Tony Abbott: Don’t damage institution of traditional marriage

Tony Abbott has urged policy makers to pass on “undamaged” the institution of traditional marriage to future generations.

The former prime minister told UN diplomats and officials in New York that policymakers should not be judgmental and there should be more respect in dealing with same-sex marriage, but the ­erosion of the traditional family could not be ignored.

“We shouldn’t try to change something without understanding it, without grasping why it is that one man and one woman open to children until just a very few years ago has always been considered the essence of marriage and the heart of family,’’ Mr Abbott said in a prepared speech.

Mr Abbott has demonstrated his intention to speak out in favour of conservative social policies only days after declaring he intends to continue in parliament beyond the next election.

His long-held position of support for traditional marriage and opposition to same-sex marriage is at odds with Malcolm Turnbull’s and signals a guaranteed ­internal Liberal Party debate on the issue as a plebiscite looms after the next election. The Prime Minister this week made it clear he supported the right of Mr ­Abbott and other conservative MPs to speak publicly on social issues such as same-sex marriage and the republic as well as his right to disagree.

One of the keys in Mr Abbott’s decision to remain in parliament, which some Liberals believe will cause a distraction for Mr Turnbull and divisions within the ­Liberal Party, was his desire to represent the conservative side of the party.

In a speech at the Alliance ­Defending Freedom, a conservative organisation promoting family values and religion, that was at times highly personal in front of an estimated audience of 150, Mr Abbott called for common sense and less ideology over same-sex marriage.

“Policymakers shouldn’t be judgmental about people’s personal choices but we can’t be indifferent to the erosion of family given its consequences for the wider community,” Mr Abbott said.

“It was my distinguished predecessor John Howard who pointed out that the traditional family was the best social welfare system that mankind has ever devised.”

Mr Abbott acknowledged the personal complexities and difficulties in the debate but defended the traditional family.

“These days, at least in Western countries, family structures are typically more complex than they used to be,” he said.

“Two of my sisters are divorced. One has a new partner. Another has a same-sex partner. To me, my sisters’ partners are first-class members of our extended family.

“The way they live shows their commitment to each other, even though there’s been no ceremony.

“In today’s world, we need less ideology and more common sense; we need less impatience and more respect; we need less shouting at people and more engagement with them.

“We shouldn’t try to change something without understanding it, without grasping why it is that one man and one woman open to children until just a very few years ago has always been considered the essence of marriage and the heart of family.

“We can’t shirk our responsibilities to the future; but let’s also respect and appreciate values and institutions that have stood the test of time and pass them on, undamaged, when that’s best. That’s a goal we should all be able to share.”

Last July, Australia opposed a motion passed at the UN that supported the traditional rights of family because it did not specifically refer to same-sex marriage and put the rights of family ahead of individual rights of the child.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop defended Australia’s opposition because of the lack of recognition of same-sex marriage in families.

The Australian, January 29, 2016 12:00AM Dennis Shanahan: Political Editor Canberra

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