August 14 2013
Dear Mr Neumann,
Some five and a half years ago you gave your first speech to Parliament. It started with your thanks to the people of Blair for placing their trust in you, a representative of the Labor party:
Mr Speaker, it is an honour to stand here today and speak in this chamber as the first ever Labor member for Blair. I am keenly aware of the trust, duty and obligation bestowed upon me by the people of Blair. They voted decisively for change on 24 November, delivering a 10.2 per cent swing to Labor. With emphatic purpose they chose a better way. They voted not for fear and pessimism but for hope and optimism. They voted not for the past but for the future.
You spoke to fresh beginnings, and looking forward, not backward. You also spoke of your Christian identity, but to maintaining a secular government:
I respect those who hold views which may differ from my own, and I hold firmly—in a good Baptist tradition—to the separation of church and state.
You told us what you believe, of equality and civil liberties:
What do I believe? I believe in reconciliation with our Indigenous peoples. I believe in a republic with an Australian head of state. I believe in multiculturalism. I believe in equal rights for women. I believe in civil liberties. I believe that the rights of the Australian people should be protected by a bill of rights. I believe the law must be utilitarian. I believe the law must help, not hurt.
You spoke of doing more to help people:
I believe in a pragmatic, progressive Labor Party dedicated to practical policies to help people …
and you spoke of working hard, doing more, serving the people and being an upstanding Labor politician:
I have come here to work. I have come here to make a difference. I have come here to make change. I have come here to advocate for the causes in which I believe. I have come here to represent my local community. I have come here to deliver for the people of Blair. I have come here to serve and honour the greatest political institution in this land: the Australian Labor Party.
Mr Neumann, your words impress. More should share these values. However I am troubled because as good as it is to hear what you said to the people in 2008, your subsequent actions disappoint. You see, in 2012 you were one of the 98 against marriage equality and yesterday you reiterated your opposition.
In 2012 the News Ltd Poll on Same-Sex Marriage reported a 44% level of support in Blair, 37% against and 19% indifferent. That’s 63% not opposed. Yet you claim your polling on same-sex marriage found 84% against and 16% in favour. Your polling is in stark contrast to the New Ltd Poll and various polls by Galaxy.
Mr Neumann, where is the hope and optimism, the better future, for the 44% of your electorate who want equal marriage laws for themselves, their children, their friends and their families? Where is the equality, respect and the civil liberties in voting against marriage equality? How are you helping people by taking a stance that is rooted in the past, not the future? And please, tell me, how is this stance supporting a secular perspective, where the church is kept out of government?
Lastly, I ask you, how is upholding a law that hurts people, consistent with your values of supporting laws that help, not hurt?
Mr Neumann, sadly you have not kept your promise to the people of Blair and the people of Australia. You have also betrayed yourself, and that must be a hard pill to swallow. I ask you to reflect on your values, look to the promises you made and the values you claim to uphold, and ask yourself how voting against marriage equality is a consistent position to take, most especially when it is not a value of the Labor Party.