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Day to Day Politics: And the losers were …

Friday 17 November 2017

1 On Tuesday this week my daughter, together with her two children, Jack 13 and Riley 11 visited for dinner. It’s a standing date. Jack, who attends a Catholic college had previously told me that the boys had already openly discussed the issue of marriage equality and were on the Yes side.

After they had left I said to my wife; “Do you realise that they will be the first generation to grow up in an Australia that openly and officially celebrates sexual difference? That it will just be normal to them that most folk are attracted male to female but others are attracted to the same-sex and it is also normal.”

“What a wonderful thing equality is,” I thought to myself. Just another small step in the pursuit of enlightenment. How different from my own upbringing when things like homosexuality were discussed among boys through the ignorance of the age. When an inquisitive innocent mind might lead indirectly to being branded a “poofter” with accompanying dangerous consequences, the pain of which has now finally been broken.

The parents and grandparents of today now have the opportunity to explain the second sex with an openness uninhibited by malevolent interpretation. That love is when there is an irresistible urge for the need of the affection of another, and the irresistibility is of its nature mutual. Gender has nothing to do with it.

As David Marr reported in The Guardian:

“For old men like me this is another step on a once-unimaginable journey. Sex was a crime when I made my first stumbling entry into the gay world. Even when those crimes were wiped from the books, so much complicated shame was left to be negotiated. The business of coming out was endless.

The smothering respectability of official Australia back then came back to sex. It was all about sex. But censorship collapsed. The press relaxed. Gays, lesbians, transsexuals and queers began to be accepted in public life.

The obvious became unremarkable. Australia became a better place.”

2 Surprisingly, when commentators have dissected and analysed the data from the survey nobody (bar me, I think) has attributed any influence in the overwhelming “yes” to the general anger in the community with the way they are being governed. Without distracting from the success of the Yes vote I am of the view that a fair portion were just white-hot with anger at the Abbott/Turnbull governments.

Of course, I have no other way of proving it other than to point out the alignment of the Newspoll and the survey itself. Perhaps you can add 60 years of political observation to that.

Regardless, Australians have delivered a stunning rebuke to Dutton (the originator of the survey), and Malcolm Turnbull’s government. Dutton’s survey added an extra 90,000 voters to the electoral roll. I doubt that they all did so to vote for marriage equality.

3 From my point of view the other significant thing to come out of the survey is just how much the Christian religion has declined in Australia. Other than in those electorates with a high concentration of Catholic and Muslim populations, religion had little influence on the result. Had the Christian Church said “no” to such a proposal as Marriage Equality as little as 10 or 20 years ago, the Yes vote would never have gotten up. Faith has never kept up with social change. It, combined with child abuse, in all churches together with better standards of education has seen a rapid decline in its appeal. So much so that it may disappear in 20 years time. (I supported this supposition in my piece Day to Day Politics: The Future of Faith in Australia).

4 To close I have chosen to use the words of my friend, Stuart J Whitman:

“Reflecting on yesterday’s overwhelming YES vote for marriage equality in Australia and the words of Gough Whitlam taught to me by his former chief of staff Race Mathews come to mind …

Good politics is about winning the informed consent of the people for necessary change.

It seems to me if a considerable majority of Australians are able to back same-sex marriage after being better informed, then why wouldn’t they also be prepared to support the just and compassionate treatment of refugees, real action on climate change, constitutional recognition of and a treaty with the First Australian nations, the rich paying their fair share of taxes, a strong social safety net for the disadvantaged, a properly funded NBN and an Australian republic?

We just need politicians with the courage to lead and bring the people with us on these issues.”

My thought for the day

“The secret of change is to focus all your energy on not fighting the old but on building the new.”


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  1. Miriam English

    I like Robert Heinlein’s definition of love:
    “Love is that condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own.”

  2. Terry2

    For once I am supporting Peter Dutton in his statement that if there is a need for religious safeguards and protections in contemporary society then we should look at that as an entirely separate exercise completely distinct from changes to the Marriage Act.

    What we need to acknowledge is that the Marriage Act is a civil piece of legislation, it has little to do with religion which is acknowledged by the existing religious exemptions.

    I still expect a national apology from John Howard for the discriminatory and punitive amendments he was behind in 2004 : this whole mess was created by you Johnny !

  3. Jagger

    New Zealand is leading the way in the Southern Pacific area on SSM, asylum seeker policy, climate change and treatment of their First People. All we need to do is remove the current mob of Neanderthals and anyone else who doesn’t want to “ Advance Australia Fairly”.

  4. Möbius Ecko

    Terry2. Shorten has also come out in complete agreement with Dutton’s proposal to separate out the protection of freedoms and safeguards.

    My conspiracy thought on this is Dutton is not suggesting this on any moral ground, but is suggesting this to stop what already appears to be more damaging infighting and fracturing of the Federal Liberals, and also to avoid the public backlash as yet again the right of his party, of which he’s a part, takes control of an agenda on ideological grounds.

    The whole right wing freedom of religion and other societal aspects reeks to me of another step towards fascistic like control. They are using it, as they do with their freedom of speech arguments, not to establish more freedoms for society but to stultify them to further control society.

  5. Miriam English

    Möbius Ecko, I believe the intention is to use widespread homophobia as a lever though which to break apart and destroy anti-discrimination laws. If they succeed in making it legal to do all kinds of bigoted things to gays in the name of “religious belief” you’ll start to see anti-semitism, racism, open displays of hate for the disabled, for women, and for anybody else in society, with “religious belief” being used to justify it.

    I think they’ll fail. At least, I hope they will. I doubt Australians will be sucked in by it. There have been other tolerant and civilised societies brought undone by powerful bigots, however those have generally been societies far more religious than ours. Thank god for atheism. 🙂

  6. Terry2

    Möbius Ecko

    I think Dutton may have unwittingly pointed to the need in Australia for a Bill of Rights which may or may not introduce religious protections but certainly could benefit Australia as a whole.
    Particularly as a Bill of Rights would undoubtedly include a requirement that all citizens be treated equally before the laws of Australia. Which brings us neatly back to the Marriage Act which since 2004 sought to introduce discrimination and inequality.

    Dutton may, on reflection, back away on this uncharacteristic view.

  7. Möbius Ecko

    “Thank god for atheism.

    Amen to that.

  8. helvityni

    “The secret of change is to focus all your energy on not fighting the old but on building the new.”

    Yes, agree, but we don’t do NEW very well in this country, we couldn’t even simply legislate SSM in the parliament… No we had to do it in a kind of second-hand NEW fashion and have a costly and complicated survey about it causing stress and division…

    Holland did it ages ago, in 2000, , believers in Ireland still go to church and maybe even say a kind prayer for all involved… the Dutch dams have not broken, nor has Ireland sunk into a sea…

    PS, Good on you Jacinda there in NZ for sticking to the humane promises made by your predecessor about saving some of our asylum seekers…let’s pray that our government ( most members are part of some church or other) will find some godliness in its heart and let it happen….

  9. win jeavons

    Lots of Christians voted”yes” ; think Rod Bower. Some people use religion as a cloak for self righteousness. This false religion.

  10. wam

    Only homophobes and arseholes would deny equality but the yes went gay not staying equal a big mistake. The media loved the gay not the equal so extremists yes and no ruled the ratings??.

    It is so sad to see a pair of clp people, 45 years married, so vehement in their wish to deny the same opportunity to loving couples. We often argue on politics but I assumed we would agree on equality.
    Being a silly simpleton why not just return the act to 2003, remove little johnnies man and a woman and put two people? Just a frivolous argument.
    The no are dealing and will deal seconds for as long as they can till the church gives its right to discriminate to any believer. The only loser will be a homophobic atheist.

    nb the church and any business associated with weddings should be made to advertise their refusal to serve same sex couples.

  11. notsurprisedbystupidity

    John, your quote from Stuart J Whitman: “It seems to me if a considerable majority of Australians are able to back same-sex marriage after being better informed, then why wouldn’t they also be prepared to support the just and compassionate treatment of refugees, … Australian republic?” would require a great number of our politicians to be honest and open in their communication with the population.
    Whist I agree with the setiment, I think it will be a cold day in hell when our politicians are prepared to be honset and open with us.
    Also – the recent survey – for me it was about equality under the law. I don’t care what you skin colour is, your ethnic background, sexual preference, etc. – we must all be equal under the law, no exceptions period. P.S. – why can’t they just undo what the little rodent did to the marriage act!

  12. wam

    ps Just had a visit from a world renowned maths teacher recently retired.
    (The purpose of the visit was to tell me about ‘The Daly River Girl’ on in darwin. Sounds like a good show.)
    But in conservation, she told me, she thought the gays were just on about the word, until she checked on one of my posts to discover the unfairness of the inequality between married and unmarried couples.

  13. kerri

    Are you paying attention Bill Shorten?

  14. Jaquix

    Not sure the government is in any position to push through more discrimination laws at the moment. Parliament and the people are not in the mood for it. Freedom of Religion means people are free to be religious if they like. Not that they can use that as a weapon against the rest of us who dont. There are sufficient laws in place with regard to discrimination and religion has more than enough freedom in Australia, IMO.

  15. Miriam English

    wam, excellent suggestion. Churches and marriage celebrants who want religious exemption should be forced to advertise the fact.

    I’d add that the wording should be required by law to be as embarrassing as possible, for example:
    “The people in this establishment use religion as justification for homophobic intolerance.”

    If they want to force us to be embarrassed then I think we should fight back with similar logic.

  16. Graeme Henchel

    I find it ironic that Pauline Hanson ensconced herself firmly on the NO side sharing it seems much the same view as recent immigrants and Muslims in western Sydney. The very people she goes on about who need to embrace “Aussie”values. Well mainstream “Aussie values”, the silent majority in fact have now shown that they seem overwhelmingly support the LGBTI community and their right to marriage equality.

    Will we she now change her own mind? Will she be content for the immigrant and Muslim community to share her minority view and embrace them as like minded Bigots? Cognitive dissonance indeed.

    Interesting also that the rural community, who many claim to be a her support base, voted YES.

    Pauline is not a populist, her views are not popular at all. Rather than representing the silent majority she represents a noisy minority or as I like to refer to them as a noisy moronity.

    Pauline is not a populist she is an opportunist and on this occasion her and her fellow travellers have egg all over their collective faces.

  17. Greg Bateman

    The point claimed by the author in his point 2. is undermined by statistics freely accessible on th the ABS website. The electoral role is in constant change. Each year 157,000 adults die in Australia. Each year just short of 150,000 people turn 18 in Australia. Further, some adults become citizens each year. New entrants on the electoral roll prior to this vote, albeit a voluntary vote, are likely to reflect no more than people turning 18 and new citizens. That said, the percentage of the younger age group of voters was lower than older age groups. I conclude that the actual statistics suggest no connection with dissatisfaction with the government.

  18. wam

    miriam yes this is worth a fight back.

    The nasty sick ‘no’ politicians have no idea of the trauma they have caused.

    Not just to the yes people but to many of the no.

    How sad is this post from one of my ex-students from the early 80s?

    I have been quoting bishop tutu and listed the world’s churches who are pro gays often over the last few weeks but:

    “Is it true they going to put up people at Tennant Creek Congress with Clever healing hands for the sick. Hearing this from one of the health workers. AnyIhing can happen now because Satan rules now. All the bad things has already taken place. look how far, Same Sex been approve, Holloween has been set to celebrate e and many other’s had been approve by Australia folks.
    Its going to be worsened. You’ll see Rape has already started from a small a town more yet.
    I wander if your souls are safe too and your kids please start praying for protection too, through our Lord Jesus Christ”

    god said yes xxx and so did jesus. these are true fair decisions so do not worry

    The devil said yes, so watch out what happens to good old Oz next!

  19. Glenn Barry

    Margaret Court has opened her trap yet again and let out yet another bundle of hatred

    I wonder if she would consider boycotting the country altogether and going somewhere as awful as she is, I just don’t know where that is unfortunately and I would not willingly inflict her upon anyone except Trump himself personally

  20. Miriam English

    wam, wow! The stunted intelligence of that person is sadly shown as much by their grasp of grammar as by their grasp of reality. It’s truly horrifying that such people can live in today’s world yet be so out of touch with it. It’s almost as if, for some people, the Renaissance and the past 700 years never happened and they’re still stuck in the Dark Ages, haunted by darkness and spirits, and praying desperately to placate their imaginary lunatic god.

    “God loves you, so he’ll torture you forever if you fall in love with the wrong person.”
    I wonder, do they ever stop to hear how utterly batshit insane their statements are?

  21. Patagonian

    As far as I’m concerned, the sooner religion dies out the better.

  22. Miriam English

    I have friends who are somehow intelligent and religious. Mostly they are excused by having been born into it and thus brainwashed from an early age; it’s not their fault.

    Other religious friends are either stunted by religion or their ability to think never quite matured and religion is part of their broken worldview. Most of these are lovely people, despite their religion. I can joke with them about their crazy beliefs and they do likewise with me. No problem. Their religion doesn’t interfere with our friendship.

    But some have their views so mangled by religion that certain subjects can’t be touched because they become obnoxious. I was speaking to one such person last night (she voted NO in the recent postal “vote” bullshit). I can’t remember how the topic came up, but she complained that neither side in the same sex marriage “debate” talked about the issue in any depth. This amazed me. I answered that plenty of the gay people I know discussed it in great depth. She said that nobody talked about the children. I said that if she was really concerned about the children she should have voted YES because gay people have been raising families for many years, and letting kids’ parents avoid discrimination would help those kids immensely. But she refused to hear me. I pointed out that this is why she never heard the topic discussed in depth: because when the gays spoke she ceased to listen. I had to work really hard to stop myself getting angry. I had to remind myself that she can’t help having her logic broken and prejudices magnified by religion.

    Yes. The world will be a much, much better place without religion.
    It’s coming… slowly.

  23. Joseph Carli

    ” Yes. The world will be a much, much better place without religion.
    It’s coming… slowly.”

    But like the top heavy iceberg, humanity seems to have the compulsion to “tilt” for some inexplicable reason…call it collective insanity…and do a reversion to default for many years, thus undoing much advancement..as regarding religion, I point to a time in the early stages of the “discovery” of Christianity where certain Christian fanatics would bail up strangers on the road and compel them under threat of death to fatally strike down their/this Christian fanatic (suicide was forbidden)..so they could reach the “Kingdom of God” quicker…The emperor of the time was compelled to post an edict appealing those deluded citizens to please, if they were so desirous of exiting this earth, could they not find a rope or precipice to do the job instead.

  24. Miriam English

    Bizarre. I hadn’t heard of that before, Joe. Religion is seriously borked.

    Those kinds of things are the first to get selected out so that evolution of memes, and to some extent of the genes too, eliminates those ways of thinking. Gradually, religion is inexorably eliminating itself from humanity. As we become smarter and more knowledgeable the meme is cut off from the ignorance it needs for its survival. I just wish we could speed the process up.

    Humanity is so dangerous we don’t have a lot of time left for frigging around with stupid religion memes, and idiotic free market memes, and dopey authoritarian memes. We need to move beyond them as quickly as possible, closer to some kind of sanity.

  25. Michael Taylor

    Brilliant cartoon, Miriam. ?

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