I flew in to Adelaide yesterday for marriage speaking engagements and, importantly, for tonight’s South Australian launch of the Coalition for Marriage.Read more
One of the great parliamentary champions for families and the Judeo-Christian ethic, Ron Boswell (left), will leave the Senate next Thursday after 31 years.
His retirement will leave a big hole as he is a rare breed of principled public leader.
It is hard not to like the big man from Queensland.
He can be feisty in a debate but he has a heart of gold.
I know this because I had the privilege of working for him briefly as a staffer for eight months before I joined ACL.
ACL is of course non-party partisan but I hope you will indulge me because honour is due here.
I will have something to say in next week's blog about the good people from Labor who are leaving the Senate when their terms also end on June 30th.
But Ron has been a unique character.
Fiercely loyal to his beloved National party, having been mentored by former Queensland premier the late Sir Joh Bjelke Petersen, Ron is someone who had genuine respect from his political opponents.
This was evidenced by the large number of Labor and even Greens members (his most fearsome sparring partners) who were in the Senate chamber for his valedictory speech on Tuesday.
One of the few parliamentarians unashamed to stand up for the human rights of the unborn, he showed that causes unpopular with the media and political elites could be championed without jettisoning political credibility.
When the Parliamentary Group on Population and Development said in 2008 that Medicare funding of abortion was needed because the birth of disabled babies would be a drain on the disability services budget, Ron went to the defence of the defenceless.
In a speech to the Senate, he said this was reminiscent of the "Hitler regime". It is hard to argue with that.
His Liberal Senate colleague, Alan Eggleston, resigned his membership of the PGP&D in protest to the group’s submission. Senator Eggleston, who also retires next week, was born with a condition that has left him short statured. He too will be missed.
Ron was a tireless champion for marriage and family and of course small business and primary industries.
I dropped by his Senate office an hour before his speech. "There'll be something in it for you guys", he said referring to the Christian constituency.
And in typical style Ron didn't disappoint.
There was hardly a dry eye when he told how much he missed his late son Stephen and then went on to say how he drew strength from God.
"In the Senate, I have always sought guidance and help from my God, and I acknowledge He has always had a guiding hand on my career. In the parliament of Australia, in the assembly of His people, I have always received constant help, and I offer my thanks."
I don't think Ron would mind me saying this, but I'd sometimes walk into his office and find him reading his Good News Bible, a permanent fixture on his desk.
He finished his speech quoting St Paul.
"My time of departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight. I have run the race. I have kept the faith.’ Thank you very much. God bless and goodbye."
ACL is very grateful for parliamentarians like Ron Boswell. We wish him and Leita all God's blessings for their future.
A transcript and Youtube clip of Senator Boswell's speech is available here.
Below is a copy of the opinion piece. You can also read it on the Online Opinion website here.
Same-sex marriage should go to the people
Kevin Rudd's public humiliation of Christian Pastor Matt Prater on Monday night's Q&A is yet another reason why a referendum of the Australian people may be needed to settle the issue of same-sex marriage.
As the nation's leader, the PM was giving powerful permission for the ostracising of those who wish to hold to the definition of marriage as between one man and one woman.
For those whose conscience will always cause them to hold this view, it was chilling to watch. And this is before one jot or tittle of the Marriage Act has been changed.
Parliamentarians should not be put in the position of having to decide if this is how their fellow Australians are to be treated once the law of the land is changed.
The law is a powerful instrument and emboldened by it, some will use it as a big stick to further silence those who wish to speak up publicly for man-woman marriage.
What was also profoundly disturbing about Monday night was the two different Mr Rudd's on display.
Earlier that evening I hosted ACL's own Q&A-style election panel which featured former Rudd Government Attorney-General Robert McClelland and former deputy prime Minister John Anderson.
ACL webcast the event live to more than 300 churches at 7:30pm, kicking off with exclusive video messages from Mr Rudd and Opposition Leader Tony Abbott.
Mr Rudd's pitch to Christian voters was gracious and respectful. While he knew most of the webcast audience was disappointed by his change on marriage, he earned points for his conciliatory tone as he admitted this.
He even went so far to say that it was okay for Christians to disagree with him in "equal prayerful conscience".
By 10:30 when many of us arrived home and tuned into the ABC's Q&A we were just in time to see Mr Rudd's "prayerful conscience" approach to tolerance going out the window.
We saw a glimpse of what freedom of speech and freedom of belief might look like in the future as Pastor Matt Prater was mocked by the crowd.
But there are also constitutional reasons why same-sex marriage should go to a referendum.
Earlier in the evening, Mr McClelland reminded webcast viewers that when he was Mr Rudd's Attorney-General in 2008 he removed all discrimination in Australian law against same-sex couples. This was supported by ACL.
He said same-sex marriage was not a legal but a definitional issue.
"I think the High Court will ultimately, if there is a change in the law, be required to determine what the constitutional founders meant when they included the marriage power in the constitution.
"I don't think that's a comfortable place for the High Court to be. I think if there is going to be any reform in this area, and I don't think there should be, but if there is it should be through the public debating it through the course of a referendum."
Mr Anderson agreed saying he was "deeply troubled by the lack of civility" in the debate.
"I think this debate puts politicians under unbelievable pressure because the community is so polarised.
"I actually think this now needs to go the people".
Mr Anderson was quick to say that despite his Scottish heritage a referendum should come with a "publicly funded, properly articulated yes and no case".
He said there should also be an honest acknowledgement of what changing the law on marriage would mean for freedom of belief and the right to express that belief.
He also said there was another vexed issue.
"Same-sex marriage does lead to same-sex parenting and there is a huge issue in my view of the state sanctioning the idea that a certain class of children will be denied access to one or other of their biological parents."
The people should certainly have a say on this.
But perhaps a constitutional referendum won't be needed.
Until Mr Rudd's blasting of Pastor Prater, he and Labor had been relatively quiet on the issue for the past few weeks.
This was despite a flourish at the beginning of the election campaign when Mr Rudd put it front and centre with a bold promise to legislate within 100 days if Labor was re-elected.
As the polls dropped so did Mr Rudd's rhetoric on same-sex marriage.
Pollsters say it hardly rates as an issue in focus groups and it is a fair bet that political strategists on both sides of politics know this.
If the Coalition wins, it can rightly assess that this election was in part a referendum on same-sex marriage.
Legal recognition for same-sex couples has already been achieved. We don't need to change the marriage law so that political correctness can be forced on people like Matt Prater.
If same-sex marriage advocates persist after Saturday, it should go to the people – again.
Friday, 28th June 2013
Kevin Rudd’s new position on marriage is out of step with every major Christian denomination in Australia, according to the Australian Christian Lobby.
ACL managing director Lyle Shelton said it was incomprehensible that the man who publicly defended marriage outside church on Sunday mornings, is now promoting something that is contrary to every major Christian denomination's teaching on marriage and family.
“Australians are looking for leaders who have principles and stick by them,” Mr Shelton said.
“After years of defending marriage, it is disappointing that Mr Rudd is now championing its redefinition particularly when less than a month ago he said he wouldn't be campaigning for it.”
Apart from his unorthodox theology, Mr Rudd had not thought through the consequences of legislating a new definition of marriage.
“No one doubts that two men can love a baby but is it right for them to remove that baby from her biological mother to satisfy their desire for a child?”
“There are big ethical questions about setting in cultural cement the idea that it is okay for children to be denied one or more of their biological parents and this has not been properly considered in the debate about redefining marriage,” Mr Shelton said.
Mr Shelton said Mr Rudd’s suggestion of a plebiscite or a referendum should occur regardless of the Coalition’s position on a conscience vote.
“Redefining marriage has so many far-reaching consequences for the human rights of children, freedom of speech and freedom of religion that it needs a peoples’ vote to settle the matter.
“However a plebiscite should only be held in an environment where there can be free discussion without fear of slurs and labels such as bigot or homophobia being bandied around to silence debate,” Mr Shelton said.
- ends -
The blind spot that euthanasia backers have to the clear failure of euthanasia legislation to safeguard against abuse, both here in Australia in the Northern Territory during the 1990s and overseas, are routinely displayed through their contradictory public statements.
When ACL chief of staff Lyle Shelton recently debated Australia’s most prominent promoter of euthanasia Dr Philip Nitschke on ABC News 24, the only physician to have used the provisions of the short-lived Rights of the Terminally Act both rubbished and relied upon his own co-authored journal article in the space of minutes.
Yet an even greater contradiction surfaced during the course of the debate, with Dr Nitschke celebrating the role of proper psychiatric assessment in the euthanasia process, in direct opposition to his unequivocal evidence to a Tasmanian parliamentary inquiry last year.
Speaking about the anomaly of patients allowed to be euthanatized in the Northern Territory despite suffering symptoms of depression, in possible opposition to the law, Dr Nitschke told the ABC audience that patients suffering from a terminal illness should not be denied the right to legally end their lives because of depression:
“But you don’t strip away from them, because they have elements of depression, the right to make decisions. You make sure that they can make rational decisions, and that is why psychiatric assessment was essential.”
By contrast, Dr Nitschke was no fan of mandatory psychiatric assessments in euthanasia law last year, when he told the Tasmanian inquiry if he had his way, he wouldn’t have a psychiatrist involved in the process at all – “Wouldn’t have it at all, yes” (click here – p. 112).
In that same inquiry hearing, Dr Nitschke also revealed that he was involved in a breach of the Northern Territory euthanasia law, was still willing to have troubled teens assisted to die, and claimed there was no evidence of a slippery slope under Oregon and Holland euthanasia law, only to say, “Maybe there is a slippery slope” in the next line (p. 114).
All of these twists and turns in the euthanasia lobby’s ongoing spin cycle demonstrate that it is now time for the supporters of euthanasia to come clean with the public about what they really intend for legalised euthanasia in this country: under their scheme, who would be eligible and why; where would the line be drawn?
The public, and most importantly the politicians who will decide the outcomes of this issue, must demand answers to the hard questions for the sake of vulnerable elderly and sick Australians. An honest appraisal would show that restricting voluntary euthanasia to only the terminally ill is both arbitrary and impossible, inevitably putting the lives of ever-increasing categories of people at risk.