Letters to the editor - August 25

Change Australia Day

Warrnambool City Council and all other regional shire councils should seriously consider being part of the plan to move Australia Day to a more suitable date that suits in combination with Aboriginal, multicultural people and our Australian born population, something which should not be too difficult. As great as the recognition of awards to people of good will who deserve that recognition, the over 200 years ago invasion on peaceful people is wrong. I ask, would Poland have a day of celebrating Hitler’s invasion of their nation?  Would Ireland have a day of celebration when Cromwell invaded Ireland and killed every man, woman & child in sight? Would Russia celebrate Hitler's invasion of their homeland. No, No, No. Then why should we as a free democratic nation allow this situation to continue on a yearly basis? There are 364 other suitable days in the year to alter Australia Day to. It could also be called Unification Day to help unify the nation. It is recorded that over 4000 innocent victims were massacred in this locality in the 1840s by the invaders. So therefore with the above facts our councillors should get moving immediately.

Jim McCarthy, Warrnambool

Support marriage equality

It appears that the majority of opponents to marriage equality fall into two groups: First, we have a section of the Christian community, led, vocally, by a group of conservative Catholics, with the support of their hierarchy, and a rumble of conservative evangelicals led by the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL). While there is a growing section of our christian community who support marriage equality, these conservative opponents appear to have the loudest voice. In parliament these are represented, inter alia, by Abbott, Bernardi, Andrews and some others. Secondly, there is a mishmash of Australians who feel alienated in our current society. They appear to be fearful of any change, and are reactionary against LGBTI people, refugees, migrants in general, or anyone else who threatens their increasingly fragile securities. These people are the same ones who voted for, or show support for, Pauline Hanson's One Nation Party. While, undoubtedly, there are some opponents who do not fall into these two categories, I feel confident that the majority of those that oppose marriage equality do.

The first group of opponents – those claiming to be driven by religious concerns - argue their opposition to marriage equality on two grounds: first, they argue that marriage is a Christian institution. This is self-evidently a fallacy. Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Jewish people, atheists, and people of all kind of backgrounds get married. In fact, in 2015 (the latest figures I could find from the ABS) 74.9 per cent of all marriages in Australia were performed by a civil celebrant. If the argument that marriage is a “Christian institution” were to be accepted, than 75 per cent of all marriages would have to be declared invalid. This does not even include those that were religious, but not Christian.

The second argument thrown up by conservative religious opponents of marriage equality, is that marriage is an institution meant to exist primarily for procreation; ie. you get married to have children. This argument has no more logic than the first one. What about people who get married but choose not to have children? What about those who enter a second marriage at an age at which procreation is no longer feasible? What about those who, for one reason or another, need to go through IVF, often with third party donors involved. Furthermore, many LGBTI people want to get married for the very reason that they want a legal basis to start a family. I have never yet heard of a marriage celebrant, religious or civil, who made procreation a precondition to allow the wedding ceremony to go ahead.

The second group of opponents – those that support politicians such as Pauline Hanson – are mostly more open about the reason for their opposition; it is simply driven by blatant homophobia. Their arguments, therefore, do not even justify a response.

Anyone with half an ounce of intelligence will soon work out that none of the arguments thrown up by opponents of marriage equality hold any validity. The core reason for this is that the underlying driving forces for opposition are not logical. Despite their most ardent denials all opponents soon exhibit signs of homophobia, fear of change and opposition to “political correctness”, whatever the latter actually means. What is most galling, is that our Prime Minister, who claims to be a supporter of marriage equality, has turned this into a political ball game. In the end, I am sure, this gamble will misfire, and it will consume him and his Prime Ministership. It is now up to the more sensible Australians to come together and support a YES vote in overwhelming numbers!

Eric van der Wal, Warrnambool

Fly the rainbow flag

Dr Selby King’s comments (The Standard, August 19) read well about the subject of marriage. As a learned person yourself Selby, I think you should have an opinion on gay marriage, over 20 per cent of the population it is assumed are aligned with the LGBTI population of this country and I would also assume that the percentage relates to the City of Warrnambool. As a person charged with a duty of care, you should invite all in to your clinics and make a stand and invite those that choose an independent lifestyle in to your clinics. I am not gay either and perhaps Selby a rainbow sticker in your clinic.

Kevin Boyce, Garvoc

Free speech on marriage

There’s a lot of noise around the whole same-sex marriage issue currently. I truly celebrate the fact that our government has given enrolled Australians the opportunity to vote on the matter, so that regardless of the outcome it will have been decided democratically. There has been a noticeable strong objection to a vote on this, and one wonders if the LGBT community is apprehensive of the real opinion of average Aussies no matter how much they say they have full community support? But – before you arrive at the conclusion that I must hate same-sex or other groups, we have three friends that are openly gay. While we are accepting of them – we do not approve of their lifestyles and if ever asked - would freely give our opinions. I fail to understand why the push for marriage – when so many heterosexual couples today only live together anyway? Why not just live together, as you have until now – why insist on marriage which is essentially a Western-world Christian-based concept between a man and a woman for security and to build a strong, stable family? LGBTs - before you start using your really over used terms like bible-bashing, or bible thumping (note that I did not) – or homophobic (we are not) – how about allowing us the freedom of speech that our country awards both groups – all should be able to voice their opinions, even if they are totally opposite to each other.

Steve Gaskin, Koroit

Public holiday concerns

With many workers being guaranteed a set number of public holidays per year, any attempt to change celebrating Australia Day must be considered very carefully or workers could lose a public holiday. Plus, the school year, family life and business planning it could be difficult to organise.

James Judd, Colac

Concern for detainees

On July 19 a group of around 30 people gathered outside Dan Tehan’s Warrnambool office as part of the National Day of Action marking four years since Kevin Rudd’s announcement that ‘no-one who came to Australia seeking asylum by boat would ever settle in Australia’. The action was asking for all those individuals still detained on Manus Island & Nauru to be brought to Australia for fair processing & settlement. 

We wrote Mr Tehan individual letters explaining why this issue matters to us. We expressed concern for the welfare and safety of the 803 men currently detained on Manus Island as the detention facility is closed down. Although this facility is unsafe and breaches the United Nations Convention Against Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment, these people fear even worse danger and living conditions as they are pushed out. Some of these people have already been attacked with machetes in separate incidents.  Two weeks ago a young Iranian detainee Hamed Shamshiripour, died in unknown circumstances. Clearly their fears are well founded. Mr Tehan’s response saying that these people could settle in the United States is hardly reassuring, given that the United States has still declined to take even one refugee in the 10 months since this deal was announced. 

We also expressed concern for the children detained on Nauru, who are still being held in conditions that have been found to include physical and sexual abuse, resulting in severe mental illness even in very young children. His statement that ‘all children have been removed from detention’ contradicts his own government’s report, which clearly states that 42 children are still being held at the Nauru Regional Processing Centre. [https://www.border.gov.au/ReportsandPublications/Documents/statistics/immigration-detention-statistics-30-june-2017.pdf]

It is an expectation in our political system that constituents express their opinions to their political representatives. Congratulations to those who continue standing up for just treatment of all people. Mr Tehan is our current Federal representative and to receive a form letter and be told the waiting period for an appointment to speak about these concerns could be more than eight months is again ‘not good enough’. We should expect more from our political representatives.

We would like to encourage Mr Tehan to consider the moral fortitude shown by his Liberal Party colleague, Russell Broadbent, Member for McMillan in his recent parliamentary speech calling for the men detained on Manus Island to be resettled in Australia.

Katherine Stewart, on behalf of Love Makes A Way, South West Victoria