnic conflict and brutal tribal repression. So, finally, and perhaps in the present age of atrocities in Yugoslavia and other parts of Europe, Asia and Africa most importantly, we owe to ourselves the creation of a community based on mutual tolerance, respect and understanding.
Mr Thomson, your first speech is commendable as it shows you have a strong social conscience and that you care about the people of Australia. However it perturbs me that given your values, you do not support equal rights for all Australians. Nearly one year ago, on September 19 2012, you were one of the 98 who voted against marriage equality. Why?
You told us that you care for what your electorate wants. Overwhelmingly they want marriage equality. The 2010 New Ltd Same-Sex Marriage Poll shows 57% of voters in Wills want marriage equality. Together with the 18% of voters who are indifferent, 75% of voters in Wills are not against marriage equality.
You said you care about the ordinary things that matter. For many people, being able to live a dignified existence, in a relationship with the person they love, is very very ordinary. It’s not about winning the Nobel Prize or climbing Mt Everest. It’s about being a person in society, the same as everyone else. Getting married and sharing that experience with your friends and family is pretty darn ordinary if you ask me. Putting a ring on it and having a few photos, that’s ordinary stuff Mr Thomson.
What happened to your concern for equality, for generosity, freedoms, escaping repression, showing tolerance, respect and understanding? I trust you still hold true to those values. But I don’t see you showing them, because Mr Thomson, on September 19 2012 you voted against equality. On that day you showed an absence of generosity, you were unprepared to revoke the repressive legislation restricting the freedoms of all Australians on who they can choose to marry, and you showed an unfortunate lack of tolerance, respect and understanding.
Mr Thomson, my partner Gregory has a sister who lives in your electorate of Wills. She passionately wants to be able to see us get married. I would be surprised if she entertained the very thought of voting for a person who actively denied us the right to get married. 57% of your electorate also want to see people like us be able to get married. Are you so comfortable in your seat that you can afford to casually dismiss the views of the majority of the people you are elected to represent?
September 7 2013 is Judgement Day Mr Thomson. Wouldn’t you rather you were returned to office, especially because you supported equality and freedoms? It’s an easy decision to make and doing so will put you on the right side of history. It’s never too late to say sorry and make amends.