Marriage Equality - 46th ALP National Conference 2011
Senator John Faulkner
Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre, Darling Harbour
3 December 2011
Delegates, I speak in support of the Barr/Wong amendment and in support of marriage equality.
Human rights can never be at the mercy of individual opinions or individual prejudices.
They are not privileges to be extended to one person and denied to another according to the winds of popular opinion or the whims of the government of the day.
They are inherent in each and every one of us, quite simply because we are human.
It is not for governments to grant human rights, but to recognise and protect them.
And it is not for any of us to approve of human rights – only to choose whether to respect or to ignore them.
Today, the Australian Labor Party faces such a choice.
Will it continue to be our platform to deny the rights of literally hundreds and hundreds of thousands of Australians because of the gender of their partner? Will we continue to refuse to accept the full citizenship, the full humanity, of our fellow Australians simply because of who they chose to share their lives with?
Or will we rise to the great traditions of our Party, the Party of reform, the Party of inclusion, the Party of progress, and discard the limitations and the bigotry of the last century?
Delegates, those of you who want a conscience vote on this question need to consider this. When Parliamentarians vote on whether or not our country is going to war – a life and death issue for thousands of our citizens and for the nation as a whole – there is no conscience vote.
There is no entitlement for a pacifist to vote with his or her conscience against sending young Australians overseas to fight and to die for their country.
Not even when the vote was to compel young men to war through conscription.
Delegates, we all accept this is how our party works, but we are asked to extend just such an entitlement to those whose consciences are troubled by who other Australian adults choose to marry.
I take the view that a conscience vote on human rights is not conscionable.
And as far as electoral impact is concerned, I do not believe those opposed to this change can hide behind electoral arithmetic.
The climate in the community, like the climate in the Party has changed on this issue.
Delegates, our draft platform in this chapter we are debating states that “all Australians should have the opportunity … to participate fully in family and community life.”
It states that we “oppose all attempts to divide Australians by pandering to prejudice”.
It declares that “we have always stood for equality”.
Delegates, do so again today.