Opinion  |  

Don’t shift

The first question Lucy Gichuhi was asked as a new Senator was on redefining marriage

Australia is at a crossroads of change. It is about a change that could fundamentally alter what Australia stands for. In this debate, our values and fears, hopes and dreams are on the line. It is not even about whether or not we should redefine marriage in Australia. It is about the freedoms we value in this country – the freedoms of speech, conscience and ideas.

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According to the most recent available data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, fewer than 3 per ent of Australians identify themselves as LGBTIQ. Conversely, more than 97 per cent do not identify as LGBTIQ.

In this debate, I think we need to be firm without being feisty

Love is the greatest of all things. Let us transcend culture, religion and sexuality by doing unto others what you would have them do unto you. By applying this principle, we will be providing a common ground for seeking justice, freedom of belief, choice and conscience, reconciliation and conflict resolution.

Before migrating to Australia, I never had to think about this topic. I came from a culture where sexuality is not openly discussed. I remember when my brother was born. I have seven sisters and two brothers. My first brother was the fifth born child out of ten. Before he was born, there were only girls. Most families understand the need for hand-me-downs when there is not enough money. My parents could not afford to buy new boys clothes so we dressed him in the clothes of the older girls. As soon as he was old enough to realise what was going on – that he was a boy dressed in girl’s clothes – he became outraged and ran off to live with our cousins next door who had more boys than girls in their family. He had had enough of it! Poor boy, after him, three more sisters showed up before the next brother arrived. At that time, I thought nothing of it. I wonder what my brother would say if we were growing up in Australia today? How would it have played out for him now?

Australia is made up of people from over 190 countries. We are in a unique position in the world. We are privileged to be founded as a free democratic country. In great diversity there is great harmony. We understand and cherish just how important it is for every individual to be able to express themselves and be all they can be.

In this debate, I think we need to be firm without being feisty, direct without being derogatory and compassionate without compromising.

After all, we are a culture of great unity in diversity.

Australia is in a position to export conflict resolution policies and democratic principles of how to run a nation to the rest of the world. Australia is held in such high esteem in the world that other countries want to be like us. Dispute resolution matters to us as a society. We know that we don’t agree all the time. Some issues are harder to resolve than others. Thankfully, we have a good legislative and judicial system which guides us to better dispute resolution. We do not need to use violence to fix problems for us. Violence is simply not the Australian way. What we possess is the freedom to work things out in a respectful and civil manner.

I implore all fellow Australians – Come, let us listen to each other and reason together. Instead of just pushing one’s own point, let us try and understand each other’s view. We may differ, but that is acceptable. After all, we are a culture of great unity in diversity.

This debate should leave our society better than we found it. If we enter the debate with dignity and respect, I believe that both sides can work out a resolution which will benefit us now and give future generations a solid ground on which to build.

The bedrock of every civil society is the family unit. Throughout history, it is the special nature of the family unit which nurtures and teaches each successive generation. Let us all join hands and build guardrails.

As Australians, we have the power to change what we want for the betterment of our society.

The question before us is not simply redefining marriage – because there are already many different types of relationships. I want to ask people to take time to stop and think, “Exactly what are we asking for?” Should we change the wording of the Marriage Act? Or, should we give recognition in another way, showing respect, while upholding the dignity of the traditional marriage and family unit without weakening the visions our founding fathers had when they wrote the solid rock on which we stand – the Australian Constitution of 1901?

We need firm, direct and compassionate leadership in transforming society during this time of rapid social change.

Section 51 (xxi) of the Australian Constitution gives the federal Parliament the power to make laws about marriage. It does not say what marriage is or who can get married. The details of how marriage is defined in Australia are contained in the Marriage Act of 1961.

As Australians, we have the power to change what we want for the betterment of our society. We currently live in an era of massive social, environmental and political change. But – what do we do with the power we have to change things? It is quite easy to say, “Change just happens anyway,” or, “Change is predictable.” These things are true; change is inherent in culture and rightly takes place in any society. But, everything we think we understand about society seems to be under question. We can’t prevent change. But we can be agents of worthwhile change, not victims of change.

Change can be regulated or unregulated. When it is regulated, the government implements laws with the purpose of improving our society. It could be by lawfully allowing something to happen or alternatively, lawfully preventing something else to happen. We happily accept this change when it results in the type of change we want. Unregulated change is what happens through the normal progression of society, through freedom of speech, conscience and ideas. Again, this can be happily accepted by society when they view the changes as an improvement. The danger of unregulated change is there is nothing to measure it by and it can become uncontrolled.

The future of Australia is in our hands.

Society changes as it grows but it could lead to unintended consequences that could encroach into other aspects of society as we know it. We need to consider the impact of how change affects regular society. Does change prevent the freedoms we hold dear – freedom of speech, conscience and ideas?

Australia is about great unity through great diversity through freedom of speech, conscience and ideas.

The future of Australia is in our hands. Leadership is a privilege. We should not take lightly the responsibility that we have been given. Australians need to have a say about this fundamental change to such an ancient institution like marriage.

Australia is unique.

Australia, unlike many other countries, is made from people of many other cultures. Our nation is ‘one from the many.’ We now have people from more than 190 countries who today call Australia home. This largely differentiates us from the 22 countries which have altered their marriage laws. Note that 90 per cent of the world’s countries have not altered their marriage laws. As Australians, we do not want to dilute the position we have in the globe which is a leader in quality of debate and its outcomes. 22 other countries have changed this law. Should we do it simply because we don’t want to be left behind? Just because England or America or Germany has altered this law does not mean Australia needs to follow. It means Australians need to have a say and decide what society they want now and in the future. Our laws and Constitution are there to act as boundaries in order to preserve the values that make Australia stand out in the whole world.

The moral compass could be altered like never before.

Let us avoid political and legal confusion. Likewise, we must also be careful about ideological invention and philosophical manipulation that cannot stand against the test of time.

Sometimes we could feel guilty because we have views that fit with what was once considered normal by society. People are living in fear of stating what they feel or who they are because they could be attacked. Why have we begun to humiliate people simply because they stand up for one view of marriage and sexuality and not another? It is un-Australian to attack someone because they hold or express themselves differently.

Unregulated change could happen so quickly that science and technology is left behind in order to press forward with social agendas. The moral compass could be altered like never before.

No amount of legislation can prevent hatred or even difference of belief. What Australians possess is a sense of tolerance which goes beyond personal beliefs. This is what Australia stands for. So, let us make Australia great by carefully considering what changes we make to the laws affecting our society. By doing so, we preserve our sovereignty.

I know that you need to stand for something or you will fall for anything.

People desire change for many reasons. If you don’t feel happy in your circumstances, you will want change. Previously, it would take a whole society to implement change. These days, change could happen because of a minority who push their agenda on social media. When we understand our times, we know what to do. There is pressure on the Federal Government to redefine marriage. This may not necessarily reflect the views of all Australians. If we experiment with marriage this time around, what is next? How far is too far? What will society look like in four or vice generations to come?

I am not against anyone expressing their views and opinions. I just know what I stand for. I believe Australians know what they stand for. I know that you need to stand for something or you will fall for anything.

Democracy needs principled living in order to survive and be effective. The various ages of the world such as the Renaissance, Age of Reason, and the Age of Enlightenment, have gradually reduced the value of what is understood as principled society. This is seen in our current democracy which is a secular one – that is, the Church and State have a recognised degree of separation. This means people have always been free to choose if they want to be religious or not, as upheld in our Constitution.

Do we preserve something that has been working since time immemorial or do we break it up?

Democracy can only stand on the bedrock of the Constitution. Any attempt to weaken these values could lead to democracy self-destructing. These values are the foundation and any shift away will only create a new version of normal. Do we preserve something that has been working since time immemorial or do we break it up?

Could we be in a new Age of Experimentation where we are also experimenting with changing the boundaries of our Constitution and values?

I see Australia as my house. If I invite people to come in, I expect them to observe my house rules. I would not expect anything less when I visit someone else’s house. This is what it means to be hospitable. These rules are firm and not negotiable. Australia is like a house. All of us need to observe the house rules which are our Constitution and laws. These too, should be firm and non-negotiable. This applies to all of us from more than 190 countries that have come and now call ourselves Australians. Our Constitution and laws are like those house rules. It gives us guidance in how to behave within society for the benefit of all. My point is, if we keep changing and hacking at our laws, we will be in the danger of making them virtually unrecognisable.

Our leaders have conviction, purpose and immovable values to protect our Constitution and laws – and to not compromise.

I am for regulated change, for a way of choosing and responding to change.

Freedom without laws is anarchy. This goes for spiritual, emotional, mental, physical, relational, sexual, social, financial or political freedom. There is danger in changing things just because other countries have already done so.

I am for regulated change, for a way of choosing and responding to change. This gives us power to change only those things which are inevitable but which will leave our laws and regulations intact and stronger and able to protect the sovereignty of Australia as a nation.

For those of you, who do not agree with abortion, remember, one woman introduced abortion in the USA while many millions simply said nothing.

In the current debate every Australian needs to have a say because of the potential of unforeseen and unintended consequences that could come from this change. It is about the impact on the whole of Australian society.

Let us not remove or disturb the ancient stones our founding fathers laid. We are not just trying to fit in. We are trying to show the rest of the world how to preserve a country for generations to come by preserving the fundamental civil unit – the family. There is a better way to negotiate than through intimidation and domination. As the great G.K. Chesterton said, “We should never tear down a fence unless we know why it was put up in the first place.”

Lucy Gichuhi is an independant Senator from South Australia.

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Parliament of Australia

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