Good News Update 140 - 28 October 2015
Make sure you're heard!
 

A day is a long time in politics, let alone six weeks. We bring this up, because it's been six weeks since Malcolm Turnbull became Prime Minister of our nation, and so it's been six weeks since he agreed to take the question of whether marriage should be redefined to a plebiscite. 

A plebiscite is a nationally held vote on an issue, with a yes or no response. It is not binding, meaning that Federal Parliament is under no legal obligation to then put the result of the vote into law, but it is a strong indicator of how the people of our land feel about the issue in question. The reason for holding a plebiscite rather than a referendum, is that the legal definition of marriage is not part of Australia's Constitution, and referendums can only be held for issues that affect the Constitution.

As you can appreciate, this commitment to holding a plebiscite around the redefinition of marriage; asking whether marriage between a man and a woman should be upheld or if it should be destroyed, is very important to us at the Canberra Declaration. All Australians have the right to have their views heard in a respectful way, and a plebiscite is the best way to do this.

You don't have to look far to find opposition to a plebiscite on the redefinition of marriage though, with Opposition Leader Bill Shorten speaking against it this week as he believes that young Australians who identify as being of non-standard sexuality will be attacked for their sexuality if it goes ahead. He shows no concern for those who are attacked for holding to views that have been societally normative for thousands of years, and is sadly ignorant of the fact that redefining marriage will not deliver a cure for all the ills of the non-standard sexuality community.

Even more bizarrely, Warren Entsch (a Queensland Liberal who is in favour of the redefinition of marriage) has asked Turnbull to bind a future Parliament to enact the decision of the plebiscite by putting forward legislation that redefines marriage with the provision of only becoming active upon a successful yes vote in the plebiscite.  A bill to enforce the result of a plebiscite before it has been held is something that has never been done before. As we already shared, a plebiscite is not binding. Further to this, upon the dissolution of Parliament in the lead up to an election, any bills that are in progress but not complete are also dissolved, so that a future parliament is not beholden to the previous parliament.

Reports say that Malcolm Turnbull is considering Warren Entsch's request to bind a future Parliament to enact the result of a plebiscite on the redefinition of marriage, and may even be in favour of it.

Senator Eric Abetz (One of the most vocal supporters of traditional marriage currently in Parliament) has spoken against Warren Entsch's plan, calling it an ambush and of dubious legality... and here's why. When Prime Minister Turnbull was elected, he signed the first ever coalition agreement with the National Party, and part of that agreement was that he would honour the commitment of Tony Abbott to hold a plebiscite on the issue of the redefinition of marriage. The understood way that a plebiscite operates is that it is held, and then a bill is put forward based on the outcome of the plebiscite (if required). The kind of legislation that is proposed would circumvent that process, as it assumes the outcome will be a yes, rather than a no, and it binds Parliament to enact the outcome.

According to a survey held in August this year, 76% of Australians are in favour of a national plebiscite, and that includes those who are for, against, and neutral (77%, 77%, and 74% respectively). The Australian people want to discuss this. They want to have their say, and they don't want their elected representatives to decide for them.

But this can only happen if each side is allowed to argue their case fairly.
Currently in the media, the "No" case is not receiving fair treatment. Consider what happened in August when a very mild advertisement for maintaining traditional marriage was put forward, and how sections of the media reacted to it. The media does not want to hear reasonable, carefully considered opinions for the protection of traditional marriage as it does not get the sort of response they are after, and it does not suit their ideology. Even the Centre for Public Christianity has had their statements refused by the media for being too admirably reasonable.

We at the Canberra Declaration are in favour of a plebiscite, as it allows the
people of Australia to have their say. We call on the Federal Parliament and on media outlets to act without bias in this, and to give each side equal funding and airtime to state their case in a reasonable, responsible manner.

We have no desire for either side to attack the other: Proverbs 15:1 says that "a gentle answer turns away wrath,  but a harsh word stirs up anger." We also have no desire for individuals involved in the debate to be personally attacked for their position: this is a time for a loving response and a firm but clear stand to uphold the values that we hold so dear.

What can YOU do to make sure that your voice is heard?
  • Write letters expressing your support for a plebiscite on the redefinition of marriage to your elected representatives at a Federal level. Physical letters are best, but emails are always good. Try to meet with them if possible, and share your opinion in person. You can find your Federal Parliamentarians here. 
  • Use the letter you send to your local member and send the same letter to the newspapers you read. Whether they be a local paper or one that goes out Australia wide, every letter is valuable.
  • Post your letter on your Facebook and Twitter feed and social media networks. 
  • Ask in your letter for the formulation of a fair question and equal funding so we can have fair and open debate about this very important subject. This is what 76% of the Australian public want. 
  • Write to Senator Eric Abetz to encourage and support him. He is boldly standing up for what he believes, and it is always helpful to know that you do not stand alone. You can contact him at Senator.abetz@aph.gov.au
  • Finally, always remember to speak the truth in love. Whilst we oppose the redefinition of marriage, we do not hate those who oppose us. Let us stand above such petty politics, and show that if this is to be a debate about love, that we are showing love in our stand.
Your voice is important, your opinion is valuable. Let's work together to ensure that we are not silenced in the name of political expediency or fear mongering.
 
 
Yours for the right to have your say,
Ben Pratt and Warwick Marsh
On a personal note, it has been a pleasure and a joy to help with the Canberra Declaration while David and Marilyn Rowsome have been enjoying a well-earned break. Thankyou all for your support over the last 3 months. The Rowsomes will be back in the editor's chair in time for the next Good News Update.

Signing off,
Ben Pratt
Canberra Declaration 
phone 02 4272 9100 or 0418 225 212


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