Friday, April 20, 2012

The Australian Christian Lobby has said that the use of simplistic polling to gather evidence for parliamentary inquiries was cheapening the value and intent of the inquiry system.

Speaking on the final day of the House Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs collecting online survey responses for its inquiry into two marriage redefinition bills, ACL’s Managing Director Jim Wallace said such polling distracted from the key issues at hand.

“When a committee examines an issue its role is to move beyond the superficial one-liners of the news cycle and delve into the detailed arguments for and against the likely consequences of such a proposal. This is especially the case with an issue as crucial to our society as marriage.

“Asking people to respond through a Survey Monkey survey, as the House committee has done in this instance, is inviting a flood of contestable data rather than the type of considered responses required of committee members to make a considered view on the matter.

“The carefully considered views of those people who take the time to sit down and draft a ‘kitchen table’ submission should naturally be given more weight than a simple survey response, otherwise there would be little value in the committee process.”

Mr Wallace said it was important that the focus of the inquiry remained on the merit of the for and against case rather than mere statistics.

He noted that ‘kitchen table’ type submissions to the Senate inquiry supporting marriage outnumbered those wanting to change marriage by 11-1.

“Marriage is so important that it should not be altered on the basis of a popularity contest”, Mr Wallace said.

“This was especially the case when there was documented evidence of activists attempting to manipulate previous marriage consultation processes conducted by individual MPs last year through their personal websites.

“Many of the MPs reporting back to parliament with their constituents views on marriage in August last year found that a great number of the pro-same-sex marriage responses had come from individuals outside their electorates,” he said.

“In the same way, the data collected by the current House inquiry will remain contested if there were a large number of overseas or duplicate responses.”

Mr Wallace welcomed Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s condemnation of same-sex marriage protestors who interrupted a recent private dinner between Opposition Leader Tony Abbot and a friend in Melbourne.

“There is no place for slurring supporters of the Marriage Act with terms like ‘bigot’,” Mr Wallace said.