The Australian

By Gina Rushton

American scholars and Australian politicians contemplated legalising same-sex marriage, revoking citizenship for foreign fighters and tackling high incarceration rates in their disenfranchised communities on ABC’s Q&A panel.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s sister Christine Forster, who has campaigned for same-sex marriage with her long term partner Virginia Edwards, was predictably queried about her brother’s disparate view early on in the program.

The City of Sydney councillor ‘respectfully disagreed’ with Mr Abbott’s “strongly-held view” that marriage should be between a man and a woman.

“Children can be loved and supported and brought to their fullest potential with the most wonderful self-esteem and self-confidence and ability to make the most of themselves in same-sex families and in single parent families,” Ms Forster, to applause from the live studio audience, said.

Ms Forster labelled Labor leader Bill Shorten’s recent bill to legalise same-sex marriage as a “piece of unfortunate politicking” over an issue that was “too important to be a political football”.

“I can quite happily marry in my own mind; pardon the pun, the teachings of the church with the principle of marriage equality,” Ms Forster answered a Catholic questioner in support of same-sex marriage.

African American intellectual Dr Cornel West, who was applauded on social media throughout the live program, said he was sceptical about institutional Christianity on such matters.

“The Churches have been wrong before,” Mr West said. “They were wrong on slavery, wrong on even Nazism in many ways, wrong on gay brothers, lesbian sisters, and bisexuals and so forth.”

“Is it too easy to gain Australian citizenship?” questioner Margaret Sheffield, who raised the issue of returning foreign fighters, asked.

Former Attorney General Philip Ruddock said it had been possible since the Citizenship Act in 1949 for Australians to be stripped of their citizenship.

“If you fight for a foreign army against Australia, it can be removed,” Mr Ruddock, who was last month appointed Special Envoy for Citizenship, said.

“If you don’t fight for a foreign army, you fight for something that’s far worse, you don’t even observe the rules of law, you are part of a terrorist organisation, should you be treated differently and be able to retain your citizenship?” he asked.

Labor senator Katy Gallagher said the Federal government should provide more information to the opposition and to the public to inform a genuine discussion on returning foreign fighters.

“We don’t have any detail; we have leaks coming from the Government, we have division on it, disunity on it,” Ms Gallagher said.

“If you choose to go overseas and wreak mayhem and do terrible things to innocent people, then, gosh, tough luck,” Ms Forster added.

Questioner Abrar Ahmad cited the high rates of Indigenous incarceration in Australia and similarly African Americans in the United States and asked: “Are we not losing another generation of Indigenous Australians and African Americans to the prison system?”

Both countries began as settler colonial societies dictated by a white supremacy that still tainted their histories, Mr West responded.

“Arbitrary police power is itself a crime and that’s what’s going on,” Mr West said. “The restorative justice movement is an important movement to take seriously in terms of alternative to the punitive orientations we have seen in the last 40 years.”

Questioner Chris Wood asked the panel about revelations published by WikiLeaks about the Trans-Pacific Partnership which heralded the potential for foreign corporations to sue a country and its taxpayers if its laws interfered with a corporation’s expected future profits.

“I’m not aware of any company successfully being able to sue a government on such issues,” US Studies Centre chief executive Dr Bates Gill said.

The agreement — involving US, Australia, Japan and several others — would “smooth” the business activities for the 12 nations involved, to be able to deliver goods and services by “levelling the playing ground”.

The potential for companies to sue governments were part of the controversial North American Free Trade Agreement between Mexico, US and Canada, Mr Gill said.

“Negotiations between governments are done in secret,” he said.

“I have profound suspicions of the TPP and any time elites want to want to push through agreements in secrecy without transparency to the public,” Mr West, who described the partnership as “NAFTA on steroids”, said.

This article was originally published at The Australian