|About this Item||Subjects||Child Abuse; Lawyers; Drugs: Illegal; Discrimination; Homosexuality
||Speakers||Breen The Hon Peter
The Hon. PETER BREEN [4.54 p.m.]: During debate in the House earlier today on the Drug Misuse and Trafficking Amendment (Hydroponic Cultivation) Bill, Reverend the Hon. Fred Nile said:
I have never used any illegal drugs, and I have never smoked cigarettes or used alcohol.
The honourable member is to be commended for his virtue, and I am the last person to deny him a place in the sun on account of his sobriety. But I do object to his denouncing sinners, as he did last night in the House when he attacked my old friend John Marsden. Unlike Reverend the Hon. Fred Nile, Mr Marsden was a pot-smoking poofter, and proud of it. It is an insult to the memory of the man that his badge of honour should be judged as being somehow disgraceful and dishonourable. I have no idea what to expect of heaven, but according to one of the readings at John Marsden's funeral service,
There are many rooms in my Father's house.
Marsden once told me that he was looking forward to the room that included a quiet gay bar and a bottle of Johnnie Walker whisky. That is not much to ask, and well within the remit of a loving God. One of the eulogists at John Marsden's funeral service was his brother Jim, who made the point that John was one of six children in a well-balanced family: three gay members and three straight members. Article 2358 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church refers to homosexuals, and states:
They must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.
An old friend of John's—he is also an old friend of mine—officiated at Marsden's funeral. He asked me not to name him because he has received so much hate mail since the funeral simply because he officiated at the service. He quoted from the Words of Sacred Admonition by St Francis of Assisi, and said:
Such as a man is before God, that much he is and nothing more.
Reverend the Hon. Fred Nile attacked John Marsden and added his words of scorn and condemnation to those of several journalists. He is entitled to his opinion, but it is not one that he should be rushing to express so soon after the man has been laid to rest. I have always thought that a loving God is far more likely to judge harshly the sins of calumny and detraction than the sins of the flesh. Certainly John Marsden thought so.
Much of what Reverend the Hon. Fred Nile said about John Marsden is a matter of opinion. I suppose it is true that a pot-smoking poofter could also be described as a law breaker—more so prior to the law reforms of 1984. Whether the attacks on journalists during the eulogies to John Marsden were unfair is an entirely different question. Most of the attacks referred to allegations by a certain Paul Fraser that when he was a young boy in 1967 John Marsden interfered with him. I knew John Marsden in 1967 and I knew Paul Fraser. In his book I Am What I Am John Marsden said that Paul Fraser's allegations against him were the must hurtful of all the false claims because Paul Fraser was the only person who ever claimed that John Marsden interfered with a prepubescent child. There was no support for those allegations. There was no corroboration from any other people at the school—children, teachers, counsellors and priests. This is an horrendous allegation, completely lacking in credibility, unsupported by corroboration, and conveniently recalled by Mr Fraser some 30 years after the alleged events—and not inconsistent with the enactment of the victims compensation legislation.
I tried to give the allegations some perspective when I spoke to several journalists, but all my information was ignored. Barrister Michael Lee wrote a letter to the Australian, which was published yesterday, answering some of the allegations in relation to Paul Fraser. I commend that letter to the House. In the last paragraph of the letter, Mr Lee writes:
It is a matter of great regret to all of John Marsden's friends and professional colleagues that these allegations continue to hound him after his death.
I emphasise the fact that I spoke to several journalists about the allegations. As I have said, I knew both John Marsden and Paul Fraser in 1967. Nothing that I said was published, not because it was not true but because it was not consistent with the story that the journalists were trying to promote. I reject absolutely any suggestion that John Marsden interfered with this person. His friends reject it and his family rejects it. It is appalling that Reverend the Hon. Fred Nile continued to perpetuate the allegations by referring to them again last night in Parliament. I believe in free speech but I believe that freedom should be tempered by the truth. The allegations by Mr Fraser in this case are definitely untrue and without credibility.