On Saturday, I went with a group of people who live in the Electorate of Brisbane to talk to our MP, The Honourable Teresa Gambaro, a Liberal, about her position on Marriage Equality. Specifically, why she voted in opposition to 73% of her electorate, as indicated by a survey her office conducted.
I viewed the meeting with Ms Gambaro as having a number of positive outcomes and being an overall positive experience. She made a few statements I disagreed with, and a couple I sadly recognise as realistic.
I confess that I did not take notes, and I am relying on my memory of the event. At the time, I had not intended to blog about it.
She explained why she voted against Marriage Equality:
She is a member of the Liberal Party Executive (She is Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for two portfolios, International Development Assistance, and Citizenship and Settlement)
The Liberal Party were not granted a conscience vote. This meant that members of the Executive, such as Teresa and Malcolm Turnbull, were not permitted to cross the floor like the backbenchers were. This is saddening and frustrating, but it’s the reality of politics.
When asked whether she would have voted for Marriage Equality if a conscience vote was granted, she replied that she was in favour of Civil Unions, and that she saw Civil Unions as the logical next step towards Marriage Equality and a way to bring the community with us on the Marriage Equality journey. I can see the logic to her view on Civil Unions, and I won’t deny that they may be a stepping stone – but every government who has implemented them has used them as a way of stalling on same sex marriage, so while I acknowledge the realism here, I’m not happy about it. She did not indicate clearly whether she would have voted for Marriage Equality if she was granted a conscience vote. Again, she can’t actively stand against her party platform while in the executive, so I understand her reticence to answer this question directly, however frustrating it may be.
I believe that she committed to talking to her colleagues about the possibility of raising Civil Unions Legislation in the next parliamentary term. Again, while that may not be the outcome I expressly want, she sees this as part of the journey to marriage equality, and would represent a significant change to party platform if she was to succeed.
On the topic of her survey on Marriage Equality, she and her staff member Kris (Spelling?) were very fast to assert that “73 per cent of 1 per cent of the electorate are in favour of marriage equality.” The survey on this topic had a response of 1532 people in an electorate of 110,000 (1.5% response rate). 1120 (1% of her electorate and 73% of respondents) indicated that they were in favour of Marriage Equality. These statements suggest that she and her office do not think that the survey sample accurately reflected her electorate – which may be true, the sample was self-selected from those people who heard about her survey in the media or by her electorate newsletter and were motivated enough to respond. http://teresagambaro.com/2011/07/same-sex-marraige-survey-results/
That said, if you run a survey (and she reminds us that she didn’t have to ask), I believe that you have some level of obligation to stand by the survey result or declare at the time of publication of result the flaws you believe your methodology to have had.
Teresa committed to introduce the issue of Same Sex Marriage on her new-to-the-electorate survey to help her more accurately gauge the opinion in her electorate. She tells us that these surveys go out to 800-1000 people per month.
She asked us about our experiences of discrimination in society, and seemed truly shocked and upset at the incidents we described. We explained to her that we believed that publicly displayed attitudes like Tony Abbott’s are partly responsible for these incidents, giving Australians someone to point to in the Parliament who on the surface seems to agree with them.
She committed to us to take these stories, views and experiences back to her colleagues and discuss them.
Finally, she also agreed to meet one-on-one with Phil Browne and instructed Kris to make sure that it happened. This meeting is with a view to building partnership and open and honest dialogue.
To reiterate: the positives from the meeting:
- Ms Gambaro intends to raise the possibility of Civil Union legislation for the next Parliamentary term, believing as she does that it is the next step towards Marriage Equality.
- She committed to include same sex marriage on her new-to-the-electorate survey, which should eclipse the original Marriage Equality Survey response rate within 6 months
- She committed to take our stories of discrimination and homophobia back to Canberra for further discussion
- She committed to meet with local activist Phil Browne to discuss how they can work together on this issue.
I would like to thank The Honourable Teresa Gambaro for taking the time to talk to us, and hope to have further opportunities to talk to her about this and other issues of importance in the future. I encourage everyone to open a dialogue with their MPs and candidates. If you live in the Electorate of Brisbane, Teresa Gambaro is your MP and you can contact her at http://teresagambaro.com/contact-teresa/