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Surely A Person's Sexuality Is Irrelevant In This Day And Age

02/03/2016 3:14 PM AEDT | Updated 15/07/2016 12:51 PM AEST
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Fairfax/Andrew Meares

I am very conscious that my election to this Parliament represents the first time an openly gay man or woman has entered the House of Representatives.

I am proud to do so as a member of the Liberal Party.

I am of course not the first in this Parliament -- and I pay tribute to those that have forged a path in the Senate.

Some have said to me this is not an issue I need reflect upon, particularly on an occasion such as this. Surely a person's sexuality is irrelevant in this day and age, they have asked.

We do live at a time and in a world where we can be proud of how far we have progressed in breaking down centuries of discrimination against gay and lesbian people.

This weekend hundreds of thousands -- gay and straight -- will join together to recognise diversity, acceptance and respect at the Sydney Mardi Gras. They will do so peacefully and in a spirit of celebration. It's emblematic of the change that has occurred and, in many respects, it's no surprise and so very Australian.

While we have made great strides, discrimination remains and too many are prepared to peddle prejudice.

Our laws still deny access to marriage -- our society's ultimate expression of love and commitment.

Young gay men and women are more likely to suffer depression and other mental health issues. They are more likely to be bullied at school. More are likely to attempt to take their own lives and, tragically, some will succeed.

Coming out remains hard for many people. And believe me, I know what that's like. And while people feel the need to suppress their identity they will live a life of fear and trepidation.

They are denied the opportunity to love and be loved.

To be a full and flourishing member of our community.

To simply be themselves.

We will not have reached the end of the journey until no person feels compelled to live a life that is not their own. Until we recognise that a person's sexuality is not a choice or a preference -- it is as innate as the colour of their skin.

We should regard intolerance in the same way modern Australia regards discrimination based on sex or race -- no more and no less.

But I hope that my election to this place will, in a small way, send a message of hope. That your sexuality should not and need not be a barrier. That you can be gay and even be a member of the Australian Parliament.

............

For me the great challenges for this Parliament are how we maintain growth and improve economic productivity to ensure that we can preserve the living standards that set us apart from most of the world.

We face the challenge of reforming the tax system to ensure that it remains internationally competitive in a global economy where capital and increasingly labour are so mobile.

At the same time governments will face the pressure of responding to community expectations for even better services in sectors like health and education at a time when costs are outpacing revenue.

All of these issues require long-range planning yet democracy, by its nature, has a tendency to promote short-term decision making.

A structural issue we face in our federal system of governance is three year parliamentary terms.

This fact is widely accepted.

The normal cycle means perhaps two years of governance before the third becomes consumed with the posturing that is part of every election year.

It means that 33 years of every 100 are potentially lost to good governance.

It is for this reason that I believe it is time we moved to four year parliamentary terms - it should be done and done soon.

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These are edited extracts from Trent Zimmerman's first speech in the Australian Parliament.

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