Q and A: MP's 'no' argument shut down by gay audience member
A GAY Q and A audience member has taken a senior government MP to task over his anti same-sex marriage stance on live television.
Monday night's episode of the political panel show was billed as a special on the nation's power crisis, but the conversation inevitably turned to the national vote on marriage reform.
Australian-born Chinese man Alexander Lau was the first to introduce the topic with an emotional question.
"I'm a gay Australian-born Chinese man. My mother holds traditional views and last night told me that she voted 'Yes' for marriage equality only because I'm gay," he said.
"While I appreciate her love for me outranks everything else, it was a painful reminder that many in my extended family don't hold particularly favourable views of the LGBTQI community and that my relationships are somehow worth less."
Mr Lau went on to say this view was common in the Chinese community and replicated throughout various other ethnics groups, and sought the panels' views on how to combat the homophobia found in those communities.
The young questioner received supportive responses from panellists including Labor Senator Penny Wong, Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young, and conservative US author Bret Stephens, but was met with a more challenging response from the panel's government representative, Liberal MP Michael Sukkar.
"I am going to vote no," Mr Sukkar said.
"I'm a prominent supporter of traditional marriage, and what I'd say as far as ethnic communities go ... I think it's potentially as diverse in its range of thinking ... as the rest of Australia.
"I would say to you, Alexander, don't believe that somebody like me who does support traditional marriage in any way is looking down on you or doesn't think that you have a legitimate relationship."
The comment was met with scoffs from the audience and some looks of surprise from the panel, but Mr Sukkar went on to make his argument.
"This is one of the problems that we have suffered in this debate so far. So many people who are going to vote 'No' are very afraid to say so," he said.
"They get harangued, get called a homophobe, a bigot.
"My view is, those of us who believe very strongly in traditional marriage shouldn't be lumped into the basket that we are somehow hateful, or somehow don't view, Alexander, your relationship as being legitimate."
After the discussion continued for some time, host Jeremy Fernandez decided to go back to Mr Lau for his view.
"So Alexander, you've been listening to all this. What do you make of the response?" Fernandez asked.
"I want to touch on Michael's point about how he voting no is not a reflection of his opinion about my relationships," Mr Lau responded.
"When I go to family functions, my relatives don't ask about my relationships because they're uncomfortable about the idea of it ... however, my sister or my cousins, if they're seeing someone new, they'll have conversations with my aunts, uncles, cousins about their relationships.
"In that sense, you voting no is really a reflection of my relationship because what you're saying is that I'm not allowed to have a marriage or I'm not allowed to have a relationship that is worthy or marriage, because that is something that only you can have as a person in a relationship (with the) opposite sex.
"So when you go to cast your ballot of no, you are saying that your relationship is worthy of marriage and mine is not."
Mr Lau's response earnt a hearty round of applause from the studio audience.
Mr Sukkar reply was not so well-received, particularly when he brought up the "legitimate concern" of what children will be taught "in the same-sex marriage world", and gender theory.
Senator Wong interjected: "This is really shameful. It's shameful for you to use that argument."
'YOU CAN'T PICK AND CHOOSE EQUALITY'
Senator Wong had been first to respond to Mr Lau's initial question, saying those in ethnic communities couldn't afford to be selective when it came to equality.
"We have often argued for equal treatment on the basis of he principle of equality," she said.
"We have said in the past the White Australia policy was inappropriate. We said discrimination on the basis of race was wrong ... You can't pick and choose equality.
"If you believe in the principle on the basis of race or gender, I don't see why it is a principle that is somehow diminished or abrogated because of someone's sexual orientation."
On the issue of conflating the right to marry with other issues, which Mr Lau had also raised, Ms Wong said conflating issues was a tactic of the "No" campaign.
"The 'No' campaign is finding every other issue to talk about," she said.
"It's a deliberate scare campaign, and I think it's a tactic Australians are seeing through. And it's a disappointing tactic."
Conservative US author Bret Stephens said the result of marriage reform in the US had been "fantastic".
"My youngest child, her closest friend on earth has two dads. They're dear friends of ours and from my youngest child, she doesn't think twice about the fact that her closest friend has two fathers," he said.
"As a conservative, I make the argument from a standpoint of freedom. People have a right, at least in America and it ought to be everywhere, to pursue their own happiness. That's fundamental. That's fundamentally a conservative idea that the individual in his or her pursuit of happiness has - ought to be the primary concern of a fair-minded government."
'NO PLAN' FOR ENERGY CRISIS
Before things heated up after the topic of marriage reform was introduced, power prices and the nation's energy crisis had dominated discussion.
Mr Sukkar was again the centre of criticism on this issue, facing pressure from the audience and fellow panellists to explain the government's inability to resolve the looming crisis.
"We find ourselves in somewhat of a precarious position as we have transitioned away from very much carbon-intensive energy generation to more renewables ... the reality is we have seen a movement towards renewables without much thought to how you store it, if any, to ensure that you do have the energy when you need it," he began.
The assistant minister to the Treasurer was quickly shut down by Senator Hanson-Young who accused the government of having "no plan" to resolve the issue.
"You have no plan and this is part of the problem," she said.
"A lack of certainty for investment means there is a lack of supply. Lack of supply means prices go up. Meanwhile, emissions keep rising, higher and higher," she said.
"As a South Australians I get sick to death of hearing people in the federal government continue to whack South Australia when we have such support in South Australia for renewable energy industry.
"We are actually leading the way in many regards and if your government actually did something to help, we would be doing even better."
'IT'S ABOUT TIME EVERYBODY GREW UP'
Senator Wong suggested the lack of action on energy all came down to party politics.
"The last time we had clarity and bipartisanship was when I agreed a policy framework with the then leader of the opposition, Malcolm Turnbull. What happened to him? Tony Abbott and the Liberal Party tore him down and they have been waging an ideological war in this space for almost a decade," she said.
"So far, you have been unable to come to the negotiating table because you're still dealing with an ideological argument of people who decide that renewables are somehow the end of the world.
"It's about time that everybody grew up."
Senator Hanson-Young echoed Senator Wong's argument, saying the only reason the Government was pushing for coal rather than focusing on renewable energy was because of the former prime minister's influence.
"We're in an absolute, you know, funk when it comes to how we deal with climate change and how we deal with energy policy," she said.
"Coal is dead. It's dead in Australia, and trying to keep these clunkers going at huge public expense is just crazy.
"The only reason it's happening is because Tony Abbott is still in charge of your government's energy police and it's time Malcolm Turnbull stood up to him and said, 'back in your box, Tony, we're moving on with the future.'"
Mr Sukkar shot back, saying the Government was committed to transitioning away from coal.
"Of course we're transitioning away from coal, but let's do it in a sensible way that doesn't put too much pressure on households and also ensures we don't have what happened in South Australia go national because no-one wants South Australia to go national," he said.