Gregory (Scotland Yard detective): “Is there any other point to which you would wish to draw my attention?”
Holmes: “To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.”
Gregory: “The dog did nothing in the night-time.”
Holmes: “That was the curious incident.” **
[Silver Blaze: Conan Doyle]
PART ONE: SHERLOCK
In the runup to the Liberal party room meeting, where the so-called Famous Five were due to call for a free vote on Senator Dean Smith’s marriage equality bill, we heard a fair amount from Warren Entsch, Trent Zimmerman, Trevor Evans and of course, Dean Smith himself. But one face was largely absent from the lineup. Tim Wilson.
I thought this ‘negative fact’ curious at the time, and remarked on it. Tim is not noted as a shrinking violet, reluctant to put himself forward. In fact, he has rather a pugnatious, in-your-face style. So why did he not bark?
It could be because of a promise he made when he was seeking preselection in Goldstein. A senior Liberal source told the Daily Telegraph:
“Tim won his preselection by two votes out of 300. During his campaign, he sat and looked a lot of people in the eye and said he will not be a gay rights advocate.”
His constituency party are said to be furious at what they see as a broken promise, and have been making (so far) unsuccessful efforts to unseat him. His position remains on a knife edge.
“With a reference letter from Tony Abbott and a pledge not to become an activist on gay marriage, the Victorian Right faction didn’t stand in the way of Wilson’s preselection. Now, they’re furious at his broken vow.”
He only won preselection by two votes, so his position is precarious. So perhaps we can forgive him for running a little quiet on the issue.
But that’s not his style. As soon as he determined for himself that Labor could not deliver enough votes to pass the marriage bill in the Senate (a claim marriage equality advocates rubbished, saying ‘it makes a good story, but it’s not true’), he swiftly moved to distance himself from any talk of floor crossing.
He was the sole out gay MP to come out spruiking the postal survey on the morning of the August 7, before the party room meeting had even convened, much less voted.
Same-sex marriage supporter Goldstein MP Tim Wilson this morning said he could support a postal plebiscite if there was a guaranteed free vote held later, while Queensland’s Warren Entsch has not ruled out backing it.
After the meeting, he said nothing about the secret ballot of party room members. Like the dog that did not bark, the secret ballot didn’t happen, but neither he nor any of the Five complained, at least, not in public. Yet that more than anything else squashed down the number of supporters for Dean Smith’s bill.
Wilson went on to repeat on the floor of the house his claim, that he could not have secured enough Labor votes in the Senate to get Smiths bill through, thus neatly pinning the blame for his failure on the opposition. Well, he is a politician.
Wilson said he didn’t think the numbers were there in the senate for a private members bill to pass.
PART TWO: ALICE
Now let’s switch literary genres. As Alice in Wonderland said,“Curiouser and curiouser.” Let’s leave the realm of recorded facts and enter the realm of speculative fiction. Remember, what follows is pure speculation.
What if Wilson and his mentor, George Brandis, are working on a cunning plan to deliver same-sex marriage (albeit of a crippled, exemption-sodden kind), with a Liberal badge on it?
Consider this: Brandis will be retiring at the end of this parliament, and after successive losses at the hands of his nemesis, Peter Dutton, wants to get a big win on the board before he goes. He is known to be keen, nay, desperate, that he should be the one to deliver same sex marriage.
Consider that Wilson is Brandis protegee. It was Brandis who parachuted him into the Human Rights Commission, and the two are known to be close.
It was Brandis who drafted the narrow question – originally for the full plebiscite – which will now be put in this shonky postal opinion poll (if it gets up). It was Brandis who created the Exposure Draft of a same-sex marriage bill which triggered a Senate Enquiry and led eventually to Smiths bill.
The government is refusing to say what bill will be put up if the postal vote says yes, but those in the know says that it will be a version of this Brandis bill. They have also said it will be a private members bill ‘facilitated’ by the government. Do you see where I’m going with this?
Let’s review. Bowing to what he sees as the inevitable, Wilson backed away from Smiths bill, signalled his support for a postal vote, pinned the blame for the failure of the private members bill on Labor, and now comes out strongly campaigning for a yes vote.
Could it be that when the smoke clears, and the results are in, Private Member Wilson will be standing there clutching a copy of Brandis bill, declaring that he will bring us “marriage in our time”?
Or am I dreaming?
Oh well. Time to climb out of the rabbit hole and get campaigning.
** The fact that the dog did not bark when you would expect it to do so while a horse was stolen led Homes to the conclusion that the evildoer was a not a stranger to the dog, but someone the dog recognized and thus would not cause him to bark. Holmes drew a conclusion from a fact (barking) that did not occur, which can be referred to as a “negative fact,” or for the purpose of this discussion, an expected fact absent from the record.