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Byron Shire
February 4, 2023

Thus Spake Mungo: Plebiscite or nothing

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A marriage equality rally in Sydney on August 13 last year. Supporters of marriage equality called on MPs to pass legislation in parliament and avoid a same-sex marriage plebiscite. AAP Image/Joel Carrett
A marriage equality rally in Sydney on August 13 last year. Supporters of marriage equality called on MPs to pass legislation in parliament and avoid a same-sex marriage plebiscite. AAP Image/Joel Carrett

Shock, horror, amazing scenes! Malcolm Turnbull and Eric Abetz in furious agreement on same sex marriage! And not only in their stubborn determination to enforce the party room decision connived by Tony Abbott for a plebiscite or nothing. On opposite sides of the continent, the two insisted that the public seldom if ever talked to them about the issue, and, they are almost certainly right.

For starters, why would anyone bother talking to a couple of brick walls – we all know what the robotic response will be. But more significantly, the vast majority of voters have already made their decision and moved on. All the evidence is that most people accept that same sex marriage is inevitable sooner or later and are not greatly fussed about it.

The silent majority is overwhelmingly made up of temperate progressives and reserved conservatives (not that they would ever bother to identify themselves as such) who have long since made up their minds and have no interest in the frantic fulminations of the politicians and their media bomb squad.

When it happens, some will feel a slight sense of regretful nostalgia for the good old days while far more will just be relieved it’s finally over – just has been the case everywhere else in the world that the reform has been implemented. The family will not collapse, the nation will not collapse into terminal depravity, civilization will endure.

And, believe it or not, Australia’s political stability will not be seriously threatened, even if Abetz and his handful of ageing mates see same sex marriage as the beginning of the end of the Liberal Party they have spent years wresting from the mainstream moderates. It has become an indispensible plank of their platform, a symbol of the right wing that must be upheld at all costs, but let us see just how ready they are to resign when, as will surely happen, the numbers finally turn against them.

One or two might; the member for Mallee, National Andrew Broad (of whom no-one has ever heard) has made noises in that direction. But whether he would vote for a no-confidence motion in the government is another thing entirely; apart from his loathing of Labor and all things left of the soup spoon, he rather enjoys the safe seat he has occupied for only four years, a long way before the parliamentary pension kicks in.

And of course there is another National, George Christensen, happy to cross the floor when it suits him and when he knows it will make no difference, but not one would back in a stoush over a matter of principle. And despite all the bluff and bluster, no Liberal even been prepared to make even the threat of resignation, so only would the Liberal Party survive, but so, almost certainly, would Malcolm Turnbull; when the tumult and shouting dies down, even the most delusional of the insurgents
must realise that he is their last, best hope.

So why, against all the dictates of commonsense, logic and even self interest, are they so determined to make it so difficult for their country, their government and themselves? A lot of it can be attributed to religion; in recent years more than a handful of fundamental fanatics from various sects have felt the attraction of conservative politics and have been encouraged by zealous evangelists from outside who have, of course, nothing to lose for themselves.

But probably more of it is sheer cussedness. Some, mostly in their political twilight years, are just using it as yet another weapon to
embarrass, undermine and if possible destroy Turnbull’s leadership. But others see it as yet another battle in the culture wars: if the left is in favour of it, they must, by definition, oppose it. Their reaction is not visceral, and as such is impervious to rational
argument. That being the case, they don’t even try to make a coherent case against same sex marriage: last week Abetz once again trotted out the old lines about concern for the children whose physical, emotional and of course spiritual wellbeing would be imperilled by the absence of two constant and loving parents, one of each gender.

This was of course unadulterated bullshit – rather like the idea of a non- binding plebiscite itself, actually, let alone the even more ludicrously anti- democratic idea of a voluntary postal vote – just ask Malcolm Turnbull. Obviously children are certainly better off with constant and loving parents, but the gender has nothing to do with it. And in any case, the argument is irrelevant: same sex couples can and do adopt and rear children, so surely the kindest and most sensible course for those who believe that marriage is an important institution would be to allow them to formalize the arrangement.

But we are not talking about sense: this is a debate about emotion, no treason. Abetz is not looking for serious debate, he is seeking a post-hocjustification of his iron-clad prejudices. And in doing so he is following a fine tradition within his party. Go back to 2001, the Tampa election in which the so called invasion of the boat people was the big issue. John Howard declared: “We will decide who comes to Australia and the circumstances in which they come” and the coalition cheered itself hoarse. It was all about keeping the bastards out: voters were encouraged to resist them at all costs, to demand they should be sent back to the depths to drown or in extreme instances bring in the navy to sink their leaky boats.

A brutal racism was apparent: the mood was encapsulated by one punter who boasted: “I’m voting for Johnnie Howard because he knows how to deal with the towel-heads.

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  1. The plebiscite score was 27 for and 7 against in the political football vote in the party room of the ‘oh so’ Liberal Party on Monday.
    The question of a ‘free vote’ was not entertained ot entered into or disgussed.
    This political football will be now hand-balled and kicked down the road to the Senate and those Senate people have already rejected it once but they will examine the ball once again and be engaged to decide on the question of Gay Marriage: should marriage be just between a man and a woman or should marriage also be between a woman and a woman and a man and a man among consenting adults.
    What is the betting of what the Senate will decide?
    I am beside myself. And if I am beside myself I might as well walk him down the aisle that we are all so liberal, but just how do I get him into labour at this party.

  2. Poor Mungo, trying to turn the same sex debate into an ageist or religious denial situation. Many straight people are totally against changing the terms of traditional marriage, regardless of age or religion.

  3. Lots of noise about same-sex-marriage & the twittering of galoots & who or what is sleeping on which side of the
    parliamentary bed. Marriage is what you make of it & most of us in this country agree the legality of same sex
    agreement bonded by that law is okay. However, our old ‘polly pattern’ continues because it can (and we pay them for this?) It’s a matter of principle! The old ongoing sick pattern of religion, prejudice & racism is still with us.
    We voted the buggers in… can’t we just sack ’em & be done with it…

  4. Another blow to the Rainbow people
    What do expect from a so call liberal party that is only un party because of the Hands it holds with the National party Now their True colours have cams out..
    At least it should be made Acceptable the Gay community that they can chose which way to be

  5. Poor Mungo, trying to turn the ‘same sex’ debate into an ageist or religious denial situation. Many straight people are totally against changing the terms of traditional marriage, regardless of age or religion.

  6. I am against gay marriage for the same reason that I am against female priests – both perpetuate something extremely deleterious, the intrusion into the public sphere of private matters and subservience of some people to others.


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