A long time ago in a land far, far away, Australian’s had politicians with gusto. Publicly elected officials that had the capacity to own their damn message. People that weren’t afraid to surpass grab-sized catch phrases with wit, or cross the floor of parliament to stand-up for something they believe in despite internal consequences. Gone are the days where Paul Keating wanted to do John Hewson slowly; the personalities in place are now as bland and fluro-tanned as the 1993 White Pages clinging to life at the bottom of your grandparents’ pantry.
I guess there are some frightening cartoon characters, like climate change sceptic Malcolm Roberts or Pauline Hanson of “I don’t like it” fame. The latter, similarly active this time 20 years ago, has merely exchanged her anti-Asian sentiment from 1997 for a much more up-to-date anti-Islam rhetoric, probably peaking with the burqa wearing stunt during a senate session. I guess it’s cool to have a laugh at the quacks of the far-right occasionally, but it’s harder to do that once you remember: a) how long their senate terms last (six years in Pauline’s case), and b) the six-figure salary drawn from the public purse, not really intended for use in pulling divisive stunts.
At anyrate, when Prime Mambo #5 in a decade, Malcolm Turnbull, made the tactical decision to knife his career rival Tony Abbott in a spectacularly Labor-like fashion during 2015, he had to make a deal with the devil – the hard-line conservative Liberals who considered Tone a mate. The Kevin Andrews’, Eric Abetz’s and Peter Dutton’s of the world; he needed to appease them, or he’d be gone just as easily.
The progressive-Malcolm seen prior to the leadership spill in 2015, the very same Malcolm that delivered an election-winning margin to the Liberals almost immediately after the spill, began to slip away. While voters might have breathed a sigh of relief with the removal of Tony “I ate a raw onion on camera once” Abbott, as they took a breath the onion fumes cleared only to reveal that progressive-Malcolm was already missing in action. The same guy that stood for an emissions trading scheme and lost his first shot at The Lodge as a result, and the one that previously came out in support of same-sex marriage – gone with the wind.
The same-sex marriage ‘issue’ has been like a butt that just won’t quit in Australia, as countries all over the world have continued to legislate to join the 21st century across every year this decade. Ireland made it so with just seventeen additional words in the constitution: “Marriage may be contracted in accordance with law by two persons without distinction as to their sex.” Admittedly their politicians couldn’t decide either and put it to a popular vote – but theirs was different.
I’ll get to the point: the idea of a plebiscite – a national vote on an issue that does not effect the constitution – on same-sex marriage, was an idea born in the heavily conservative wing of the one-seat-majority-holding Liberal party. Rather than allow a free vote on the issue as basically everyone else supported, the deep-seeded religious beliefs and values held by the silver-haired Liberal kingmakers in Mr Turnbull’s court have driven the decision to handball the issue back to the public. And it’s a line he had to tow.
Malcolm Turnbull, an aforementioned supporter of same-sex marriage, has obviously been in a pickle with this issue since Day 1. I’m sure he’d love nothing more than to simply push for a free vote on the floor of parliament, but the kingmakers would slice his head off faster than Ned Stark’s (spoiler alert). Instead, Malcolm has a cramp in his face so severe from smiling through repeated utterings of ‘this is the policy we took to the last election’, that he now rocks a pained expression 24/7.
After the double dissolution election last year – a slow-burn ploy designed to capitalise on Mr Turnbull’s short-term flames of popularity with voters – both unfavourable houses of parliament were purposely dissolved and accidentally remodelled into an even more hostile environment. This created additional problems for the plebiscite option. Friendly conservative type, Tony Abbott, had already started firing warning shots about not sticking to the plan.
Meanwhile, the hopes and dreams of people with perfectly normal sexual orientations that just happen to be different to those of the staunchly-conservative Boomers previously mentioned, continue to be thrown around with gay abandon. Though I guess the feelings of all those people aren’t important compared to the real issue at hand: Malcolm’s nuts are in the conservatives’ vice and he’s desperately trying to pull them out.
So facing yet another roadblock, and a threat from The Nationals about pulling out of the Coalition if the Liberals ever supported a free vote option, the postal plebiscite was conceived and supported by the merry band. Conveniently, using the Australian Bureau of Statistics to conduct ‘a survey’ is an excellent way to avoid the senate roadblock, though it’s a decision facing a High Court challenge.
Not only is it non-binding for them and not compulsory for us, a vote by mail on same-sex marriage in 2017 is a hilariously apt way to illustrate just how out of touch the FIFO population of Canberra really are. Honestly, it’s almost as good as the revelation Barnaby Joyce, leader of The Nationals, is a dual citizen of New Zealand. Even The Betoota Advocate couldn’t cook that shit up.
At anyrate, some people are overjoyed there is finally some movement on the issue after a substantially long stalemate, but let me illustrate something of my own: this method of voting has been chosen to ensure a favourable statistical slant towards older voters. If the vote on same-sex marriage was conducted online it would come back with a very high ‘yes’ percentage. The fact it’s a $122-million mail vote is very much a deliberate attempt to over-represent our elders in the final result, but it’s a tactic that will ultimately backfire for the Liberals.
Almost paradoxically, gay-sister-having conservative Tony Abbott is essentially spearheading the ‘no’ campaign. He is shamefully attempting to re-frame the issue:
“If you’re worried about religious freedom and freedom of speech, vote ‘No’, and if you don’t like political correctness, vote ‘No’ because voting ‘No’ will help to stop political correctness in its tracks.”
Unfortunately for Tone and the Liberals at large, this kind of rhetoric has only encouraged a groundswell of support for ‘Yes’ online, with large numbers of millennials enrolling to vote for the first time. With several Liberal MPs holding seats on margins of 1000-2000 votes, this kind of garbage is taking them directly to the danger zone at the next election.
Ultimately I think the postal vote is only going to prove to be a disgustingly divisive campaign, which will fail to force the hands of those who are clearly rusted-on ‘no’ voters, staunchly opposing for religious reasons. With homophobic material already appearing in Melbourne, there is certainly enough time for things to get ugly before 6pm on October 27, when the voting period expires.
Anecdotally, I’ve already heard some reasoning behind potential ‘no’ votes from exactly the demographic a postal vote appeals to: some oldies don’t necessarily have an issue with gay people marrying, but they do have an issue with the definition of marriage (ie, between a man and a woman) being altered. The idea being, they would prefer an additional classification such as a ‘union’ – which in itself is discriminatory, but I digress.
And that’s not even the question being asked by the ABS. The question is: “Should the law be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry?”.
With shitheels like Tony Abbott trying to alter perceptions of a fairly innocuous question, and playing off the usual fear mongering garbage cherished by the closed-minded usually found loitering within the far-right, I think the final result will actually be a lot closer to ‘no’ than anyone expects. Never under-estimate the retiree vote – it’s exactly how we ended up with Prime Minister Tony Abbott.
Anyway, religion has absolutely nothing to do with love and it should be left out of this entirely. Marriage is the ultimate declaration of love for another – who gives a shit what’s going on below the belt. When you consider young Australians are dumping religion faster than a shit Tinder date, it’s pretty easy to see why the only people with an issue are the ones walking the halls of parliament.
I’m just going to do what Malcolm can’t and put this to rest myself. If I place a $50 bet on ‘no’ getting over the line, same-sex marriage is a sure thing.