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Malcolm, you’re cornered

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.


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  1. babyjewels10

    We all just have to ensure the Yes vote wins. I’d like to see Australia enter the 21st century, even if it’s just a small way.

  2. Jaquix

    Turnbull just lurches from one gaffe to another. Huw Parkinson did a great video on Insiders today, with Turnbull as a drunken fool with pink lace jabot, beseeching laughingly Have your Say, Have Your Say. Once you are ridiculed to this extent, you might as well pack up bat and ball and go home. Only he then goes on to South Australia and thunders sarcastically about their energy policy initiatives, which just shows up the lack of his own, which is causing the states to make their own decisions to keep the lights on. Then he marches into another conference (probably for the rusted on) and continues the Bill Shorten bashing campaign, screaming that “Bill Shorten is the most dangerous left wing politician since Bob Hawke and Paul Keating”. The audience might have been OK with that, but to the rest of us he just looks a fool. The rest of Australia will have a good laugh at that. Bill Shorten dangerous- left wint? The only danger Bill Shorten poses is the very real one that he is Malcolms rival and is almost certainly going to knock Malcolm off his precarious perch.

  3. Terry2

    First the government have got to convince the High Court that, despite the Senate blocking the plebiscite and its funding from the public purse, it is constitutionally legitimate for them to still take the funding from the pockets of taxpayers without the approval of the parliament : the High Court could easily see this as a Separation of Powers issue where the Executive have overstepped the authority given to them by the people of Australia.

    Next, they need to find a question to put to the Australian people that is not tainted with right-wing or inflammatory bias. It seems that the question is being re-formulated as the government are not saying that they will stick with the question that they originally put in the failed plebiscite legislation, viz :

    Should the law be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry?

    In the Irish referendum which actually required a change to their Constitution – not the case in Australia – the people were asked to approve an amendment to their constitution, inserting the following in section 41 :

    Marriage may be contracted in accordance with law by two persons without distinction as to their sex.

    As many have noted, in the Australian context, the question is very much a matter of human rights and the elimination of discrimination from the Marriage Act 1961 (Cth)

    This should mean that the question asked should be simply :

    Should all Australian citizens be equal before the laws of Australia ?

    This simple question focuses on what this whole long-winded debate has been about : it is not about religion or the welfare of children or even gay people getting married. It is about equality before the law and at the moment LGBTI people are not equal before the laws of Australia and that must change.

    So, what do AIMN contributors consider should be the question put in our non-binding survey if the High Court allow the government the freedom to raid our pockets to the tune of $122 million ?

  4. Kaye Lee

    For starters, Cormann is using the “Finance Minister’s Advance” to fund this, thus bypassing parliament.

    An advance “may only be issued by the Finance Minister or the responsible Presiding Officer if satisfied that there is an urgent need for expenditure that is either not provided for or has been insufficiently provided for in the existing appropriations of the agency”.

    Which raises the question of whether a postal vote run by the ABS count as an “urgent need”.

  5. Kaye Lee

    The precedent for the legality of the marriage equality vote being handled by the ABS is another question entirely — it’s a 1974 ring-around vote to change the national anthem responded to by just 60,000 households.

    On August 10, the AEC received 68,000 electoral roll enrolments versus the average daily intake of 4000 — 17 times more than usual. People are mobilising in a big way to get ready for the marriage equality ballot.

    That doesn’t auger well for Malcolm either – all those young people now registered to vote, probably late next year, with this as their first experience of going to the polls. How many of them will want to vote for the party of Tony Abbott and that other dude who was too gutless to say anything.

  6. Matters Not

    Re Treasurer’s advance (as it is known at the State level) is for emergence use only. Floods, fires, famine, pestilence, legal cases and the like that need to be settled urgently and are outside the Budget ‘estimates’ are funded from that source. As I understand it, there’s no real rules as to its use but I also understand that there are variations across jurisdictions.

  7. Matters Not

    will avoid the issues by not participating in the postal survey campaign.

    That’s wishin’ and hopin unless he decides not to have any press conferences. Just vacating center stage and leaving it to others to make the news will have a very short life.

    But maybe his right controllers have demanded that he goes to ground in the hope that the MSM will just forget about the issue. After all, ‘judgement’ is not their strong point.

  8. Terry2

    Matters Not

    That applies in the federal context too, it’s in the https://www.legislation.gov.au/Details/C2016A00069 federal act section 10. The only difference to this being an urgent appropriation is that the parliament
    [the Senate] has already voted down this appropriation.

  9. madeleinekingston

    Thanks Barry and other posters

    I agree that Turnbull is spineless is becoming a joke on the basis of being so readily influenced by a certain faction of his Party and so determined to hold on to his taxpayer-funded job.

    The downside to kicking him out just yet is that we are under threat of acquiring Dutton and the like or even a resurrected Tony Abbott or one of the other judgers of people’s personal lives and decisions, possibly also without identifiable conscience. I have just posted my views against the earlier AIM Article Dutton as PM – No Thanks, echoing the sentiment expressed in the subject title.

    As I understand two Liberal Ministers, Josh Frydenberg and Simon Birmingham, have claimed that they will actively campaign to encourage the “Yes” outcome in the farcical expensive and unjustifiable proposed half-baked SSM ballot, for which the ABS is to assume responsibility, assuming that the proposal is not knocked on the head by the High Court, which will hear the matter on 5 and 6 September regarding the legitimacy of the Government’s decision to run an opinion poll at enormous expense to the public purse without Parliamentary Sanction. It matters little which slush fund is being used, it will still come out of the taxpayer’s pocket. Cormann’s funds as Finance Minister are reserved for emergency situations or urgent matters.

    In the meantime, Turnbull will rumble on, sidestepping direct questions, avoiding a firm stand on this and other issues and inviting ridicule in one quarter or another because he simply does know how to turn things round by showing leadership.

    There are worse alternatives, and I am deeply concerned that the current jests may not be sustainable if the more sinister alternatives to Leader of the Coalition are appointed after all. There are no viable alternatives that I can think of within that Party, which has increasingly moved away from its broader ‘liberal’ approach to the position of dictatorial manipulators determined to impose their personal beliefs on others by boycotting the fundamental rights of minorities of one description of another.

    The SSM issue may well be one of the catalysts, but at this stage it is premature to know what the outcomes will be. Some authors have expressed caution about making predictions of short term outcomes. Good to see the momentum maintained. Since the postal opinion poll will be impotent if it does get up, may as well have our say now.



  10. stephengb2014

    It is my understanding the turnbull has said he will leave politics if he is unseated as leader.

    This means this turn of events could be to all our advantage, it could be that a spill or challenge will follow suit at that inevitable means there will be an election pretty close after that, because turnbull (if true to his word – yes, yes I know) would leave politics and the Coalition would lose its majority.

    No doubt though that the LNP members will know this and turnbull may have locked himself in as leader because of it, knowing full well that a challenge or spill may see many of the current mps lose their place at the trough!

    S G B

  11. lefturnahead

    Even Murdochs man from the Courier Fail,Denis Aitkins was laughing at Turnbulls description of Shorten as ”Left Wing” i think Trumbles has really lost the plot!~!~

  12. Matters Not

    Murdochs man from the Courier Fail,Denis Aitkins

    Perhaps. Knew Atkins when he was Press Secretary to Wayne Goss the ALP Premier of Queensland. Way back then, Atkins was pretty sharp provided he was corralled before (say) 2 PM. After that he became somewhat aggressive. Judgement clouded by what journalist did in the good old days – boozy afternoons and all that.

    Atkins is a survivor. Not really a Murdoch man. And apparently much more sober these days.

  13. madeleinekingston

    Possibly. So what are you on about then? Don’t tell me your focus is on engagement? In terms of extrapolation? You could have fooled me; perhaps perhaps; perhaps

    Would an interim musical fill the gap”

    “You say you love me; but where’s the proof of it?


    Do you care?

  14. guest

    The bit I do not understand is that if the vote is “No”, the Government will honour it; if it is “Yes” it will not honour it.

    Does that mean it is not a plebiscite, or a referendum, or even a vote at all – just an opinion poll?

    Is it even legal?

  15. Madeleine Kingston

    Hi Guest

    I hope my long post will be forgiven and that moderators decide to let this through.

    You have made a really good point. It is ludicrous that the Government will honour the “NO’ outcome but not the “Yes” outcome in the proposed opinion poll intended to be undertaken by the ABS with response papers going out from 12 August onwards.

    I deliberately avoid the term vote since this is not to be binding influence on the Government, and in any case is to be undertaken on a voluntary basis. Many in remote areas; away from their registered place of residence will; or registered as silent voters with names but not addresses disclosed will be disadvantaged in the count-up. There is no guarantee that the vote will be statistically valid.

    On 8 August a Canberra Times article said that the ABS was the worst organization to conduct a postal survey

    “At a cost of $122 million, the postal plebiscite would become the second-biggest project it’s ever undertaken, after the $350 million census.”

    The article also stated that the choice of the ABS was partly based on the fact that:

    “only governors-general can call elections, and the High Court is likely to decide that an AEC-conducted plebiscite is much the same as an election. The ABS already has the power to conduct surveys.” (Canberra Times 8 August 2017)

    Another consideration is that:

    “The AEC is bound by rules about how long after distributing envelopes it can wait before getting them back. Australia Post’s delivery standards have slipped so much in recent years that AEC staff fear it mightn’t be able to meet their timetable.” (Canberra Times 8 August 2017).

    Your question about legality has been thought to be of sufficient concern by two groups including the Human Rights Law Centre.

    The original requests were for an injunction to halt processing of the opinion survey plan, but this was set aside by the challenging legal teams because the court was prepared to consider the more substantive issues on 5 and 6 August, before the survey forms were sent out.

    The Canberra Times article of 8 August cited above, said that “An ABS ‘opinion poll’ conducted without the authority of Parliament would be better able to withstand a High Court challenge than the AEC ballot conducted without the authority of Parliament.”

    However, an SMH article on 8 August cited Paul Kildea a senior lecturer at UNSW Law and Director of Referendum Project as saying

    “on the face of what had been put forward “an appropriation to the ABS could be challenged on the basis that the expenditure was not ‘unforeseen'”.


    The High Court decision will pan out. The case will not be heard till 5 September, a week before the half-baked voluntary survey without binding influence. The vilification of a minority group which has been denied their fundamental rights will continue.

    It is really important for everyone who supports SSM to lodge their views on the survey forms, if the plan goes ahead and is not squashed by the High Court.



  16. Madeleine Kingston

    Hi Guest

    Tried to respond several times to your important questions about process and legality but faced technical difficulties. I progressively reduced the length to 327 words, now 208 words.

    “only governors-general can call elections, and the High Court is likely to decide that an AEC-conducted plebiscite is much the same as an election. The ABS already has the power to conduct surveys.” (Canberra Times 8 August 2017).

    “The AEC is bound by rules about how long after distributing envelopes it can wait before getting them back. Australia Post’s delivery standards have slipped so much in recent years that AEC staff fear it mightn’t be able to meet their timetable.” (CTimes 8 August 2017).


    An SMH article on 8 August cited Paul Kildea a senior lecturer at UNSW Law and Director of Referendum Project as saying

    “on the face of what had been put forward “an appropriation to the ABS could be challenged on the basis that the expenditure was not ‘unforeseen'”.


    High Court decision will be heard 5 and 6 September. The vilification of a minority group continue.

    Everyone who supports SSM to lodge their views on the survey forms

    Cheers, Madeleine

  17. Michael Taylor

    Madeleine, I noticed a heap of your comments caught up in spam. As they were all similar comments I only worried about clearing one of them.

    Sometimes comments with links can get caught up in the spam folder. I apologise for that.

  18. Madeleine Kingston

    Michael your timing is impeccable. I was beginning to worry about technical glitches. I could not see anything in my posts that could offend and I was highly motivated to respond to Guest, investing more time than I really had to spare in modifying post, progressively reducing the word count to the barest minimum. It would be fine with me if you would consider posting the very last post, reduced to 207 words, which I hope is not too many. In case it just above the limit, perhaps you could let me know the top limit since I am not given to brevity, but I do have a few points to make and would like the freedom to do that. It is never my intent to offend others. Mea Culpa? If I have done so; it was unintentional. Which all goes to differentiate between intentional trolls and unintentional victims of their own vulnerabilities, But never you mind it. Since trolling is a fact of life. These people can’t help themselves. They are to be pitied; These Trolls. So I Take this on the chin; as I have often done; over decades, I believe; but I have lost count; since apparently my memory is already fading. Wish me good luck please.

    Serves me right to suffer. does it not as a mere mouthpiece? Yup. Full responsibility for simply being human
    Mea Culpa Yes. What else do expect of me? Just chugging along. Taking my own sweet time.
    The issue here is potential vulnerability. Happy to take a “rap on the chin.’

    We make our mistakes of course. Being human of course and not sewer rats. The vulnerability issues must be obvious; unless you disagree.

    But when we make those mistakes; we must have the courage to admit to those mistakes. Yup admit’ We make a few intended mistakes.

    However, I do not and will not amend or retract my original opinion position that that existing protections for those who are most vulnerable in the community at large.

    In that context Happy to take a rap for team; if you get the general thrust of the thing. I do not condone bullying; denigration and/or patronising attitudes in any context. Do you not agree? No need to answer that, It was a rhetoric question, Story of my life, Always posing questions and never expecting answers in the context of the usual gap between hope and expectation? . Is it the case of more fool me for being a human type with human-type vulnerabilities and/or as yet unidentified deficiencies in communication skills or otherwise; or is it the case of possibly inherent systemic combined effect political and/or policy gaps? No you tell ne. I ask questions thanks. Spit it out please. Succinctly. No time wasters. Word counts apply. Bloody brutal they are. This is why I have already wasted my own time. Are you prepared to waste your own time promoting principles? It was never worth it. That is the honest truth. There it is. Plain and simple. Do get me or not?

    I am deeply apologetic if I have confused the moderators with multiple posts of a similar nature. This was only because the error messages I received indicated that the post could not be processed. I am sorry. I am not a troll and it would never have been my intent to take up moderator time on this type of issue. However, I am sympathetic to those who are subjected to trolling.

    I was about to write to the moderator to find out why my posts did not get through, one after another. I received one error message after another saying that the site was taking too long to respond and that the post had not been processed. I have spent a good part of the afternoon trying to work out what the technical issues were. Finally a post that I made to SMH was published on a similar issue for which I am really grateful to John Waterford, but I had three days of difficulties sorting this out. I was afraid that my limited opportunity to respond to a national mainstream media outlet to which I subscribe and which has frequently published my material with more than grace.

    I thought by coming out of the woodwork after a period away from social media inputs I might experience things differently. Perhaps of course the whole thing is a ghastly technical mess for which have no explanation.

    Anyway it seems that some of the technical difficulties may have been temporarily resolved. At least the SMH published a response from me today.

    I thought I would experience things differently if I responded to independent media, and mostly my experiences have been positive. I am truly grateful for the support I have received from various respondents to various posters to AIMN articles. I have tried to respond to their encouraged with personalised posts and appreciation. I have to advise that 140 characters does not suit me.; 300 hundred words is a bit tough; not that I have the skills to translate characters to words; since I suppose that it all depends on the word length.

    Any way my last word is would you please consider publishing my very last post, which is the final outcome of my attempts to address my natural tendency to verbosity. It should do the trick, but of course it is entirely up to you which version you publish, if at all
    If I fail in any way, please would you advise me whenever I post on AIMN, assuming my inputs are still welcome.
    So what did I say about word counts. Could you please clarify, since in the first place, my multiple posts were prompted by concerns that my natural tendency to verbosity may be the problem with postings. I do support the principles of freedom of expression, stopping short of vilification of minority groups.
    Thank you.

    PS If you would prefer to dialogue with me offline; instead of publishing this; just let me know. I understand that discretion is the better part of valour. Yet we all fail; myself included. I am happy to move on if you are. Happy to accommodate personal online attacks; it is part of the course. Someone has to stand up for online bullying and patronising remarks, if you get my drift; but in any case/ I do actually stand up for this issue, as an unaffected voter, in case that is relevant and will be voting YES to SSM.

    Thanks so much again Michael Taylor. Your intuitive response or alternatively attention to detail on procedural matter of technical concern is much appreciated. One post is enough for me. Multiple similar posts, just take up too much time; which I cannot afford.

    Madeleine Kingston

    Victorian Voter

    PS You have my e-mail address. If you would rather do this offline; I would be just as happy. Just let’s get it resolved please. Let us do this with dignity/
    PPS And there you are; must have already exceeded my word counts; which is what appeared to initiated the confusion

    PPPS Is everything about word counts? Would you like to talk to me?

  19. Michael Taylor

    Hi Madeleine, your posts are more than welcome here and your mature and respectful comments are appreciated.

    There is no limit on the length of your comments.

    Now and again comments with links can get caught in the spam filter, but that is beyond our control. Bear with us when that happens as we clear them as soon as we can.

  20. Harquebus

    If I have a long comment I try to remember to copy it to the clipboard before posting. (ctrl a; ctrl c) If it disappears down the rabbit hole, I create a new short post something like, “Rabbit hole, please wait.”
    I then edit the new post and paste the original comment over the top. (ctrl a; ctrl v)
    Click “save” and the comment will be displayed.

  21. Terry2

    Hi Madelaine

    I would suggest that the appropriation to the ABS was probably in direct contravention of the will of the parliament and in that sense an act of the Executive that that thumbs its nose at the separation of powers convention.

    We shall see what the High Court thinks.

  22. Harquebus

    Why won’t the gay community consider implementing their own institution instead of taking from the traditional one of marriage? It would have saved us all a lot of time.

  23. Terry2


    You are confused again : it’s about all Australians being treated equally before the law – as former High Court Justice Michael Kirby pointed out, we don’t discriminate against left-handed people or redheads and we have stopped discriminating against people of colour so why do we choose to discriminate against those in the LGBTI community ?

  24. Madeleine Kingston

    In response To Michael Taylor

    Michael, thank you for your kind words and for sorting out my last post in response to Guest, which is now online.

    It is really encouraging to see much support for the issue of marriage equality. I am very happy to be participating in discussion and have found the posts of others informative.

    Cheers, Madeleine

  25. Madeleine Kingston


    Thanks for the tip. I do normally save my posts before going online, but yesterday several literally disappeared down the rabbit hole as you say happens sometimes. I had sent links to other articles and Michael suggested that this may have led to a spam glitch. I did not know you could edit a post after the 5 minute wait and before the post was actually posted. Some for a have an edit and delete button, but I have not noticed them on the AIMN site. It would be very helpful to have them though.

    Cheers, Madeleine

  26. Madeleine Kingston

    In response to Terry2’s post in direct response to mine of 14 Aug addressed to Guest

    Hi Terry 2

    Thanks for your response to my post of the 14th regarding the process that will be followed with the ABS postal survey on marriage equality.

    My understanding is that AEC staff will be seconded to the ABS to conduct this expensive and unnecessary opinion poll at tax-payers’ expense and which will open the flood gates for opportunists wishing to vilify the LGBTI community and deny them their fundamental rights to equality and the right to marry.

    Marriage is a civil matter and this is a secular state. Those who are willing to have the Church dictate how they live their private lives may do so but the option should always be offered for same sex couples to marry under civil ceremonies.

    I entirely agree with you that in asking the ABS to run an opinion poll at all for this matter the Executive arm has undermined the intent of Parliament and has ignored the Separation of Powers convention. Parliament had expressly denied the plebiscite and that should have been the end of it. This matter could have been settled long before now if the Executive had not been so determined to deny conscience votes.

    The two matters on foot before the High Court were originally put forward with the view of obtaining an injunction to prevent the postal survey from taking place before a full determination by the Court. However, the Court was prepared to expedite the hearing of the matters, so the injunction requests were put on hold, and the substantive issues will be heard on 5 and 6 September, a week before the postal surveys will be sent out.

    We cannot pre-empt what the Court will decide, but I imagine they won’t be too happy about the actions taken by the Executive to over-ride the express wishes and intent of Parliament by altering the nature of the exercise to that of an opinion survey. Though the ABS is empowered to conduct surveys, this will be the biggest challenge they will have to face and apparently the questions posed will be geared up to obtain a ‘No’ outcome.

    It is outrageous that the Government will see regard a “Yes’ outcome as non-binding, but a “No’ outcome as binding.

    The real controllers of this weak Turnbull administration are determined to delay what must inevitably occur. Marriage equality is long overdue and will happen.

    Thanks, Madeleine

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