In November last year the federal parliament passed a motion from Greens MP Adam Bandt calling on members to take the pulse of constituents on gay marriage. This morning, a selection of MPs reported back. Prime Minister Julia Gillard and opposition leader Tony Abbott were not among them.

Bandt congratulated colleagues who chose to participate, calling it a “good day for those who believe in love”. Bandt’s electorate of Melbourne was overwhelmingly supportive of same-sex marriage, with only one out of 475 respondents to his survey opposed to equal marriage rights. Bandt called it a “top priority issue” for his seat of Melbourne, and that there was almost universal support for the Greens stance, expressing confidence that “we’ll achieve full equality in the life of this parliament”. Bandt also stated that the prime minister and leader of opposition were “out of step with mainstream public opinion”.

Crikey takes a look at their speeches of the nearly 30 MPs who reported to the parliament:

  • Hinkler MP Paul Neville called it a “vexed issue”, stating there is no overwhelming concern in the community and that Australia has far more pressing issues that warrant the parliament’s attention. In Hinkler, only 14 people were supportive of marriage equality, with 595 opposed. Neville expressed his own surprise at how little support there was in his electorate. He also quoted the now notorious Miranda Devine column on the perils of a fatherless society, stating that the notion of “downplay[ing] traditional marriage” was an issue that resonated with him strongly.
  • Fowler MP Chris Hayes reported that feedback in his electorate was overwhelmingly in opposition: of the 395 votes cast, over 90% said no to same-sex marriage. Hayes said he “does not apologise for the view of his electorate”.
  • George Christensen from the seat of Dawson called Bandt’s marriage proposal “pointless”, saying voters had “more important concerns than this”. Of those he surveyed, only 78 out of 456 were for same-sex marriage. Christensen also accused GetUp of attempting to skew public opinion and “subvert the democratic process” by using fake emails in marriage equality petitions. He also raised concerns any change would “weaken the foundations of our society”, with the definition of marriage being the only argument we have against polygamy or multiple other types of unions.
  • Denison independent Andrew Wilkie noted both sides agree on the “enduring importance of marriage” and both camps claim a majority of support, making it difficult to determine numbers.
  • Liberal MP Kelly O’Dwyer reported that same-s-x marriage was not in the top four issues of concern nominated by the people of Higgins.
  • Graham Perrett from Moreton stated that of the 1373 responses he received, 44% were supportive of gay marriage, 53% were against and 3% were unsure. Perrett noted these results did not include Carl Katter, as he had already “come out yesterday”.
  • Alex Hawke, member for Mitchell, the electorate with the highest rate of couples with dependent children, stated there was broad support in his electorate to legally recognise same-sex unions but this did not extend to changing the definition of marriage itself.
  • Fraser MP Andrew Leigh said most people who contacted him would like to see a change to the current laws.
  • Gippsland member Darren Chester does not support “changes to the Marriage Act” himself, and of the 700 responses he received, 64% were opposed to change.
  • Member for Blair Shayne Neuman received 580 responses supporting marriage as the union of a man and a woman, and 150 responses supportive of change.
  • Cowan MP Luke Simpkins stated those who have made their views known “strongly and utterly support the current definition of marriage”, with 903 supporting the current definition and 103 supporting change.
  • Deakin member Mike Symon said he was astounded by the volume of response to the motion. With the exclusion of lobbyists and unverified emails, only 6.02% of Deakin constituents were for same-sex marriage and 93.98% against, but a large number of these supported civil unions.
  • Member for Hume Alby Schultz said the motion did nothing more than “indulge the fantasies of the inner-city elites” and he was “deeply offended … for being told how to do [his] job”. Forty-six verifiable constituents contacted Shultz in support of equal marriage rights, and 635 constituents contacted him supporting the “Howard government’s definition” of marriage as between a man and a woman.
  • Sharon Grierson from the inner-city electorate of Newcastle was the first member of parliament to sign the charter supporting same-sex marriage. She said 800 people who contacted her office were supportive of change and 470 against.
  • Fadden MP Stuart Robert reported an overwhelming response in favour of the current definition of marriage, with 30 to one against change.
  • Catherine King from Ballarat was contacted over 1800 times and states that views are divided and passionately held on both sides.
  • Scott Morrison, the Cook MP, conducted an electorate-wide survey last year on several issues of importance, and said the issue of the day “frankly did not feature”. A specific survey conducted by Morrison on the issue of marriage equality saw more than 850 against change and 50 in favour.
  • Labor minister Anthony Albanese spoke of his pride in the Labor Party for having changed 84 pieces of legislation to eliminate discrimination against same-sex couples. He also stated the issue will be discussed at the Labor Party’s national conference.
  • Malcolm Turnbull, the Liberal minister from Wentworth, a seat with a high proportion of gay constituents, received a response from 2333 voters. Of these, 72.7% were in favour of same-sex marriage; 16.8% were not supportive but favoured civil unions; 7.2% were against both gay marriage and civil unions and 3.2% were against gay marriage but did not express a view on civil unions.
  • In a yes/no survey with 505 responses, Shortland MP Jill Hall had 86% of her constituents answer “yes” to gay marriage and 13% answer “no”.
  • Kooyong member Josh Frydenberg said simply he had received passionate responses from both sides of the debate.
  • Deb O’Neill from Robertson reported that 70% of her constituents wanted to retain the current definition of marriage.
  • Tony Crook, the member for O’Connor, stated the results from his electorate “were indicative of the rest of the nation”. Of the 612 responses received, the majority do not support same-sex marriage.
  • Lyne MP Rob Oakeshott has “chosen to follow the community on the issue of same-s-x marriage”. After wide consultation, Oakeshott concluded there is a deep conviction that the state’s definition of marriage does matter. In Oakeshott’s electorate, results out of five were two strongly opposed, two indifferent and one in favour.
  • Bruce Billson, member for Dunkley, acknowledged the power of the word “marriage” and that the expansion of this term could be detrimental. A significant portion of the community represented by Billson would like their relationships to continue to be acknowledged under the traditional definition of “marriage.”
  • Member for Reid John Murphy received feedback from a diverse range of people and groups, and states there is no unanimous view amongst these groups, “even in the gay community.” However, most feedback “supported the retention of the current definition of marriage”.
  • Menzies MP Kevin Andrews said the purpose of the motion was merely “to provide a voice to the Greens.” The vast majority of Andrews constituents are against a change in the definition of marriage.
  • Mark Coulton, member for Parkes, stated that the overwhelming response from his electorate was that there were other matters of far greater importance, and that he himself finds it “deeply confronting” that the Parliament could be “hijacked” by one member, Adam Bandt.
  • Bradfield MP Paul Fletcher said he has carried out significant consultation on this matter, and the majority of his constituents support the retention of the current legal definition of marriage.

Peter Fray

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