13 August 2017

Marriage Equality 1: Accepting our way of life

We search for leaders on our hands and knees

- Richard Clapton Best years of our lives
Marriage equality will happen, sooner or later, by any one of what seem now like a variety of political means. 

There were only seven members of this government prepared to stick their necks out and bring on marriage equality. I leave them aside here, and also the jihadists like Abbott or Abetz or The Jack Man, and say: most of the others must realise it is inevitable.

One day, a vote on marriage equality will come before the parliament. Coalition MPs may vote for it, or they may not. People who weren't able to get married will do so. As in other countries, the institution of marriage will be strengthened rather than diminished. The Prime Minister of New Zealand, Bill English, had voted against it but came to change his mind, and so too will they.

When that day comes, most current Coalition MPs will simply anticipate that they can shrug, concede they were wrong and expect to simply move on. Malcolm Turnbull will, I suspect, be in this number.

LGBTIQ people have done everything right in lobbying to change the Marriage Act: they have patiently petitioned MPs, joined political parties and engaged in polite public events. The fact that they have not yet achieved their aim is an indictment of our democratic processes, especially when you consider the 2004 change that made this change necessary came about within hours after underhanded lobbying from the Exclusive Brethren.

Those responsible for seeing this campaign through should be recognised as among the most capable organisers and representatives our society has. It will be interesting to see if they continue in politics by other means. The 1999 republic referendum not only gave us Turnbull and Abbott, but also Sophie Mirabella and David Elliott on the monarchist side, as well as Greg Barns and Jason Yat-Sen Li on the republicans. The monarchists made more of their people than the republicans did; you can blame Howard for wrong-footing the republicans if you will, but the fact is no promising politician arose from that movement to revive and sustain it. Lyle Shelton was a failed LNP candidate for Queensland state parliament, and people like Sally Rugg may yet switch to broader political engagement.

As Paul Karp notes, Turnbull has sought to justify the rights of LGBTIQ people in terms of whether or not a majority might accept them. This government has diminished rather than expanded our rights as citizens; they are awkward when reversing themselves. What's genuinely appalling is that LGBTIQ Australians are being treated like non-citizens.

Majoritarianism is the same basis on which our immigration policy is conducted: new immigrant groups cop hazing and are accorded few if any rights, until some ill-defined process occurs after many years whereby they are granted the status of True Blue Aussies, and another group of migrants cops the hazing. It should surprise nobody that the Immigration Minister was one of the main proponents of the mail poll, with its exorbitant cost, its lack of rigour, and its disdain for the people most affected. Never mind Liberal Party rhetoric about the freedom and dignity of the individual: Australian citizens must now petition the government for rights, rather than demand them and vote accordingly for representatives who share them.

Even if you agree with the Prime Minister and don't regard LGBTIQ rights as one of the most pressing issues of our time, consider those that are. Consider climate change, or economic stagnation (including, but not limited to, employee shares of corporate incomes), telecommunications and data security, education or healthcare, or changing geopolitical balances of power. In each case, this government has no real answers, and demonstrates no real ability to engage with complex, multi-faceted issues. In each case, for 15 of the past 21 years, Coalition MPs faff around, shrug, and change course - all with the clear expectation that whatever they do will and must be rewarded with perpetual electoral success.

The democratic measures by which we keep politicians in check have been blunted. That's the worst thing about this debate: a ferociously democratic people have been played into negation and acquiescence by unprofessional professionals who cannot be dealt out of the game by the usual means. It's a problem for our politics, and that includes the way politics is reported by those with press gallery access - but don't even get me started on that.


  1. Yeah , that took some discipline to not mention how the media always helps the mess along ..
    The thing is everyone knows it has to go through the parliament to be put into law and relying on the whim of straight people , could actually see the postal vote come in on the negative. A lot of people simply dont trust the government anymore , Tudge leaking peoples details to the press etc, to be honest I dont like the idea of sending my name and address to a government department, I know it sounds paranoid but the ABS is completely compromised now and god knows what sort of power someone like Brandis has to sift through data sets. What we are seeing is a pathetic attempt at asking permission from the public for the parliament to debate a law. Its shameful and just on principle most people would make this Turnbull and his governments final nail - people are sick of them its just the constant bullshit on everything coal, gay you know .
    Thanks for great writing I wish you wrote more regularly like in the old days but I guess you have other commitments. cheers

  2. derrida derider14/8/17 11:17 am

    From the POV of getting marriage equality, this ridiculous postal survey matters less than it seems.

    If "Yes" gets up, the pressure for a rapid conscience vote will be irresistible. If "No" gets up it will mean a low response rate (its a survey, not a vote, so "response rate" rather than "turnout" is the correct term) which will discredit this government further.

    The next election could then be quite soon, and whether soon or late will certainly result in Bill Shorten PM. Hence a "No" result will only delay marriage equality a little.

  3. "In each case, this government has no real answers, and demonstrates no real ability to engage with complex, multi-faceted issues."
    Laziness. The Coalition has been happy to outsource their policy work to vested and ideological interests such as the IPA, Minerals Council, BCA, ACL etc and take their communications strategy straight from the Republicans. No wonder we are subjected to toxic policy and campaigns consisting of nothing but vilification and three word slogans. The sooner they have an extended period in the wilderness the better for them and us.

  4. Before Lyle Shelton was a failed Qld LNP candidate, he was an incompetent city councillor in my hometown. We were glad to be rid of him when he stood down to run for the LNP, and him not getting a seat was just icing on the cake. Yet it seems he's found his calling with the ACL. Even if it's a twisted and ultimately futile one...

  5. Abbott, Abetz and their ilk aren't jihadists Andrew. They're Christians. Christians do Crusades. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rhineland_massacres

  6. Andrew Just imagine if Bill Shorten was to interpret the judgement of the high court as Turnbull has done the government members would be hollering from the roof tops how unworthy he is to be leader of the opposition.

  7. Tim Wilson did it purely for his own shameless career and is a hypocrite when as a libertarian could have crossed the floor numerous times. He lives in a safe Liberal Seat, Goldstein and can afford to take 'risks".

    Alex Greenwich who is a lobbysist for A.M.E is now in the N.S.W parliament, he's done quite well out of all this.

    It's quite pathetic seeing Christine Forster play nasty games against her own brother on twitter...that's a low point in our democratic process. I find that cringe-worthy.

  8. i wholeheartedly agree with you Andrew, the gay lobby has been one of the best groups in our political history. It's now all about bragging rights and which major party can claim that to their legacy.

    When countries like Vietnam are ahead of us on Human Rights, you know that the system is sadly broken.

    I have wealthy gay friends that have resigned from The Liberal Party due to this infringement on their rights as decent citizens..it's appalling.

  9. There is a real difference between this vote and the one on the republic.

    All sides acknowledged the republic as an issue which required a popular vote, and lobbied their sides. The monarchists used hardball tactics, but they weren't beyond the pale in terms of lies etc. The stakes were acknowledged as high, since a loss would (and did) mean the issue wouldn't be revisited meaningfully for a couple of decades.

    The postal survey is a farce. The attempt to prevaricate through its introduction is obvious to the vast majority of the population, and not just 'political tragics'. Both sides of the debate are openly stating that they have no intention of backing off merely because the survey doesn't go 'their way'. I have no doubt that the material on the unrepresentative nature of the survey is being prepared right now for presentation 5 minutes after the result is called.

  10. Abbott, Abetz and their like aren't jihadists Andrew. They're Christians. Christians don't do jihad, they do crusades.
    Rais, Perth