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News Article

‘Man-woman marriage sacred to Aboriginal people’: Peter Abetz
Monday, May 2, 2016

Following the resignation of WA Labor senator Joe Bullock on 13 April 2016, a joint sitting of the WA parliament on 28 April endorsed Aboriginal activist Pat Dodson as Joe Bullock’s replacement.

WA Liberal MP Peter Abetz was the only MP present to mention the “elephant in the room” – that Joe Bullock resigned because after 2018, the Labor Party would no longer allow him to support man-woman marriage.

As Peter Abetz explained, man-woman marriage is sacred to the Aboriginal peoples too. Will Pat Dodson be allowed to truly represent their views?


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Joint sitting of the West Australian Parliament, 28 April 2016    

Nomination for replacement of Senator Joe Bullock

Peter Abetz, MLA (Southern River)

Mr Speaker

I arise to congratulate Patrick Dodson on his nomination for the Senate to take the place of my friend Senator Joe Bullock, who resigned recently.

As has been mentioned already, Professor Dodson is a well-known public figure.  He is often referred to as the Father of Reconciliation, in recognition of his lifelong efforts to bring about reconciliation between those whose ancestors were here before 1788 and those who came after that date.

Less well known is the fact that Mr Dodson in his younger days served as a Catholic priest.

As I don’t know Patrick Dodson personally, I am unaware as to whether he still embraces the Christian faith.  But most members would probably agree that his stance on reconciliation issues, and his determination to serve his fellow Australians, do reflect something of the Judeo-Christian values on which the institutions of our nation are built.

I find this very interesting because we all know that Senator Bullock, who makes no secret of commitment to the Christian faith, has relinquished his Senate seat because in good conscience he is unable to support the edict of the Labor Party that all Labor members must support SSM legislation after 2019.

It seems that secular fundamentalists have taken the Labor Party captive.

As Gareth Parker put it in the West Australian (14/04/2016 p 17 )

The Labor Party has shown it cannot accommodate traditional religious social values (the exile of Joe Bullock is the final proof of this) and so over the past 10-15 years the Liberal Party has done very well out of being the broad church that provided political sanctuary for these exiles, who tend to be fundamentally decent folk.  Conservative  Christianity may not be flavour of the month with the western suburbs set or the media, but Christians volunteer and they vote.

After reading Gareth Parker’s article, the thought did cross my mind to send my friend Joe Bullock a Liberal Party membership form with a note that political asylum seekers are welcome in the Liberal Party!

But back to Patrick Dodson!    Having been used to being a free voice in the community speaking his mind and espousing traditional aboriginal social values, he will no doubt find it challenging to have to toe the Labor party line.     

As long as no conflict exists between his views and the ALP’s stance, he will be free to speak.  But when the fundamentalist secularists that dominate the ALP have spoken, he too will need to be silent.

After 2019 Professor Dodson will no longer be able to be a voice for the traditional aboriginal view of marriage, as expressed by over 70 aboriginal elders, from 47 different nations who signed the Bark Petition to the Federal parliament last year, urging the Parliament to not legalise SSM, but instead to honour the age old aboriginal view of marriage.   One of the aboriginal leaders who went to Canberra to present the petition was an aboriginal leader and elder Rodney Rivers, a constituent of mine. 


As Mr James Stephens, a Wiradjuri man, who spoke at the press conference after its presentation said:[1]

“… the Uluru Bark Petition is endorsed and signed by the senior elders of Ernabella, Pitjantjatjara and a senior elder of Mutitjulu Uluru, Yankuntjjara language. Secondly we are simply making a statement on a well-known fact acknowledged by the Australian Government and numerous academics. And that fact is marriage between a man and a woman is sacred between our people.” 

Indeed the Australian Law Reform Commission in 1986 released a Report entitled  Aboriginal Customary Law[2], which has a whole chapter on the nature of laws surrounding marriage in traditional Aboriginal culture.  On reading that chapter again last night, it was very clear that the authors of the bark petition very accurately reflects the content of that report – namely that in aboriginal culture marriage is about producing and socialising the next generation, and there is no scope in the traditional law for same sex relationships to be recognised in any way at all, let alone be given the status of marriage. 

Ken Wyatt, Member for Hasluck, and Senator Joanne Lindgren, the grand-niece of the late Senator Neville Bonner, are two indigenous members of our Federal Parliament who have publicly spoken out against redefining marriage to include same sex relationships.

As Mr Dodson has been a strong advocate of freedom, I trust that he is well aware of the consequences that have flowed from the introduction of same-sex marriage in Canada, USA and European nations which have gone down that path:

It has resulted in the loss of freedom of speech and the loss of the freedom to live according to one’s faith conviction with respect to that issue.  In those jurisdictions, people can be imprisoned for articulating contrary views, businesses fined for refusing to participate in or support same-sex marriges, preachers put under police supervision if they speak on the Bible’s teaching about homosexual activity. 

Indeed clause 5 of the bark petition I referred to earlier, if read out in Canada, would make the person speaking those words guilty of “hate speech” and subject to fines of $7000 and even imprisonment for repeat offences.

If Mr Dodson plans to remain a Federal Labor Senator beyond 2019, he will not be able to uphold the dreams and aspirations of aboriginal people who wish to articulate and hold to their traditional cultural view of the nature of marriage.

I trust that the many indigenous people in WA who are looking to Mr Dodson to be a voice for traditional aboriginal cultural values will not be disappointed.

I trust Mr Dodson will continue to make a significant contribution to furthering reconciliation and maintaining the freedoms that the secular fundamentalists would want to take away from those who do not share their view of the world.

I wish Mr Dodson all the best in his new role as a Senator.  

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  • Christianity and culture
  • Marriage and sexuality

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