Politics: Open Letter to Julia Gillard on the subject of the ACL, Marriage Equality, and Christianity

Dear Ms Gillard,

I want you to know that the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) does not represent all Christians. It certainly does not represent me.

I’m a Christian, of the vaguely-Anglican variety. I don’t claim to be a very good one, but that’s another matter.

I’m also a feminist, a trade-unionist, a supporter of marriage equality and of the rights of asylum seekers, and a mild sort of environmentalist. I’m an unashamed lefty, and believe in equal access to education, food and healthcare as the foundations of society. I don’t believe that any of these opinions conflict with my faith – indeed, my political beliefs are informed by my spiritual ones.

I don’t know if my beliefs are more typical of Australian Christians than those represented by the ACL, but I suspect many of them are. Still, the Christians I know tend to incline toward the liberal side of the spectrum, so my sample may be skewed. In any case, I would not and do not presume to speak for all Christians. I can only ask you to understand that Christianity in Australia is not a monolith and cannot be represented by a single peak body.

I can only tell you what I believe.

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Politics: An (opinionated) letter in support of marriage equality

Dear –

I’m writing to ask you to stand in support of marriage equality.

I’m writing because I am married.  Because I’m a woman and married to a man, this is an easy statement to make – one which carries no particular political message or weight, except, perhaps, a message of normality.

I have gay friends who are not married and don’t want to be married.

I have gay friends who are married, because they love each other and want to be together for life, and because they live or lived in countries where they were allowed to express this.

I have gay friends who have had commitment ceremonies, because they love each other and want to be together for life, but Australian law sadly refuses to allow them to say to their families and friends “this is my husband” or “this is my wife”.

The anti-gay-marriage lobby is correct to say that these words are special, and mean more than words like ‘partner’ or ‘girlfriend’ or ‘flatmate’.  They carry a message, not just about the relationship between two people, and the shape of a family, but about the society in which that family lives.  They carry a message about what is acceptable and what is less acceptable – about what is legal and what is illicit.  And by making these words the exclusive property of people in formal, heterosexual relationships, it gives acceptability and credibility to the attitude that gay relationships are less formal, less acceptable, less normal.

Like it or not, making gay relationships intrinsically and legally different to heterosexual ones sends a message that it’s OK not to treat gay people the same as straight people, because that is exactly what the government is doing.  Not only is this the sort of thinking that leads to bullying and discrimination, it also allows well-meaning people to stay secure in their prejudices.  Gays must be different – the law says so.  That’s why they can’t marry.  It also makes it easy for less well-meaning people to compare consensual gay relationships to pedophilia or bestiality, because they are all seen as illegal or illicit.

As long as we refuse to allow our gay brothers and sisters to marry the people they love, we encourage these attitudes.

The government’s role is to lead society forward, not be dragged backward by its most prejudiced elements.  It has been shown over and over that gay people can have the same sorts of relationships as straight people, that gay parents can raise happy and well-adjusted children, that, in short, the gender of the people we love has absolutely no relationship to our other qualities.  There is no great social good to be had from limiting marriage to heterosexual unions, but there are plenty of evils in allowing this to continue.

I ask you to support the 60% of Australians who believe that gay marriage should be legal.

My marriage does not need the kind of protection that comes from denying marriage to others.

Yours sincerely,

Catherine

Politics: Update on Seena

I got an email from my local MP this morning:

Dear Ms McLean,

Thank you for your email expressing concern about children in detention.

I am very sympathetic to the difficult circumstances facing the family members of the people tragically killed at Christmas Island on 15 December last year, especially the children.

We have a duty of care to ensure the health and well-being of all children in the care of the Immigration Department very seriously, particularly in relation to mental health issues.

The Department of Immigration and Citizenship is currently finalising arrangements and advice to enable Minister Bowen to make a decision to accommodate Sina, the 9 year old orphan who travelled to Sydney for the funerals, and his family, in community detention arrangements, along with accommodation options for the other two orphans and their family members.

Sina and the other two children along with their families are expected to be living in the community by the end of next week.

I hope this information is of assistance to you. Should you feel I can be of further assistance in this or any other matter in future, please do not hesitate to contact me again.

Yours sincerely,

Kelvin Thomson MP

Member for Wills

Letters do make a difference, if enough people write them. Now we just have to get the other 700+ children out of detention…

Politics: Pakistan and Bipartisan Aid

Oxfam emailed me this week asking for money because the floods in Pakistan are apparently phenomenally bad, and there are literally millions of people affected. To make matters worse, there are so many people currently living in temporary accommodation, with insufficient food or clean water, that disease-borne infections are spreading. The real difficulty is that what aid is coming is not enough – and it’s arriving very slowly, which gives disease even more time to spread. This is definitely the sort of thing you want to get onto early, which hasn’t happened (and, let’s face it – I, for one have been far too absorbed with the election to pay attention to any other news).

Anyway, I’ve now donated via Oxfam Australia (link is here, if you are interested).

I’ve also been a bit cheeky and have emailed both Tony Abbott and Julia Gillard asking them for bipartisan action to assist the people of Pakistan. After all (though I did not say this in my email), I imagine they won’t be doing much actual governing this week, so they might as well do something productive with their time…

Besides, maybe it will win them votes. And even if it doesn’t, it’s the right thing to do.

To be honest, I’m kind of embarrassed about even bothering (especially since I don’t really know what I’m talking about) and very much doubt my email will have any use or effect. It’s most likely that Gillard and Abbott are both wrapped up in the whole election mess right now, with no attention to spare for anything else. It’s also probable that they both know all about Pakistan already and it isn’t all that high on the priority list. But there is the very faint hope that one of their advisors will in fact read the email at the right moment and think that actually, foreign aid for a major crisis is a reasonably non-controversial issue and one that might make them look good. Or that one or both of them will think, you know, we really *should* do something to help here, regardless of politics (why yes, I am an optimist). So perhaps it was worth writing something after all.

And, actually, maybe we should all be writing to our politicians about Pakistan. It’s not a troublemaking issue like an Emissions Trading Scheme or Asylum Seekers (though one really good way to prevent Asylum Seekers coming to Australia is surely to make their countries of origin safer). It’s far enough away not to be seen as a vote-buying exercise. And humanitarian aid is surely something we all agree on. I think it’s an excellent project for a government that is effectively in recess for the next week or two…

Anyway, here’s what I wrote:

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Politics: Asylum Seekers – this is not what I had hoped for from the ALP

So, apparently our spineless excuse for a government has decided that we shouldn’t process applications for residency from Afghani and Sri Lankan refugees. Because clearly when we all voted against John Howard and he lost both the election and his seat in Parliemtn, what we really meant was that we wanted more of the same.

I am absolutely livid. Admittedly, I’ve been cranky all day, but this really infuriates me beyond belief.

Anyway, I’ve just channelled an entire day’s worth of bad temper into an email to Chris Evans, via Getup. If you’re an Australian resident and feel at all strongly about refugees, I urge you to do the same.

My (probably incoherent, since I was and still am furious) email is below. It doesn’t cover any of the suggested talking points. Sod the talking points. Our entire immigration policy is filled with racism, xenophobia and a complete lack of compassion and it’s an utter shame, which I, for one, have had enough of. Anyway, if you find anything in it useful, please feel free.

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