TRANSCRIPTSpeech to the National Council of Bishops
Kansas City, Missouri
Ladies and gentlemen,
I want to thank you for extending this invitation to me to be here with you all today.
I think we should get the numerous and enormous pink elephants out of the room right up front.
There are obviously many areas in which we are in complete and total disagreement.
I supported full legal equality of same-sex couples, including the right of adoption. I support the use of stem-cell research and believe in the separation of Church and State.
The separation of Church and State is an issue that has been one often fraught with landmines for those who discuss it. For those of strong faith, it is an affront and an assault of your personal religious liberty, for those of no faith, it means that religious beliefs and views should be excluded from our political discourse.
I believe my position on this is clear, but I want to repeat it for you. I believe in State whose administration is free of the involvement of any specific religious interest or group. However, we must also be realistic. For many in our community, their faith is a core factor in what drives them and therefore it must not be discounted as invalid, simply because of the fact itís faith-driven.
We have a number of clear protections in our system to ensure that policies and their implementation are not discriminatory.
I believe that faith is deeply personal, and in our country, your right to practice or not practice any religious belief is respected as long as you do not impinge on the rights of others. That includes respecting that just because you believe itís right, does not give you the right to place demands on others who do not follow your own religious views.
Iím going to mention the evil ĎLí word, liberal. Part of the reason I consider myself a liberal is that I believe that individual rights need to be respected as a paramount element of society. That doesnít mean we donít make laws for society as a whole, but those particular rights and liberties need to be acknowledged. I will always defend the rights of people of faith to exercise them, with the same fervor I will protect the rights of those who do not have any or a different faith to live their lives how they see fit.
Iím a liberal, because I believe in the right to choose.
Iím going to go even further hereÖ I spoke to the National Womenís Leadership Congress last week and I discussed my view of the reproductive rights issues currently swirling around. I made clear that I am fundamentally pro-choice. However, many members of organisations such as this attacked me, suggesting that I am pro-abortion. There is a difference and itís deeply offensive to suggest otherwise. Abortion is a terrible thing for all parties involved, and support, not guilt, should be there to give women options, I personally a support a graduated system of checks from beginning of the second trimester. One key element that angers me no end, is that no connection is made between those who are pro-life and those who are opposed to comprehensive sex education.
To me, they are part of the same basket. There is real evidence that if you are given all of the information up front, including the use of condoms and other forms of birth control, the likelihood of unwanted pregnancies is much lower. This also is reflected in the rates of sexually transmitted infections.
Now, letís work on what we generally agree on.
All religious texts instruct us that we must care for those unable to care for themselves. That we should be devoting our time and resources to looking after each other and treating all, even our enemies with the respect and dignity we would hope to see from them.
I am about to hand down a Budget proposal to the Senate. I intend to bring down a deficit much faster than originally projected, with the opportunity to start paying down our debt from next year. We will do this, with small increases in some government charges and excises, we will do this from streamlining the way our military operates, we will cut back our military aid, but increase our humanitarian aid and we will cut back the operating costs of government. But I want to make this clear, there will be no cuts to social programs and I will not be cutting back the public sector workforce. I will defend those who administer vital programs for our country and am frankly sick and tired of seeing them attacked by people who know nothing of the work they do, or how hard they work. I will also ensure that those at the top know the need to reign in unnecessary spending. I will personally take a 20% cut in my operating and living allowances, and I will expect the same of all other elected and judicial officials.
We can deal with our economic problems, but we will not apply a machete when a scalpel works better.
Again, I want to thank you for inviting me here today. Iím sure many might not have liked what I had to say, but the opportunity meant a lot to me, so thank you.