Saddle Up: Time To Kill The Dragon Again

dragonkill by Roxanne Ready

Once again it’s time to saddle up and kill the beast->

OK so it looks like we will have to ride out and destroy this monster for a second time. No, I don’t mean Tony Abbott (although….), I mean The Plebiscite! Arm yourselves! The Beast is Loose! Unsheath your swords! Seriously, stop watching GoT and do some real dragon-fighting.

We have been here before, so here’s a few snippets from past posts on the subject, and some words of advice and hopefully inspiration.


Last time, our advocates split, with some working to bring a plebiscite on, and others working to stop it. I don’t know how much of Tom Snow’s money Australian Marriage Equality spent to promote a plebiscite, but I do know that Shelley Argent of PFLAG-> spent over $200,000 (successfully) to stop it, and has probably spent just as much again since then. How much more successful could we be if we pool resources and work in tandem?

Alex Greenwich of AME by Kate Ausburn

It’s time to heal this rift and for everyone to work together. I know Rodney Croome has made overtures to AME and been ignored. Time for Alex Greenwich to stop sulking in his tent and respond. We can’t afford this crap.


As many others have written, a plebiscite is a bad, anti-democratic idea. Even that uber-Liberal free marketeer Ayn Rand thought so-> (memo to Wilson, T.).

The favourite philosopher of the extreme libertarian right, Ayn Rand, wrote against such “tyranny of the majority”. She said that individual rights are not subject to a public vote, and that the political function of rights is precisely to protect minorities from oppression by majorities.

Ayn Rand Wikipedia

But the ultra-right of Australian politics love it, as I’ve pointed out before:

Those who, like Albrechtsen, think the will of the majority automatically overrides the needs, wishes and rights of minorities do not understand democracy. That would be what the Greeks called ochlocracy, better known to us as ‘mob rule.’

Democratic states have mechanisms such as the US Supreme Court to ensure that the wishes of the majority are not elevated above the rights and freedoms of a minority or an individual. All democratic systems recognise that they must be ways to prevent the majority riding roughshod over minorities. That is… the Rule of Law.

Subjecting our rights and freedoms to a popular vote, in a referendum, plebiscite, etc would not be “10 out of 10 on the democratic scale”. It would be mob rule, the tyranny of the majority, and profoundly anti-democratic.


A plebiscite requires parliament to pass an act to enable a vote to take place.

The enabling act for a plebiscite sets the terms under which the plebiscite is carried out, and the timing.

  • Sets the question or questions to be put.
  • Needs to be something that can be answered yes or no, otherwise how do you define a win.
  • The wording of the question is crucial as it can tip the result either way.
  • Sets whether voting compulsory or voluntary.
  • Defines how the voting is conducted eg at polling places, by post, online via an app etc, and when, e.g. all on one day, or over a period of time.
  • Defines what constitutes a win, e.g., a simple majority of all votes cast, a threshold to be reached, e.g. 60% of all enrolled voters etc etc

A postal ‘plebiscite’, however, can be dreamed up by the government of the day, and neither the wording, nor the rules, nor the timing, nor anything, are subject to any parliamentary control or scrutiny. Or to put it another way, they can rig it how they like. And it can’t be compulsory.


As I wrote before:

Firstly, they will have no mandate, because they refuse to disclose the terms on which it will be held ahead of the election. If the full terms of the proposed plebiscite are not put before the voters this week [i.e., before the election -Ed], they cannot claim a mandate.

No Legitimacy

Secondly, whether the terms are put before the voters or not, whether a ‘mandate’ is claimed or not, no such plebiscite has any legitimacy whatsoever.

Rights are called rights because you have them ‘as of right’. Rights, such as the right to marry, cannot be withheld merely because some people don’t like you and don’t want you to have them. My rights are not to be withheld on the basis of someone else’s opinion.


We have already endured a tsunami of filth from the likes of Bernard Gaynor, Bill Muhlenberg, Lyle Shelton and others. Since I last wrote about this, it has only got worse. It’s about to get worse again. Stay strong and protect yourselves as much as you can, but whether it’s through writing and telephoning politicians, sending letters to the papers, pestering your local representatives, campaigning for a Liberal defeat, or donating as much as you can spare, do something. Except…


We once managed to get five thousand marchers on the streets of Melbourne for equal marriage. Shortly thereafter, I was interviewing veteran Labor politician Lindsay Tanner, boasting of the excellent turnout. He smiled indulgently and poured a bucket of cold water over me. I don’t have a transcript, so I’ll paraphrase. He said something like this:

Five thousand is nothing. Politicians won’t pay any attention. When you can bring twenty or thirty thousand or more onto the streets, regularly, repeatedly, week after week, then politicians will pay attention. Anything less and it achieves nothing, except to give you the comforting delusion that you’re doing something useful. You’re not.

Since then the numbers have waxed and waned, but we have never had that level of support. We need to ask ourselves why, and then we need to focus on how to build that level of support, or admit we can’t do it, and do something else instead. Good luck.

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)