Keep Standing In The Way

pic A K Rockefeller

Why the PM is desperate to have his plebiscite

Poor Malcolm Turnbull. He’s having a hard time actually doing anything. His amazing skill at wedging himself on just about every issue means he can’t take a trick. Except perhaps one.

  • If he moves on super, George Christensen will waddle across the floor and Eric Abetz will get cross
  • If he goes after the unions and revives the ABCC, Bob Katter will explode in a shower of Akubras
  • And if he presses ahead with a plebisicite on gay marriage instead of a free vote, his nice neat foursome of gay members will also storm off… oh, hang on a minute. Led by Uncle Tim Wilson, they’ll cheer him on.

Three guesses who is going to get the rough end of the pineapple in this scenario? Anybody?

There is no mandate

He’s claiming he has a mandate. No he hasn’t. To quote from The Sunday Age letters page

“A Liberal voter for more than 40 years, I have been a strong supporter of Malcolm Turnbull. I am therefore aghast at his characterisation of the poll results. He has but the slimmest of mandates on a two-party preferred basis, and no mandate based on first preferences. His claim to a mandate is only based on an agreement with a third party – the Nationals. Mr Turnbull is allowing hubris to overtake his judgment. The Liberal Party lost support because the voters did not like the policies put forward, few that they were.”

Where’s our Katter?

katterBut he did take the plebiscite policy to an election and won, didn’t he?. Well, he did that with super, and union bashing too. He’s backing away from them. But still going after us. Not because he took the plebiscite policy to the election. It’s just, if you’ll pardon the pun, we are the low hanging fruits. And we don’t have any champions in the Liberal Party willing to stand up to him.

Which rather begs the question: who will be the LGBTI Katter, or Abetz? Aboriginal members speak up on matters affecting their people. Lord knows Catholics (and other self-styled “Christians”) speak up for their co-religionists. MPs from ethnic minorities speak up on matters affecting their community. Racists speak up for racists. Gays speak up for… free trade agreements?

Meanwhile, Australian Marriage Equality, having kept itself together and on message for so long, no longer speaks for all marriage equality supporters. Former Deputy National Convenor Ivan Hinton-Teoh has left and set up just.equal – and opposes the plebiscite. Godfather of Australian LGBTI rights Rodney Croome is still in there fighting. Rodney has a great piece in the Sunday Age explaining why he’s against the plebiscite. He says

If a plebiscite is voted down, pressure to pass marriage equality will continue from the opposition parties, from the Government’s own growing pro-equality caucus and from a nation tired of being left behind by other developed countries.

There’s also the good possibility the handful of Government backbenchers required to pass marriage equality would be prepared to cross the floor.

What should we do?

Shelley Argent of PFLAG has joined Hinton-Teoh in a survey to ask the community what we should do next: she said on Lateline:

‘Somebody said to me, “It’s better to wait than to be walking over bodies as you walk down the aisle,” and I think that’s very true’.

I’m inclined to agree with her. Mind you, I know a lot of people who are jack of the whole bloody business and are willing to risk a plebiscite just to try and get it over and done with. Please let Argent & Hinton-Teoh know: do you want to press on with the plebiscite, or say thanks but no thanks, we’ll wait? Vote here. Your options are: do you

  • Moderately support a vote by politicians in Parliament, with no plebiscite
  • Strongly support a plebiscite
  • Moderately support a plebiscite
  • I don’t support a plebiscite or a vote by politicians in Parliament
  • I am undecided

Millionaires Marriage

pic Kate Ausburn

Alex Greenwich and Mr Irish Import over at Australian Marriage Equality, meanwhile, aren’t asking what we think. They are still trying to have their cake and eat it, saying that on the one hand, they don’t want a plebiscite, but on the other hand, if one is forced on them…

This irritatingly coy and maidenly stance is of course totally unconnected with

  • the rumored $1m donation tipped into Australians 4 Equality (A4E) by uber-wealthy gay businessman and doting gay dad Tom Snow (on condition it is only used to fight a Yes campaign during the plebiscite)
  • at least another $1m said to have raised by Mr Snow from other wealthy donors
  • the memorandum of understanding to have A4E run the plebiscite Vote Yes campaign for AME
  • the allegedly friendly relationship (as between one multi-millionaire and another) between Mr Snow, his BRW Rich List family, and the PM

Naturally, no-one will confirm or deny anything, but it’s all very cosy, isn’t it?

If the plebiscite happens

No-one should read too much into the current split in the community. I have no doubt that as soon as the plebiscite becomes inevitable – which it isn’t yet, despite what the Coalition is saying – we will all unite to fight for a Yes vote. There’s no appetite for the alternatives: civil disobedience, boycott, disruption. But that doesn’t mean we give in. We carry on standing in front of the tanks, like the guy at Tiananmen Square. Who knows? We may spark a conscience in a few Liberal MPs.

About the author

Veteran gay writer and speaker, Doug was one of the founders of the UKs pioneering GLBTI newspaper Gay News (1972) , and of the second, Gay Week, and is a former Features Editor of Him International. He presented news and current affairs on JOY 94.9 FM Melbourne for more than ten years. "Doug is revered, feared and reviled in equal quantities, at times dividing people with his journalistic wrath. Yet there is no doubt this grandpa-esque bear keeps everyone abreast of anything and everything LGBT across the globe." (Daniel Witthaus, "Beyond Priscilla", Clouds of Magellan, Melbourne, 2014)