Jul 10, 2011

Speech at NSW State Labor Conference supporting Marriage Equality

I rise to support the motion moved by Sam Dastyari and seconded by Penny Sharp.

I think it is a sensible resolution of this conference. This decision will be determined quite rightly, by our peak conference: the ALP conference right here in Sydney in December. And it is important in the lead up in December, that we do have a respectful debate, because there are strong views on this issue, right across the spectrum.

I support marriage equality. I will vote for marriage equality.

But I will do so in the full knowledge that I respect the views of those who, for matters of what they regard as conscience, disagree with me on this issue.

And I believe that it is important that the advocates of change do so in a way that brings people with us – that doesn’t threaten people, that shows what we are about is inclusion, not exclusion. And how we conduct the debate must reflect that.

I gave my first speech in the parliament about the reason why I entered politics. In it, I spoke about the need to remove discrimination and move to equality. Whether it be on the issues of class, race, gender, or sexuality.

I took that pledge seriously and introduced the first ever Private Members Bill on same sex issues into the House of Representatives. I note that it is Labor, not the Greens Party or fringe groups, that have advanced the cause of anti discrimination in this nation. Every single reform has been a Labor reform.

In our first term of office in 2007, we introduced eighty four pieces of legislation, removing discrimination in health, in social security, in migration, in legal affairs; making sure we treated people decently, in accordance with the fine Labor principle that we are all born equal.

But there is unfinished business. And that unfinished business will continue to be a campaign until it becomes finished business; until people have the same rights, regardless of their sexuality. I am firmly of the view that expanding the rights of same sex couples does not diminish the rights of heterosexual couples.

I am also of the view that the march of history, that always has Labor at its forefront, the march of progressive change, has seen overt discrimination removed. This is the march that has seen Labor prepared to make the tough decisions that are always opposed by the reactionary forces in society; whether they be economic issues, such as getting rid of Workchoices; whether they be issues about peoples rights, such as the introduction of Native Title rights; whether it be the tough decisions in removing discrimination against people on the bases of their sexual preferences. These have always been advanced by Labor.

And the march of history is one which moves forward. Quite often people on the centre left of politics tend to romanticise about the past. The good old days, the good old days of our traditions. Well this is a party that used to support the White Australia Policy. This is a party that used to support discrimination. We romanticise our past. I say we need to acknowledge our past and also celebrate our present. And we need to celebrate the fact that it is Labor that promotes progressive change. And we need to celebrate the fact, that everyone in this room, I think, and everyone engaged in the debate that I speak to, whether they are pro reform or anti reform acknowledges that it is a matter of time before this change happens. I say it is time right now, at National Conference we should be supporting that change, and then we should, according to conscience, be going into the floor at the House of Representatives and the Senate, and getting this change done.

Thank you.