From: Michael Barnett
Date: 17 July 2015 at 13:33
Subject: An urgent message about the mental health of youth in Hume
To: “Angus Taylor (MP for Hume)” <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Dear Mr Taylor,
I wish to convey to you an important concern of mine regarding the mental health of young people in Hume.
First though, I would first like to reflect on your maiden speech to Parliament in December 2013.
In opening, you reminded us that you were representing your electorate:
Mr TAYLOR (Hume) (16:40): I rise with great pride on behalf of the people of the electorate of Hume.
You then described the diversity of Hume and that for the most part the people wanted the government not to dictate how they lived their lives:
My constituents range from ultra-progressives, particularly close to Canberra, right through to hardcore conservatives. But in the middle is a great swathe of people who are fairly moderate and mostly tolerant and who want government to get off their backs so that they can get on with their lives.
Of your grandfather, you spoke of him in the highest regard, how he judged people on their actions, not on who they were.
My grandfather treated every single person with whom he came into contact, from humble truck drivers to senior engineers, with equal dignity and respect. He abhorred snobbery and judged people on character and conduct, not rank.
You told us economics was your passion at university and how you saw the discipline was vital to a functioning society:
At the University of Sydney I found law interesting and rigorous, but it never pushed my buttons like economics. Economics is about making smarter use of limited resources to make people better off. It shapes history and society at every level. Good economics is the key to good government, job creation and funding for world-class schools, health services, roads, railways and broadband networks.
You also told us you learnt how to get to the nub of the issue:
I learnt to think strategically, to focus on the two or three things that really matter.
You spoke of taking on new ideas, putting a stop to harmful ideology and embracing authentic education:
Meanwhile, we must embrace innovation from all over the globe,… We need to get smart, stop the ideological warfare and focus on great teaching.
You told us there are those who need our help the most:
I want to know that we will look after our most vulnerable…
Again, you reminded us whose best interests you are here to represent, namely the people of Hume:
And in this place I will back the parliament over the executive and the judiciary, because it is through this parliament that each of us here is accountable to our constituents.
In closing, you told us purpose of you being in public office was to make society a better place:
Some people say politics is about power. I do not agree. It should be about leadership, service and making an enduring difference to the lives of others. I hope the work I do in this place makes a real difference and will one day make my children proud. Thank you.
In October 2014 you addressed Parliament on the important topic of suicide. You spoke of how it greatly impacted young people in particular and how the community was working hard to reduce risk factors:
In the Goulburn area, in my electorate of Hume, suicide rates are disturbingly high, particularly amongst young people. Preventing further suicides is a goal motivating many local families, a number who have already lost loved ones to suicide. In 2003 a Goulburn suicide working group was formed to look at positive ways to address the issues and to target risk-taking behaviours.
You reiterated it’s our youth it affects the most and that we must embrace innovation (a value you spoke of in your first speech) to address it:
Three-quarters of all mental illness manifests itself in people under 25. The links between mental illness, depression and suicide are well known and well documented so, as a caring community, we have a duty to continue finding new and better ways to raise awareness about the risks of suicide.
Mr Taylor, I come to the purpose of my letter to you. I am equally concerned about the welfare of young Australians and how we can do our best to mitigate risk factors contributing to poor mental health. The inescapable reality is that a percentage of youth in Hume will be same-sex attracted and/or gender-diverse. There is an understood link between poor mental health outcomes for these people and any discrimination they face:
Same-sex attracted Australians are more likely to experience below-average health outcomes including higher levels of depression, due to this prejudice and discrimination. The statistics are particularly alarming for younger and newly-identifying LGBTI people who have consistently higher rates of drug and alcohol abuse, homelessness, early school leaving, conflict with peers and parents and suicide ideation, all directly related to the discrimination and prejudice they experience.[v]
In September 2012 you campaigned against reform to marriage:
When the Post contacted his preferred successor, Liberal candidate for Hume Angus Taylor, he said he would also strive to keep the status-quo.
He didn’t believe the Hume community was “ready” for it and wouldn’t be “any time soon”.
“Social change is slow, and although the proponents of gay marriage are many and their voices are strong, our community is crying out for many things ahead of this,” Mr Taylor said.
“I know some will say that I should show leadership on these sorts of issues, but I will focus my leadership on issues that are less symbolic, and more practical.
“I have sympathy for both sides of this debate, and I understand the indignation that some gay couples feel about this.
“I equally understand the indignation of people who are seriously opposed to gay marriage.
However, I will not be a crusader in driving this kind of change.”
You told us in your first speech in 2013 of your electorate: “in the middle is a great swathe of people who are fairly moderate and mostly tolerant and who want government to get off their backs …” Are these not the majority of the people in Hume, the ones who want the government not to dictate who can marry whom, “… so that they can get on with their lives.”?
You may want to uphold the status quo on marriage, but you’ve told us to don’t want to uphold the status quo on youth suicide. You told us you don’t want to be a crusader on marriage equality, but you told us in your 2014 speech you were a crusader for getting a Headspace centre in Goulburn.
If you want to reduce the rate of youth suicide in Hume, if you want to mitigate the risk factors, you need to employ your strategic thinking and focus on the issues that really matter. You need to be innovative, look to those other places around the globe and see what other enlightened countries are doing and have done. Maintaining the status quo on marriage is far from innovative, is driven by that ideological warfare you want to put a halt to, and is just not smart.
You say you have sympathy for those denied the right to get married, but in upholding the status quo, unlike your grandfather, you are not treating them with equal dignity and respect. You say you also have sympathy for those who do have the right to get married, but they will not lose any civil rights if you support marriage equality. As a politician representing the best interests of your electorate, giving people more rights is not something you should ever back away from.
You claimed the focus of getting into office would be on less symbolic, more practical leadership issues. Supporting an initiative such as marriage equality, known to reduce risk factors leading to poor mental health, is one such practical issue you can show leadership on. It doesn’t require funding and it will actually reduce burdens on society.
Marriage equality also has significant economic benefits. You said economics is about making smarter use of limited resources to make people better off. It’s a no-brainer, Mr Taylor. You would have to be a hypocrite to go against marriage equality, simply knowing it brings economic advantage. You said good economics is the key to good government. I put it to you that bad economics is the key to bad government. You cannot say with hand on heart you are undertaking good government while you are willingly limiting economic potential.
Are you looking after the most vulnerable, those innocent same-sex attracted and gender diverse youth, when you tell them the status quo is satisfactory? These young people, maybe your children, cannot have maximum hope for their future, hope to celebrate life the same as their peers, if you do not support their right to be equal under the law in society.
You told us politics is about making an enduring difference to the lives of others. You also told us you hope the work you do makes a real difference. You also want to one day make your children proud. If you support marriage equality you will make that enduring difference to the lives of others. It will make a real difference. It will also make your children especially proud, given research shows the vast number of young people support marriage equality. Do not be an embarrassing father to them when they see their father shamefully vote against equality.
You have the power to make a difference. Cross the floor if necessary. Stand up for your values. Honour your grandfather’s memory. Make your children proud. Tell the parents of those suicide victims that you will do whatever it takes to make sure all children of Hume have fewer reasons to want to take their lives, even if the decisions are unpopular with some.