When asked about the conditions of the written agreement between the Liberals and Nationals to form a Coalition government after last year’s election, Barnaby Joyce said “The first aspiration is the agreement remains confidential. That’s aspiration one, two, three, four, five and six.”
What did they have to hide?
As Mark Kenny put it, “to actively deny that exposure dishonours the democratic process… if the Prime Minister’s first act is to ink a private arrangement in which policies and patronage are seen to be traded.”
It has been widely reported that part of that horsetrading was Barnaby’s insistence that a plebiscite would precede any changes to marriage law.
A Galaxy poll in August 2012 showed that 64% of Australians believe that same-sex couples should be allowed to marry.
Another poll conducted by Crosby|Textor in late June 2014 showed that almost three-quarters of Australians (72%) now support legalising same-sex marriage, including around half (48%) ‘strongly supporting’ it. Just a fifth (21%) opposed this to any degree with those strongly opposed, a small and shrinking 14%.
A Reachtel poll in February this year revealed almost 62% of those surveyed believe that their Federal member should be allowed to vote for same-sex marriage when the issue comes to parliament with almost 60% believing that should happen this year.
There are 226 elected representatives in Federal parliament.
Of the 204 that do not belong to Barnaby’s Nationals, 62% are in favour of marriage equality, 17% are undecided, and 21% are opposed. This roughly correlates with community opinion.
Of the 22 Nationals members, 18% are in favour, 23% are undecided, and a whopping 59% are opposed. This is completely unrepresentative of what the people of Australia actually think.
Ever since the election, Barnaby has been flexing his muscles. Fiona Nash has announced that, unless they can present a case as to why not, the entire public service will be moved to the bush. Matt Canavan is strongly pushing for the Nationals slush fund (aka the NAIF) to be spent subsidising an Indian billionaire’s coal venture. The inland railway, that may or may not make Barnaby Joyce’s Pilliga property more valuable, will go ahead. Dog whistling about 457 visas and citizenship is designed purely to shore up Barnaby’s party against James Ashby’s One Nation.
Approximately 10% of Australians live outside urban areas. Nationals make up about 10% of our MPs but they occupy over 21% of the ministry giving them a disproportionate voice in Cabinet.
After Tony Abbott deliberately scuttled any chance of marriage equality by inviting Barnaby’s bozos to join the Liberal’s party room debate, Malcolm Turnbull contacted Alan Jones asking him to intercede.
“This is ridiculous Alan, this plebiscite stuff,” Jones quoted Turnbull as saying at the time.
Well Malcolm, you’re the boss now – well at least in name. You could actually have the courage of your convictions for once and allow the lawmakers to vote now on what is an inevitability.
Not only would it remove a festering topic, it would put Tony Abbott in his place and remind Barnaby that he isn’t running the show. Despite what Eric Abetz and Kevin Andrews may think, it would undoubtedly give you a lift in the polls and would give you some clear air to get on with more pressing issues before the next election. It would remove a wedge issue from Labor’s arsenal.
Why are the Nationals allowed to impose their will on the country against the wishes of the vast majority of politicians and citizens? What is Barnaby going to do if you decide to have a parliamentary vote – give up being Deputy PM? I don’t think so. Dissolve the Coalition? Hardly.
The February Reachtel poll also showed that 41% of voters are less likely to vote for the Government if the Liberal Nationals Coalition continues to block members voting according to their conscience.
For everyone’s sake, show some ticker and to use Barnaby’s words, just get ‘er done.