Moving up despite the "death of civilisation" merchants

13 Jun

Quietly and without fanfare, not noted in the subsequent drama of The Night of the Iguana**, the NSW Parliament supported another step on the long road to justice for all humans in the state with the passing of the unexcitingly titled Miscellaneous Acts Amendment (Same Sex Relationships) Bill 2008 earlier this month. Trevor Khan, National Party MLC, was one of those who spoke for the Bill.

This is a most important bill. In June 2007, shortly after entering this place, I was obliged to consider the Cloning and Other Prohibited Practices Amendment Bill 2007. That bill caused me much inner turmoil and, as many will remember, I opposed the legislation. My reason for opposing that legislation was based on the humanist traditions that I choose to espouse. I again seek to use those same humanist principles to explain the position I come to in respect of this bill. To explain my reasoning I refer to some of the affirmations of humanism adopted by the Society for Secular Humanism.

The society’s statement of principles includes the following expressions of belief: A belief in an open and pluralist society in which democracy is the best guarantee of protecting human rights from authoritarian elites and repressive majorities; a concern for securing justice and fairness in society and eliminating discrimination and intolerance; an intention to transcend divisive parochial loyalties based on race, religion, gender, nationality, creed, class, sexual orientation, or ethnicity; a belief in the cultivation of moral excellence; a respect for the right to privacy; a belief in the common moral decencies: altruism, integrity, honesty, truthfulness and responsibility; and, finally, a belief in optimism rather than pessimism, hope rather than despair, learning in the place of dogma, truth instead of ignorance, joy rather than guilt or sin, tolerance in the place of fear, love instead of hatred, compassion over selfishness, beauty instead of ugliness, and reason rather than blind faith or irrationality…

One of the fundamental misconceptions which plagues me is the failure to understand that heterosexual family life in no way gains stature, security and respect by the denigration or refusal to acknowledge same-sex families. The sum social good is in fact reduced, because when a community refuses to recognise and protect the genuine commitment made by its members, the state acts against everybody’s interests.

      The term “family” has a flexible and wide meaning. It is not one fixed in time and is not a term of art. It necessarily and broadly encompasses a description of a unit which has ‘familial characteristics’ In my view it would stultify the necessary progress of family law in this country if society were not to recognise the applicants as a ‘family’ when they offer that which is consistent and parallel with heterosexual families, save for the obviousness of being a same-sex couple. The issue of their homosexuality is, in my view, irrelevant. As Chief Justice Nicholson said:

Sexual orientation is no basis upon which to make assumptions about the quality of an individual’s relationship or parenting capacities of a person. That is why sexual orientation in and of itself, has been held to be an irrelevant matter in disputes about children under the Family Law Act, unless it somehow impinges upon the best interests of a child…

Right on, Trevor! Happy to have been one of your English teachers. 🙂

Unfortunately the political game-playing in Canberra at the moment on another incremental step on the journey towards justice for all human beings in Australia does not excite much joy, though I suspect they will fail in the long run. See LIBERALS BETRAY EQUALITY PLEDGE.

The Opposition will block all 100 same-sex equality amendments until at least September, but a number of Liberal MPs are unhappy with further delays.

It is also understood the Attorney-General has been given advice that the reforms cannot be backdated if the bill isn’t passed by 1 July.

Earlier suggestions of a quick Senate inquiry to clarify the intentions of the superannuation same-sex equality bill could be over quickly were squashed by Liberal leader Brendan Nelson just before it passed the lower house last week.

“This is not a delaying tactic. It is more important that this be done properly, than it be done immediately,” Nelson said.

He raised the potential weakening of the status of marriage in federal law and the inclusion of same-sex couples in a broader category of interdependency as issues that needed further scrutiny by a Senate committee.

“A common example is of two unmarried sisters who decide to live together as a household and do so throughout all of their adult lives,” he said.

“Should they not have the same rights in relation to property, taxation and superannuation as two gay people who decide to do the same in a sexual relationship?”

Interdependent relationships are currently being considered by a House of Representatives committee separately from the equality reforms.

Shadow Attorney-General George Brandis faced the gay community to explain the back-flip on queer radio station Joy Melbourne the next day.

He reaffirmed the bipartisan support for the removal of discrimination but said the superannuation bill and the later omnibus bill, yet to be introduced, needed to be scrutinised together.

He distanced himself from the divisions in the Liberal party and said he would be “piloting these measures through the Senate on the Coalition’s behalf”.

However, he could not guarantee the Opposition would support the backdating of the reforms to 1 July this year, first suggested by Shadow Treasurer Malcolm Turnbull.

Liberal MPs Turnbull, Christopher Pyne, and Petro Georgiou gave unqualified support to the first equality bill without amendment last week.

“With an issue of such importance and magnitude, it would be more unusual if there were not such an inquiry. That said, an inquiry into this bill in particular should be able to be completed before June 30 — an outcome that I would welcome,” Pyne said.

Georgiou even called it a shame the previous Howard government could not have achieved this reform. But a number of Coalition backbenchers were opposed to same-sex relationships receiving the same benefits as married couples. Independent MP Bob Katter equated the reforms to the death of civilisation…

Yeah, right…

dorothy2 Meanwhile a number of events are emerging in and around the Catholic Mardi Gras in July — sorry, World Youth Day. See QUEER ALTERNATIVE TO WYD IN THE WORKS.

Michael Kelly, convenor of the Rainbow Sash and author of Seduced by Grace, an exploration of the gay experience of spirituality, is encouraging members of the gay community, religious and agnostic alike, to take a stand challenging the upcoming World Youth Day…

In the lead up to World Youth Day, Kelly is working with a number of gay and lesbian religious leaders and the Pitt St Church to organise a GLBT event [on 13 July] as an expression of the gay right to a spiritual life, and says the gay people of Sydney should be making their objections to the Catholic Church’s homophobic policies known…

In response to WYD Kelly has been working with Uniting Church ministers, Rev Dorothy McRae-McMahon [right– linked image] and Rev Ian Pearson, as well as former Pentecostal minister Anthony Venn Brown and David Reeder from the Anglican faith to organise a GLBT interfaith gathering on July 13. Held on the eve of WYD, the event will feature gay and lesbian traditions from the various Christian traditions speaking of their experiences and starting an open dialogue with a panel of young people…

I might add that having heard Dorothy on the subject I know she sees it as an opportunity to claim space, to assert a presence, not an opportunity to confront or attack, a viewpoint somewhat different perhaps from the impression given in that report from the Sydney Star Observer.


** This saga goes on. John Della Bosca has now been stood aside. Some posts worth considering though:–

Trevor Cook on 11 June:

First, a disclaimer, I have known John Della Bosca for 34 years and his wife Belinda Neal for 25 years. I am on friendly terms with both of them and always have been. Second, I’m not going to link to stuff. If you want to read the background, the reportage and the commentary from all the usual columnists you can easily google it. (I should also say that I often take my mum to Iguana’s for lunch on Sundays, I’ve always found it very pleasant.)…

Power couple politics NSW style and the alleged disciplinary double standard on Larvatus Prodeo.

I hope you all enjoy The Night of the Iguana in the VodPod on the front page; after all, it is Tennessee Williams, which links to the main theme of the post. 😉

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7 responses to “Moving up despite the "death of civilisation" merchants

  1. marcellous

    June 14, 2008 at 11:53 pm

    Here’s a funny one spotted today. The Commonwealth does not recognize same sex de facto relationships (with some exceptions for employee entitlements to do with relocation and the like) but you can’t sign as a “guarantor” (actually, just one who vouches for someone’s identity) for a passport application if you are in a de facto relationship with the applicant, including a same sex de facto relationship. Hypocrites!

  2. Trevor Khan

    June 30, 2008 at 4:49 pm


    I don’t know if you will get this, but I have to say it was an honour to give the speech.


  3. ninglun

    July 1, 2008 at 12:22 pm

    Clearly I did get it… 🙂 Excellent speech, Trevor.

  4. Trevor Khan

    July 1, 2008 at 6:15 pm


    I am flattered by the praise but I have to say the speeches given by a number of others surpassed mine. Amongst those were my friends on the Coalition side, Robyn Parker, and Melinda Pavey, and on the Government side, Helen Westwood and Penny Sharpe. Duncan Gay, my leader in the Upper House gave conditional support for the Bill, he too spoke well.

    It was truly an emotional evening, so much so that a few of us (from both sides of the House) stayed up talking until 5.00 the following morning. A lot of tears were shed as well as great camaraderie shared.

    It just shows how far things have progressed when, in both the Upper and Lower Houses, the majority of Coalition members voted for the Bill.

    I should point out that we were given a conscience vote, the Government members were not.

    And where to from here? Well, I will take a quote from George Bernard Shaw (which formed part of the Funeral oration given by Edward Kennedy for his brother Robert):

    “Some men see things as they are and say ‘Why?’ I dream things that never were and say, ‘Why not?'”

    Neil, I think I first read this quote when you were teaching me all those years ago.


  5. ninglun

    July 1, 2008 at 7:49 pm

    Hmm, really? I don’t remember that… 😉 I will accept it though.

    Also, your account of NSW Parliamentary Debate really is rather different from the bits we see highlighted in the media — all that Iguanagate stuff etc etc…

    I guess that should be encouraging, and that very often the most significant things don’t rate in the nightly news soapie — sorry, news program…

  6. Trevor Khan

    July 1, 2008 at 9:32 pm


    Your cynicism is clouding your judgement. There is a true bipartisanship on some issues.

    Added to that is a realisation that there is a diversity of views that makes the definition of people by reference to their party allegiances as irrelevant.

    I think one of the problems is that so much of our politics is not controlled by the parliament, rather by the executive…parliamentarians are forced to support (or oppose) positions because the executive develops the “position” and presents it as a fait accompli.

    Now is not the time to discuss the inner workings of government, but I am left with the view that there are many good people on both sides of politcs dragged along by the maelstrom.


  7. ninglun

    July 1, 2008 at 9:51 pm

    What I was being cynical about really is the script so much media commentary follows, favouring drama — for which you need a plot, characters, and conflict — and the more bizarre aspects of the political game. And a theatre. The Bear Pit. 😉 Of course at the federal level Question Time has tended to slot itself into such a scheme only too well.

    What you demonstrate is the work that goes on all the time underneath all that, and when it is going well it isn’t newsworthy, so tends never to attract attention.

    Perhaps my three to five regular readers now know better, thanks to you, Trevor.

    By the way, in this thread I am just thinking aloud at something of a tangent, not pontificating (I hope) or making really considered judgments. Even so, I hope the thread stimulates a bit of thought, and you have certainly helped.

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