Our say | Please pick a side, any side, in this debate

Earlier this week the Western Advocate canvassed the views of Member for Calare Andrew Gee on same-sex marriage and the controversial postal plebiscite.

We emailed off our questions to his Canberra office asking for our local member’s views on the plebiscite - as is fairly standard practice with many of the busy people we contact - and sought a reply.

To his credit, Mr Gee did reply, and this is what he said: “There are some strong views on either side of the debate. People want to have a say on the issue and that includes people supporting a change and those who don’t. I think our country communities are mature enough to have a respectful discussion about this topic.”

It was a reply that kept faithfully to the part line but still served the purpose we were seeking on behalf of our readers. Almost.

The one question that Mr Gee did not address was this one: “Does he support or oppose ultimately changing the Marriage Act to allow same-sex marriages?”

It’s fine for Mr Gee to celebrate the Australian people being given a say on same-sex marriage but, ultimately, most of us are just taking part in a glorified opinion poll. It has little more going for in terms of representative polling than a survey on the Western Advocate website.

In the end, it will only be the votes of Mr Gee and his colleagues in parliament that have any real power and, with that in mind, the final fence-sitting comment in this week’s reply is particularly frustrating: “It’s now up to the people of Calare to decide if the definition of marriage should change and I think it would follow [newspaper’s emphasis] that its elected representative would have to accept the outcome.”

Apologies, Mr Gee, but that’s not how our system of government is designed to work. We elect our representatives – yourself included – to make decisions.

We choose our representatives knowing they may support or reject policies not perfectly aligned with our own beliefs. That’s one of the costs of our democratic system.

But it’s a cost we can only pay if our elected officials stand up and make decisions.

Mr Gee, where do you stand on same-sex marriage? Whatever your position, there will be many of your Calare constituents who share the same view and many who don’t.

But the people who put you in Canberra at least deserve the courtesy of knowing what that view is – and we shouldn’t have to pay $122 million for the privilege.