Same Sex Marriage

 Mr HAWKE (Mitchell) (9:30 PM) —This week the member for Melbourne moved a motion in relation to gay marriage which has received widespread coverage throughout Australia. I thought it timely to put on the record on behalf of my constituents some of my thoughts and also my early consultations in relation to this matter. I want to start by expressing that I do not hold a view that people should not be treated equally under the law and in relation to their financial arrangements or in relation to their relationship outcomes by the Commonwealth government. However, I think that there are those institutions in our society today which have formed the bedrock of our success as a nation.


My electorate of Mitchell has the highest number of couples with dependent children of any electorate in Australia today. I can tell you that it is a very successful formula to have married couples with children living in communities in a way that is for the purpose of bringing up children. It does lead to a great flavour in my suburbs for people raising their children. It is the case that the coalition believes that marriage is between a man and a woman. It sounds obvious, but it always has been. I think that these attempts to alter the definition of marriage or to implement radical change to this important construct at such a time in our national debate are ill thought out and unhelpful.


There is the idea that we need to achieve equality. We are not a society of equality. We are not a society that seeks complete equality for all of our citizens. It is not a goal that we will ever achieve and it is not a goal that I believe is worthwhile. We certainly seek equal opportunity. We certainly seek the equal opportunity for every citizen to gain what they can from our society in a free and unimpeded way. However, there are those constructs and important institutions that provide a platform for our stable society. Marriage is one of those. Indeed, while it is the case that many marriages today end in failure and an increasing rate of those marriages are not successful, it is not the case that there is a powerful or persuasive argument for radical change to such an important institution.


Marriage has been one of the foundational institutions of our society, especially for the bringing up of children. There is nothing that I have heard in this debate that has been brought forward to alter that very important view. This is not a view about financial entitlement. This is not an argument about people accessing rights that they are entitled to. This is about an institution which has always existed under a certain definition which some people are now seeking to alter and to access for their own purposes.


However, I think there is an important role for marriage to play. It is something that I want to defend. Family, I believe, is the most important institution in our society. Families take different shapes and they have different forms. Different religions and cultures have always come to the conclusion that the family is one of those bedrock institutions. Our society in Australia today is built on the institution of heterosexual marriage between a man and a woman.


That does not mean that there is not a case to be made for civil unions. It does not mean that there is not a case for other forms of partnerships or relationships to be recognised by the government. In fact, that is a worthy objective. It is something that would see the support of many members in this place in order to move with the times. However, I can say from the consultations in my electorate so far that I have received much correspondence greatly concerned about the institution of marriage and redefining it in a way that would alter its basic substance and composition and ultimately lead to it changing in a way that would have a radical effect on our society.


It is also the case in New South Wales that the government recently passed a law to allow for gay adoption. This is another unusual and radical move in the view of many when it is almost impossible for loving couples, men and women seeking to adopt children, to obtain an adoption today, which is of grave concern. By saying, ‘Now we want to allow gay adoption without having gay marriage,’ we certainly are proceeding down a path of radical change to the composition of our society without much thought and in a way that does not seem to be well supported by any evidence or any view that this will improve the quality of outcomes for children or the family unit.


In concluding I want to say to the member for Melbourne that he does not need to move a motion to tell us to consult, because the people of Australia are consulting with us. They are communicating their view and, from the electorate of Mitchell, they are saying to me that marriage is an important institution. It is a traditional institution between a man and a woman, and a radical alteration is not required at this time.