I support marriage equality.
For me, it’s a simple matter of having equal rights before the law. We say that all of us are equal regardless of sexual orientation, but a significant inequality exists in the law. Which means until we fix that, we’re simply lying.
It may surprise many of you to learn that we once came very close to having marriage equality in this country, and it was some time ago. By 2004, various countries (notably the UK) had legalised same-sex marriage through a variety of means. It was pointed out that our marriage law (Marriage Act 1961) did not actually define marriage at all, and that there was a potential for marriage equality to spring fully formed from within the structure of our existing laws.
The government at the time felt this to be unacceptable and an amendment was proposed by the then Attorney General Philip Ruddock. A bit from an exhortation later in the bill was copied and pasted into the top as a definition. It contained the key words “man” and “woman” and was described by the Hon Alastair Nicholson, former Chief Justice of the Family Court of Australia, as “one of the most unfortunate pieces of legislation that has ever been passed by the Australian Parliament”.
I agree with him. There is simply no logical reason to oppose marriage equality. So, that being said, the only reasonable course is to support it.
[Image Ludovic Bertron]
Let me kick off by saying that I am no kind of protectionist. I firmly believe that foreign trade is the basis of the wealth of nations in general, and of the wealth of Australia in particular. It is one of the core duties of government to encourage and facilitate trade as far as is consistent with the national interest.
And there’s the nub. As far as is consistent with the national interest. Not the party interest, or the donor interest – the national interest.
And with this national focus in mind, we can see that the idea of Australian made and owned goes far beyond our individual choices in the supermarket. It has to do with how we regulate the sale of key assets, how we juggle the need to encourage foreign investment with the duty to control foreign ownership, how we reconcile competing demands between jobs growth, national security and wealth creation and how we regulate the spending of one of the biggest consumers in the country – the government.
It’s my firm belief that the following ideas are neither regressive nor radical. They’re just sensible.
- Australian government procurement should prioritize tenders from Australian companies, where available.
- The sale of key assets to foreign governments and corporations should be strictly controlled both by law and by other measures that make it more profitable and attractive to sell within Australia.
- The sale of large government assets in the pursuit of short term capital gain is generally a terrible idea, especially if we’re selling those assets overseas.
- The current rush to sell off our ports, dairies, mines and infrastructure is underpinned by ideology far more than it is by economics, and is setting our feet firmly on the road to significant future pain.
On a smaller but no less important scale, Australian businesses selling good quality products at reasonable prices should not have to compete with foreign conglomerates dumping shonky goods onto our markets at prices well below the benchmark. With a market as relatively small as ours, product dumping is a real threat, and it is the government’s job to be alert to it. It can be of little consolation to the failed Australian business to know that it was edged out of the market in order to sweeten a deal with a major party donor’s multinational company.
I believe in the free market. I really do. But what I do not have is a cultish belief in the mystical ability of laissez faire capitalism to self-level in a way that is automatically equitable.
Or, to put it another way – free markets are not automatically fair markets, and it’s government’s job to ensure that they are both.
Australia is a diverse and multi-faceted society. This gets said so often that it’s become something of a cliche, but sometimes cliches are repeated not because they’re meaningless, but because they’re true.
Woven into the story of Australia are the lives, hopes and histories of people from all over the globe. Whether it’s the long Dreaming of our first peoples, the sufferings and aspirations of the convicts and their masters or the myriad stories of hope and renewal originating from East and South Asia, pre and post-war Europe or South East Asia, the common thread is that Australia isn’t so much a unitary culture as it is an ongoing project of inclusion and acceptance.
This project hasn’t always gone particularly well. The people of the First Nations, for example, would attest to that. What we see over time, however, is that Australia is at its best not when it ignores, suppresses or resists difference, but when it actively celebrates it.
I think that this is because the thing above all others that makes Australia strong is not an ethnicity, a cultural identity or a political philosophy – it’s an idea. The idea that within our borders lies a place for everyone, regardless of their colour, their faith, their creed – just buy into that central Australian idea of inclusiveness and equality, and there will always be room to carve out a life here.
So it follows that I think that government should reflect the true nature of the nation. It matters, therefore, that same-sex couples are granted equal rights before the law, that working parents have their way eased through more effective workplace initiatives, that our indigenous peoples are recognized and supported – in short, I don’t think it’s possible to be a true representative of the Australian people without believing in equal rights and true freedom of choice for all, regardless of who we are or where we originally come from.
Warringah has always been a unique and independent part of Sydney. With its own distinct culture and environment, our sunny beaches, verdant northern reaches and wide open spaces have been reflected in our values of generosity, openness and optimism.
We believe that the majority of the people of Warringah want to be part of a country that is compassionate, inclusive and truly democratic. We believe that the people of Warringah are far more interested in the sensible and efficient running of the nation than they are in being sold a political ideology. We believe that the people of Warringah want a member who understands that our vision of the future is driven by aspiration rather than anxiety, and common sense rather than fear.
Party politics has overtaken these ideas, leaving the community behind. What matters to us has essentially been hijacked by an agenda that is determined without real reference to our community. I want to be an independent voice for Warringah at a Federal level. The people of Warringah deserve a member who will focus on the issues that matter to them, from transport to housing affordability to childcare, amongst others.
I want to implement a sensible, non-partisan approach that works in the best interests of the people who actually live in this community. I firmly believe that policy makers should be embedded in same world as those for whom they are making policy.
The current government has slashed funding for major research initiatives in both the scientific and medical fields. Australia was once regarded as a nation of innovators and inventors, but an ill-judged change in priorities has seen many of our finest minds heading overseas. We have to take a long-term view when it comes to R&D, rather than seeing budgets in this area as targets of opportunity for times when public belt-tightening is politically fashionable.
Pure and applied research may often seem impractical, but the constant progress of scientific and medical discovery is an essential part of being ready for an uncertain and unpredictable future. Besides the many known problems that innovation and research has solved or is in the process of solving, it has been demonstrated again and again that a nation that invests in knowledge and discovery is a nation that is better defended against the unknown and unknowable problems of the future.
As for the known problems, it would be the height of silliness to choke off funding to alternative energy research given the current concerns about the environment, as well as the geostrategic configuration of the world in which we live.
Health and medical funding have also become casualties of short-sighted fiscal policies, which is especially sad in an area where we were once world pioneers.
Our slow and moribund attitude to technological development has alienated some of our best and brightest technology innovators. Faced with a lack of funding and an institutionalised lack of understanding, we have seen an increasing number of tech startups seeking friendlier conditions offshore.
Technological research and development should be focused into areas that have direct benefits for Australia, and the fruits of that research is best placed to benefit Australia when it is home-grown.
We need to start putting money back into Australian brain power so that we become one of the best environments in which to create. This will mean that we will be exporting great ideas, resources and innovative design to the whole world, and to the direct advantage of Australia and its people.
There is a growing drug problem on the Northern Beaches. Frontline medical workers and police are increasingly overstretched by the rise in drug arrests and drug related crime over the last few years.
Current preventative and treatment programs are demonstrably ineffective – a good example is the 80% relapse rate for people who attend drug rehabilitation programs. Apart from the personal tragedy that is involved with ruined lives and futures, the financial and social consequences of drug and alcohol addiction are enormous.
We need better support and community outreach programmes for the victims of drug and alcohol abuse, and we need to recognise that these victims include the users themselves. We can no longer afford to treat substance abuse as a purely criminal matter, and nor can we consider the need to help affected people as a burden on the state. We need to see addiction and abuse prevention and treatment as an investment in our future. Every person we fail to save represents the loss of a potentially productive member of our society, as well as a devastating loss to a single network of family and friends.
Australia should be a world leader in mental health care and it is lamentable that we are not. We must therefore look across the seas to Scandinavia, Canada and Portugal, where deeply compassionate, empathic, but most importantly, effective programmes have successfully re-integrated some of their most disaffected citizens back into the community.
There is also an urgent need to address the epidemic of suicide. I think we need a broader and more intelligent approach, looking not just at crisis intervention and prevention, but also developing an understanding of the myriad causes and factors involved. The cost in precious Australian lives is simply unacceptable from a moral, emotional and pragmatic point of view.
Former ACCC chairman and mental health advocate Allan Fels has stated that mental health is an “economic issue,” and that there is a direct relationship between the efficacy of mental health care and GDP. Mental health is one of those rare opportunities to simultaneously address needs that are moral, emotional and pragmatic – an opportunity that I believe we can do a better job of taking up.
Maintaining and sustaining the beauty and richness found in nature on the Northern Beaches is very important to the people of Warringah. Similarly, looking at viable, environmentally sensitive and cost-effective ways of generating power is undeniably a priority.
We reject the positions of extremists on both sides of the political debate surrounding environmental protection and climate change. Whether or not people believe in anthropogenic climate change (and I do), there are no good reasons for resisting changes that give us cleaner air and water, that help to diversify and therefore secure our energy future and that protect our precious natural heritage from exploitation and destruction. I believe that the ideology on one side unnecessarily alarms and intimidates business and industry, and that the ideological position on the other side hamstrings efforts to safeguard our future.
It’s worth noting that a significant part of Warringah is coastal. This means that safeguarding our environment is vital in terms of protecting the coastal population, and also the infrastructure that connects parts of our community to the rest of Sydney, the nation and the world.
As for energy – once again it really doesn’t matter how people feel about fossil fuels, the fact of the matter is that they’re a finite resource and that their excessive use damages our environment. Regardless of innovations in extraction, there is no getting away from the fact that at some point we are going to run out of coal and oil. To stubbornly persist in an almost total dependence on these resources while simultaneously failing to encourage the development of alternative sources of energy strikes me as being questionably sane.
We believe in a common-sense, practical doctrine of sustainable use, balancing the need to live in and use our environment with our moral duty to pass on to our children a world that is not only fit for habitation, but at least as pleasant to live in as the one that exists now.