A GROUP OF residents in the federal electorate of Bowman in South East Queensland – currently held by Andrew Laming for the Liberal Party – is petitioning locals about their views on marriage equality.
They began in the semi-rural Redlands suburb of Thornlands, in the streets around Mr Laming’s place of residence.
Labor’s candidate for the seat of Bowman, Kim Richards, is also a resident of Thornlands.
“Marriage equality always seemed fairly contentious in this region, which made starting in those streets a little challenging,” said Michael Burge, a Bowman resident of nearby Coochiemudlo Island. “But there’s an old saying about wanting something badly enough, meaning you have to get out there and ask for it, so that’s what we decided was the best course of action”.
“We are a group of locals called ‘Redlands Residents – Your Voice on Marriage Equality’ – and we offered people a chance to sign either a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’ petition.
“The initial results have been very heartening.
“The overwhelming majority of respondents signed ‘yes’ in support of changing the federal Marriage Act to allow same-sex couples to marry; whereas a couple of people preferred to sign ‘no’ to show they’re happy with leaving things the way they are.”
Andrew Laming wants a plebiscite
In June 2015, Mr Laming was interviewed on an episode of Network Ten’s news program The Project. When asked about including same-sex marriage in his annual survey on his constituents’ views on a variety of national and local issues, he was clear:
You can’t go anywhere in a community in Australia and ask this question about the definition of same-sex marriage without getting heated responses on both sides. I’ve asked my electorate, every year, this question, and it comes back almost 50:50.
It’s a highly divisive and complicated issue, so I want to see, once again, my electorate having a say; and I’ve said to them, if they vote this time, and they go one way or another, that’s how I would like to vote in parliament on their behalf.
“I will be open-minded,” Mr Laming said.
Mr Laming has included the issue of marriage equality in his annual electorate surveys for the past five years. Most times he has found that those against change slightly outnumber those how want equality but in 2015 his said that 58% of respondents wanted no change.
Speaking in Parliament on 12 August he defended the Coalition policy of having a national plebiscite.
Kim Richards says the community is not divided
Kim Richards, Labor candidate for Bowman, says suggestions that marriage equality is a 50:50 red hot topic are a beat up. She said:
As a Thornlands resident for over 20 years I have not seen any strong evidence that suggests our community is divided on the issue of marriage equality.
It is reasonable to suggest that polling conducted by Mr Laming is not representative of our Bowman community with a number of deficiencies in his survey methodology.
Ms Richards says that Labor has committed to legislating for marriage equality within the first 100 days of Government.
“We know that Australians don’t want a Plebiscite on Marriage Equality, they want a Government that will get on with the job,” she said.
Pricewaterhouse Coopers recently estimated that a stand-alone plebiscite on same-sex marriage could cost the Australian economy $525 million.
Is it a highly divisive issue?
Mr Burge said the early 2016 petition results did not reveal the kind of division Mr Laming spoke of in 2015.
“We were not met with a sense of this being a 50:50, red-hot topic, far from it. The most passionate responses were from many who voted ‘yes’ and were keen to underline how overdue marriage equality legislation is.
“I wondered how I would feel, as an out gay man living in this community with my husband, Richard, when someone asked to sign the ‘no’ option; but we feel it’s important this petition offers something to everyone with an opinion either way.
“I was pleasantly surprised by the minimal ‘no’ responses, and the polite, neutral way the ‘no’ petition was asked for.
“There was no sense of division in Thornlands on the days we petitioned in the area.
“On the contrary, there was a clear early trend: that marriage equality has the same majority support, very close to home for Mr Laming, as it does everywhere in the country whenever people are given a free and open say.
“Crosby-Textor polling on marriage equality does not match the results Mr Laming came up with during his 2015 survey,” Mr Burge said.
“Nationally, support for marriage equality is at a record high, with a majority in all regions of Queensland. These new results from Mr Laming’s suburb are in line with that clear support for altering the Marriage Act to give access to same-sex couples.
“Perhaps, under a new Prime Minister, and with a public vote on marriage equality in the pipeline, there has been a shift in thinking in the Redlands,” Mr Burge said.
Redlands Residents – Your Voice on Marriage Equality is a Facebook group that was set up in June 2015 as a response to the national attention garnered by Mr Laming’s survey. A well-attended marriage equality rally in Cleveland was also organised, supported by national lobby group Australian Marriage Equality.
Workshop on 9 April at The Red Place
The group will co-host a workshop with Australian Marriage Equality at The Red Place, 99 Bloomfield Street, Cleveland, on Saturday, April 9, from 10am-1pm, for anyone wanting to assist in gathering signatures on the 2016 petition. Door-knocking and petitioning rules and tips, and a light lunch, will be shared on the day, and petition forms handed out.
Find and ‘like’ ‘Redlands Residents – Your Voice on Marriage Equality’ on Facebook for all the details.
Anyone over the age of 18 and registered to vote in the federal seat of Bowman in postcodes 4157, 4158, 4159, 4160, 4161, 4163, 4164, 4165, 4183, 4184 is eligible to sign the ‘yes’ or ‘no’ petition, which will be distributed in person throughout the region across April before being presented to Federal MP for Bowman, Andrew Laming.
Update 10 April
The petition kicked off this week with a group of locals meeting at a workshop in Cleveland on Saturday April 9th, co-hosted by ‘Redlands Residents – Your Voice on Marriage Equality’ and Australian Marriage Equality, before hitting the streets of central Cleveland and petitioning Bowman residents for their opinions.
The team then moved to East Cleveland for a few hours of door-knocking. After collecting over two hundred responses, by the end of the day the trend was clear, with a majority of ‘yes’ signatures in support of marriage equality at a ratio of seven to one against the ‘no’ votes.