There is a delicious irony in the marriage equality debate and “postal survey” becoming the wrecking ball that brings down the walls of Conservative Australia, especially that part represented by the archaic Tony Abbott.
The debate is about the right of one person to love another and to formalise their relationship in a way that is legally recognised. It is also about personal freedom — which the Liberals, even Abbott, claim to stand for. How ironic. How typically hypocritical.
Unorthodox marriage threatens the cornerstone of Conservatism, the church, and its self-proclaimed right to rule on a society’s moral standards.
Turnbull, while laughingly proclaiming himself “a strong leader”, will avoid the issues by not participating in the postal survey campaign. This choice means he has abandoned the battleground to Abbott. At the same time he has given the Opposition Leader, Bill Shorten, the opportunity to campaign for the “underdog” for the next three months.
Turnbull has announced he will vote for marriage equality. He has brought himself undone regardless of whether Abbott or Shorten appears to be the better leader at the end of the campaign.
Those most interested in the issue, the younger people of the digital age and social media, will be receiving a letter and campaign material in their letterbox (if they know what that is for) and some will be “voting” in the survey for the first time. They will make their mark according to their view of the football game being played by a bunch of white, grey-haired people in that far away and incomprehensible joint known as the federal parliament.
If the survey majority is a “Yes” the authority of Conservatism, of the church, of Abbott and of Turnbull will be damaged. In the case of Turnbull, damaged because the “strong leader” did not participate. Lead, he did not.
Taken all together, there will at least be a crack in Conservatism’s castle wall and Australia will cautiously step a little further into the 21st century.