Valedictory speeches give an all-too-rare glimpse of the humanity of our parliamentarians.
If someone is giving one, it means they have either lost an election or have achieved the holy grail of politics – retiring at a time of one’s choosing.
These speeches are often inspirational and nostalgic but always emotional.
The Parliament is like a giant boarding school. When people leave, everyone notices.
Last week I wrote about outgoing Queensland Nationals Senator Ron Boswell’s valedictory speech.
With the Senate changing from July 1, the past week has seen more speeches, mostly by Labor Senators.
Valedictories shine light into the soul of parliamentarians and showcase what is good about our system of government.
Family, staff and comcar drivers are all thanked, sometimes through choking voices and watered eyes.
After 18 years in the Senate, the President John Hogg, also of Queensland, made a statement about his time in politics.
The Labor veteran has stood firm on many issues of concern to the Christian constituency and singled some of these out in his speech.
“The difficult issues go to the issue of conscience. The hardest thing that I believe we all as members of parliament deal with is our conscience. We get some major challenges indeed. I look back on some of the issues that I have been asked to think about, vote about and speak about: euthanasia; stem cell research; cloning; RU486; same-sex marriage. My views are not necessarily shared on those issues by every other senator in this place or even some but, having a diversity of views is healthy. When those issues and their like are part of your DNA, you cannot expect people to walk away from their conscience. People—and I do not care what side of politics they are on—who have a view different to me are entitled to it. That is a fundamental of our system
Senator Hogg’s words are a subtle but important appeal not to allow political correctness to marginalise and silence people who have these views.
One Senator whose views are polar opposite to Senator Hogg’s is defeated Labor Senator Louise Pratt from Western Australia.
With her partner, Aram Hosie (who identifies as transgender), in the public gallery, Senator Pratt used her speech
to promote redefining marriage and the denial of human rights to the unborn.
“I support the end of discrimination in the Marriage Act – not because it affects me, although it does affect me, but because equal rights for all Australians has always been a touchstone for me, in all aspects of my political involvement. I can assure you that that will remain the case in the future. More than 65 per cent of Australians agree with me. If this parliament truly reflected the views of those who elect us, marriage equality would be a reality.“I support the right of women to make their own reproductive choices and not have government make those choices for them – and 80 per cent of Australians agree with me. I have been equally opposed to laws that force women to bear children when they do not want to and laws intended to prevent women from bearing children when they wish to... Laws were finally changed in Victoria in 2010, finally giving women like me, regardless of their marital status, regardless of the gender of our partners or whether we have partners at all, access to the same legal rights to treatment as married women in this country. Despite attempts to characterise views such as mine as radical, every piece of research in this country demonstrates that these views are shared by a majority of Australians. They are mainstream views, and it is those who deny them that are the extremists in our country
.” (Emphasis added)
I’m not sure 65 per cent of Australians would agree with same-sex marriage if the debate included discussion about its consequences for children losing a parent.Senator Pratt and Aram are having a bab
y through assisted reproductive technology.
Also, I doubt 80 per cent of Australians, if properly informed of Victoria’s abortion-to-birth laws, would support those either.
It is disappointing that Senator Pratt thinks marriage between a man and a woman is “extremist”.
Other notable Labor departures from the Senate are New South Wales Senators Ursula Stephens, South Australian Don Farrell and Queenslander Mark Furner.
All have been strong advocates for the poor, indigenous, the unborn and the rights of children to a mum and a dad.
Senator Stephens burst into an Irish folk song at the end of her speech
, adding poignancy to her departure.
Senator Farrell was influential in convincing former Prime Minister Julia Gillard to hold the line on marriage.
Senator Furner will contest the Queensland State seat of Ferny Grove at the next Queensland election.
movingly of his participation in a Senate inquiry into petrol sniffing in indigenous communities.
“I believe we are responsible for the living standards of the first Australians,” Senator Furner said.
As can be seen from the radically different worldviews on display (and this from within one political party), it is vital that people with Christian values participate in the democratic process.
Senator Hogg was kind enough to give ACL’s Communications Director, Katherine Spackman, an interview
for the Political Spot in the President’s suite in the Senate this week .
In light of all that is written above, Senator Hogg’s words are a wake-up call to Christians.
“Do not place your faith, hope and trust in people such as myself. We need more than faith, hope and trust. We need your active participation in our democratic processes.”