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Tag Archives: marriage equality

Same Sex Marriage Against Sharia Law!

Well, I don’t know that it is, but I thought that the heading was a great way to confuse Pauline Hanson’s One Nation voters. Although confusing them is hardly difficult…

What gives me the right to talk about Sharia Law when I know absolutely nothing about it. I don’t know, but there seems to be a prevailing argument in Australia at the moment that one can say whatever nonsense one likes and if someone points out that you’re wrong, you can complain that your freedom of speech rights are being violated.

I couldn’t help but smile during the week when I read about that couple having their wedding in the Presbyterian Church in Ballarat cancelled. But let’s back up a bit, and remember some of the arguments we’ve been hearing from the “No” case.

A large number of the arguments are about things that are currently happening – boys wearing dresses, schools promoting “safe” environments for people regardless of the sexual orientation – and the rest rely on hypotheticals. You know the sort of thing: If we allow two people the same sex to marry, how can we stop a cat and a dog from deciding that they want to get married?

And, we’ve been hearing that religious freedom was at stake. John Howard, for example, was telling us that we need to enshrine religious freedom before the vote. His concern was that Parliament was only taking about “the putative# marriage ceremony”, and that we needed to more “specificity” on how religious freedoms will be protected before we vote.

Mm, I don’t remember him expressing concerns about religious freedoms after Pauline’s attempts to argue for a burqa ban. Yes, I know the burqa’s cultural rather than religious, but aren’t most religious customs?

Anyway, there’s been all this concern expressed about churches being forced to marry gay people. And that will be contrary to their religion because, for example, Catholic priests aren’t allowed to marry anyone. Not only that, but all the florists and bakers who have religious objections will be forced to make bouquets and wedding cakes and this may offend their religious beliefs. Although, when I think about it, I’m yet to go into a bakery and have the baker ask me about my sexual orientation in case they have to refuse me service. Anyway, once the marriage equality is passed, I can’t really understand why Esmeralda and Petunia, or Tony and George, or whoever’s getting married would actually want to give their business to a homophobic religious nutter.

Oh, is that bullying? Calling somebody homophobic when all they’ve done is refused to make a cake because it’ll have two people of the same sex on the top? I mean, we’ve got to keep the debate respectful and not call people names just because they have a different point of view. Imagine if politicians did that! You know, if they called people with compassion “bleeding hearts” or people who think that maybe some millionaires could afford just a little more tax were called “socialists’…

So we must have no bullying in this respectful debate. Which brings me back to the Ballarat Church. Steven North, the minister, saw a Facebook post by the bride expressing support for a “Yes” vote in the ABS survey. Outrageous. But rather than bully them by calling them names, he simply called them to his church and told them that not only would he not perform the ceremony, but they couldn’t marry in his church. Ok, some of you pedant’s may want to point out that it’s surely God’s church and then some people will use this as an opportunity to push their militant atheist views down our throats with all the passion of a Jehovah’s Witness who hears the words, “This sounds interesting, tell me more!” So let’s just not go there, ok?

Anyway, the gay community – which, of course, is a group of like-minded people who all think the same way – should thank Steven North, because he has single-handedly shown up the absurdity of the argument that churches would be forced to perform ceremonies for LGBTI people. Churches can’t even be forced to marry Christian, heterosexual couples. They can already paraphrase John Howard and say: “We will decided who marries in this church and the circumstances in which they marry!” So how on earth would marriage equality lead to churches losing their border protection rights? There’d have to be new legislation enacted which forced to churches to make their buildings and clergy available to whomsoever wished to marry in a church. And, like the raising of children by gay couples, this wouldn’t be affected by simply changing the marriage act.

Yes, I think that the gay community – at their regular community meeting or whenever they all get together to set their agenda to wreck civilisation as we know it – should take up a collection to send a bunch of flowers to Reverend North. First checking that there’s a florist who doesn’t object sending flowers to religious people.

  • Yes I had to look it up. I’m still not sure what he means by it: Commonly believed or deemed to be the case; accepted by supposition rather than as a result of proof.

18C And Malcolm’s Return To The Left!

Early this week, we had Peter Dutton making his run for the leader’s job with his very effective slap-down of those business leaders who dared to express an opinion on marriage equality. Go for it, Peter, I say. I mean, what right to business leaders have to giving the government advice on something like same sex marriage. We should only listen to business leaders on things like whether climate change exists and only if they tell us that it’s a load of claptrap and scientists are far too insular to know which way the wind is blowing and hence they can’t advise us on climate, let alone whether. I mean, weather, or rather, whether or not we should be trying to increase our use of renewables.

No, no, no, business leaders should just quit their business and become a politician if they want to express an opinion. Or start a religion. If you’re a religious leader or head of the ACL it’s ok to have an opinion on marriage equality. But not if you’re a business man like Alan Joyce. I mean, what business is it of an openly gay business leader whether or not we have marriage equality. No, best leave that to white, heterosexual men who go to church. Like Peter. No, best that men like Mr Joyce do as our future PM suggested and stick to their knitting. Which shouldn’t offend Mr Joyce because clearly it wasn’t meant in a homophobic way and Mr Dutton was clearly referring to all business leaders and the Qantas leader shouldn’t feel singled out just because he was the one mentioned by name!

But just when I thought it was safe to go back to the Liberal Party, what do we have? That lefty, socialist Malcolm Turnbull ruining things again?

We’ve already seen how he takes good Australian money and stops the millionaires here getting their fair share, by sending it to the Cayman Islands. And we’ve seen how, like all left-wing socialists, Malcolm is trying to redistribute wealth via tax cuts to the wealthy.Yeah, we all know how that’s going to end, don’t we?

Thanks to the trickle down effect, those tax cuts’ll end up in the hands of the unemployed and homeless because the businesses will start paying their workers more and the extra taxes will lead to an increase in the money going on welfare because that’s what people like Malcolm do – don’t you remember that picture of him putting five bucks in some homeless guy’s cup – and next thing you know, we’ll be some sort of Maoist state like China… well, maybe not China, it’s looking even more capitalist than Rupert Murdoch these days. Cuba?

Whatever, it wasn’t Comrade Turnbull’s position on wealth distribution that made me see red tonight. No, I don’t mean that I’m angry. I meant in the sense that I can see his left-wing, commo’ views are being forced upon us, whether we’re in favour or not!

For years, we’ve been concerned about how 18C has stopped me putting those races back in their place (and you’ll notice that just because of that 18C thing I didn’t call them “inferior” or “subhuman” or “unionists”) just because it “offends” or “humiliates” them when I place a cross on their front lawn. God, it’s got so we god-fearing Christians can’t even put up a cross in someone else’s front yard. Last night I was stopped before we’d even set it alight… Bloody police state!

And brave culture warriors like Andrew Bolt (who isn’t a business leader and therefore has a right to an opinion) and Cory Bernardi have long complained about how 18C is preventing them from saying those things which they’d like to say, but when they do, not only do they have the Left telling them that if they don’t like our values why don’t they go back where they came from, they also risk joining all the other people who’ve been jailed or fined after violating 18C. I’d give you some examples but none spring to mind…

But Turnbull has bowed to the left and after refusing for so long to amend 18C because it’s too restrictive has decided to strengthen it!

Well, that’s what he said:

 

“We are strengthening the race hate laws. These are stronger laws, more effective laws, because they are clearer laws!”

 

See, he’s just shown how much of a lefty he really is. He’s strengthening it by replacing “insult”, “offend” and “humiliate” with “harass”.

Whereas once you used to have to insult, offend or humiliate, now it’s enough to simply harass. And one of the definitions of “harass” is to “make repeated small-scale attacks on”. So now you don’t even have to offend them, it’s enough to make attacks, and small-scale ones at that.

Bring on the challenge, Peter! Quick, before that socialist, Scott Morrison, brings down his Robin Hood Budget where he uses populist measures like tax cuts to low-income earners between $100-200k! This may be you’re only chance before those communists running our companies try to impose gay marriage on us all.

Oh, please don’t think that I meant the Chinese there when I said “communists running our companies”. I don’t want anybody to call me racist!

WE DON’T SERVE THE GAYS HERE! Innovative Marketing solutions

Are you a business worried about your right to refuse service to the gays? Well listen up and save Shelton’s bank roll for your legal costs and stop Brandis worrying about writing legislation to allow you to legally refuse service to the gays. I know he isn’t the Prime Minister Tony is, but Malcolm is always challenging us to be innovative, so here are my top three, yes top three – exclusive and free innovative ideas for you, to help you refuse service to the gays. There is no need to be worried! There will be no need to refuse service! It is in your control! Marketing is so innovative! 

Uniform Revamp

The right uniform can have a very positive impact on your business. Professionalism and authority (authority is like nationalism but sexier!) are the two most highly rated indicators directly influencing consumer purchases. In a study by Suffolk University in 2011, it was found that Uniforms influence consumers on product knowledge and expertise more than the other six strategies; such as radio, television, internet etc.,

So the answer for your business is to revamp your uniform and just openly advertise your bigotry. That way the LGBTIQ community, their families and allies can walk into your shop and see clearly your deep seated hatred by your uniform.  Be warned, they may give you the middle finger! But all is good. They will take their service elsewhere.  It saves the embarrassment of defending your right to bigotry in court and the freedom to express your homophobia and bigotry openly.  Here are some great choices below:

uniform-change

Call to Action Marketing

Call to Action marketing is an online concept to directly attract the ‘right’ people to your business by them clicking on your online advertising. This takes the right customers direct to your website for sales and sign ups! Great targeted marketing tool yes? And you could go viral!

Here are some solutions to keep all LGBTIQ people, their family and allies away. This way, not only will you attract other bigots just like you, but you will most certainly win the internet by keeping basically 70% of Australia away from your business!

call-to-action

Re-branding! (Not Re-Brandis – Re-Branding)

Re-branding is a great way to really revitalise what your company is all about!  It allows you to express a newly invigorated heart and soul as the demographic for your product changes, or you want to really hit some of that solid target market. Re-branding can stir deep feelings within other human beings and connect them to your business.

If you want your customers to share your deep homophobic and and anti-gay feelings – what better way to sell this than to stimulate these feelings through a new brand!  Hopefully these fantastic re-branding ideas will help you!

logos

Conclusion

I hope you have enjoyed these free tips I have shared. There is no need to be worried about refusing same sex couples service ever again, with these new marketing tricks. I hope I have helped you and your business today to find new and inventive ways to express your hatefulness, homophobia and bigotry with the FREEDOM you desire!

Originally Published on Polyfeministix

The profound nastiness of the Turnbull government

It was inevitable that any opposition by the ALP or Greens to Abbott’s reeking legacy, the proposed plebiscite on marriage equality, would provide the Turnbull government with the ammunition to claim (with confected indignation) that both parties are creating an obstacle that thwarts an opportunity for same-sex marriage.

There are bound to be those who accept this warped inversion, however they are likely to be the same groups and individuals that reject marriage equality anyway.

What this situation reveals yet again is the profound nastiness of the LNP. This nastiness (there really isn’t a better word for it, their attitude towards their fellow humans is as base as that) has been evidenced in Treasurer Scott Morrison’s decision to deprive the unemployed and pensioners in order to fix his budget, and the vengeful exercise of raw power as illustrated by Peter Dutton’s ongoing implacability over asylum seekers and refugees. It’s reflected in the image that heads this post: even the dead are perceived as new sources of revenue for the LNP.

I don’t need to go on, the evidence of their nastiness is everywhere we look, and it multiplies as we sleep.

Nastiness is the Turnbull government’s default position. From the apparent banality of nastiness all manner of evils flourish, and if you ever doubted that it is being enacted daily, for you to witness, in our parliament.

Though the Northern Territory can’t be ever be taken as typical, the carnage wrought on the CLP this weekend gives me small hope. Citizens can become sickened by nastiness, and they can wreak havoc on the party of nasty when they’ve had enough.

There is not one rational reason to deny marriage equality. We are a secular state: religious arguments ought not to influence our decisions. The unholy alliance of religion and nastiness currently hold sway.

It’s my hope that the ALP hold out against a plebiscite. No Liberal MP has any obligation to honour a yes result. Those who touchingly believe a plebiscite = marriage equality need to disabuse themselves of that belief, because it does not. We could well go through the torturous process and still have necessary amendments to the Marriage Act blocked by MPs who are not bound to accept a ‘yes’ vote.

At the heart of the demand for a plebiscite is nastiness, and a poisonous hatred for anyone who doesn’t fit a narrow definition of ‘normal’. The influence of pure nastiness has been overlooked in our arguments yet it is a powerful driver of irrational behaviour and you’d have to go a long way to find behaviour more irrational than that of Turnbull’s government in just about any area you can name.

There are rumours again that Abbott is preparing himself to challenge Turnbull’s leadership. Not only are they nasty to citizens, they are exceptionally nasty to one another. I would take great pleasure in watching the LNP continue to cannibalise itself. I doubt it would affect our governance to any great degree: they aren’t doing much of that anyway.

It’s my hope that the fate of the NT CLP is the Turnbull government’s future. Barely enough seats left to form a party? I’d go for that.

This article was originally published on No Place For Sheep.

 

On a Road to Nowhere?

As we all wake up today from our election hangovers, and stagger bleary eyed to work, many are considering the real implication of living in interesting times… and the real possibility that the Governor General may be forced to call a second election.  The double dissolution election brought on by #stabilityMal has surprised everyone, not least the Australian voter; who, after casting their #rageVote now wonders what they were drinking, and who it was they spent those huddled, sweaty moments with in that election booth. Therefore, in another empty attempt to make sense of it all, it’s time for more analysis and conjecture!

Battle of the Bastards
updated 1800hrs 5 July The current count on the AEC website has the ALP leading in 69 seats, and the LNP with 66. The ALP is trending in a further two seats, and the LNP in three, though all five are too close to call… which should probably be the subtitle for this election.  The AEC has five seats undetermined; four Liberal and one ALP, which according to the current tally are likely to remain with incumbents. If that is the case we are looking at a 72/73 split  between the ALP and LNP.

updated 1800hrs 4 July The ABC (i.e. Antony Green) has a slightly different tally, with ALP at 67, LNP at 68 up from 64. Out of the 10 ‘seats in doubt’ the LNP is ahead on slender margins in four seats, the ALP on a similar knife-edge in five, and Xenophon party fairly comfortable in one. Giving us a House looking like this:
TABLES-house2

One of the key factors in this election is that traditional conservative voters have felt betrayed by the Liberal and National parties.  Mining, CSG, the NBN, foreign ownership, constant cuts and privatisation have been a catalyst for conservative voters to look at what else is on offer. Some have realised that the ALP has policies they support; others have turned even further right. As a result, immigration is likely to be a continuing flashpoint, though this time around even Pauline Hanson supports socialised healthcare and the NBN.

Greens and Andrew Wilkie have a record of voting with the ALP, though Wilkie has stated he will not enter into any deals.  Cathy McGowan tends to vote with the Coalition. Previously Katter aligned with the LNP, though this time there’s no carbon tax on the table this time. Key issues for Katter are CSG, energy privatisation and land sales, all of which the ALP have made murmurs about, while the LNP are unwilling/unable to move on either. If that will shift the pragmatic Katter away from traditional alliances remains to be seen.  Xenophon has already said he will take the number of seats either party wins into account when negotiating agreements, so if that second seat in Grey comes to Team X then he will truly be the kingmaker.

Stiff Upper Lip
The new senate is going to be a mixed bag. Media and politicians alike may decry the election results as a circus as much as they like; but the people have spoken, just not coherently.

There are two truths in democracy: The voter is always right… and you get the government you deserve… and based on ABC.net.au and the AEC website, the senate is currently looking like this:

TABLES-senate

The trend for seats in doubt generally toward the right wing parties such as Katter, Shooters, Fishers, and Farmers, One Nation, and the various Christian groups.  As per predictions, the lions’ share will likely go to the major parties; though there is a chance that either Katter or One Nation will get across the line.

Given the wide range of voices represented in the senate, we need to ask the question: Where do the new senators stand on legislation?

The Sydney Morning Herald published this rough breakdown of each parties’ focus.  The Weasel takes a next step and looks at how the senators will likely vote on current key issues.

Positions garnered from official policy statements, news reports, and interest group websites.
Where there is no clear position, it can be assumed that senators will use the issue as a bargaining chip to further their own agenda.

Marriage Equality
Derryn Hinch:     Pro equality, parliamentary vote
Fred Nile:            Anti equality, pro plebiscite
Jacqui Lambie:   Anti equality, pro plebiscite, conscience vote for party.
Katter:                 Anti equality
Lib Democrats:   Pro equality, parliamentary vote
One Nation:        Anti equality, pro plebiscite
Xenophon:          Pro equality, parliamentary vote
see also Aus Marriage Equality site

Climate Change / Renewable Energy
Derryn Hinch:     No clear position
Fred Nile:            Sceptic, pro nuclear
Jacqui Lambie:   Supports action (in statements), pro nuclear, voting record unclear
Katter:                 Pro Action, stop CSG, extend emission target, boost ethanol production
Lib Democrats:   Sceptics, support mitigation, pro nuclear
One Nation:        Wants a Royal commission into climate science “corruption
Xenophon:          Pro Action, 50% reduction target by 2030

Recognition or Treaty with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples
Derryn Hinch:     No clear position
Fred Nile:            Opposes Constitutional recognition, supports increased engagement
Jacqui Lambie:   Constitutional recognition, plus dedicated indigenous seats in parliament
Katter:                 Wants action, possibly prefers treaty
Lib Democrats:   Opposes Constitutional recognition
One Nation:        Opposes Constitutional recognition and treaty
Xenophon:          Supports Constitutional recognition

Education
Derryn Hinch:    No clear position
Fred Nile:           Improve education by adding bible study, and cutting Safe Schools
Jacqui Lambie:   Boost TAFE, introduce national-service style apprenticeship scheme
Katter:                 Pro funding boosts, also wants systematic education reform
Lib Democrats:  Stop Federal funding, pro deregulation, cut Austudy
One Nation:       Government subsidised apprenticeship scheme
Xenophon:         Pro Gonski, anti university deregulation

Royal Commission into Banking
Derryn Hinch:    No clear position, may support
Fred Nile:           No clear position
Jacqui Lambie:  Supports
Katter:                Supports
Lib Democrats:  No clear position, unlikely to support
One Nation:       No clear position, may support
Xenophon:         Supports

NBN
Derryn Hinch:    No clear position
Fred Nile:           No clear position, wants more infrastructure
Jacqui Lambie:  Supports FTTP
Katter:                Supports FTTP
Lib Democrats:  Prefers private competitive roll out instead of government
One Nation:       Wants high speed broadband, proposes wireless hubs for regions
Xenophon:         Supports FTTP

Federal ICAC
Derryn Hinch:    Probably Pro ICAC
Fred Nile:           No clear position
Jacqui Lambie:  Pro ICAC
Katter:                No clear position
Lib Democrats:  No clear position
One Nation:       Probably Pro ICAC
Xenophon:         Pro ICAC

Refugees
Derryn Hinch:     No clear position
Fred Nile:            Mandatory detention, prefers Christian refugees,
Jacqui Lambie:   Wants children out of detention, strict monitoring & quotas
Katter:                 Turnbacks, faster assessment, and supply work while on TPVs
Lib Democrats:   Mandatory detention, on/off shore processing, strict entry requirements
One Nation:        Turnbacks
Xenophon:          Dislikes offshore processing, increase intake, speed up processing

Healthcare
Derryn Hinch:     No clear position
Fred Nile:            Better spending, especially in aged care
Jacqui Lambie:   Supports socialised medicine, especially for combat veterans
Katter:                 Supports socialised medicine, wants more services for regions
Lib Democrats:   Abolish Medicare, privatise, The Market will provide… apparently
One Nation:        Supports socialised medicine
Xenophon:          Supports socialised medicine, focus on prevention

On the question of which senators get a six-year stint, and which three… well that is up to the senate.  There are two options:
1. Order-of-election; Out of the 12 state senators, whoever crossed the line first gets six years.
2. Recount; Votes are recounted treating the vote as a normal three-year cycle. Whoever would have been elected on that basis gets six years.
Which one the senate uses will likely depend on the three major parties, with Xenophon once again in position as king-maker. The inestimable Antony Green, of course, covers this question in more detail.

The anti-Islam voting block of Fred Nile, One Nation, and Lambie will bring up issues surrounding Muslim Australians and immigration generally; and likely to include senate inquiries into banning burkas or halal certification and labelling. The LNP could use this flashpoint as a major negotiating chip to pass other legislation; though that is unlikely to be the ABCC bill.

On practical and ideological matters of investing in education, healthcare, and infrastructure such as the NBN, the balance is definitely leaning toward the ALP.  Lambie, Katter and Xenophon have shifted to the centre on these issues, and the LNP can no longer rely on social policies to wedge support for their neo-liberal economic programme. Accepting a Federal ICAC may present the ALP with a ticket to govern, but marriage equality is unlikely to get anywhere unless the ALP can push an open vote. Action on climate will be problematic, expect another senate inquiry into nuclear power.

As predicted Derryn Hinch picked up the PUP and Ricky Muir vote, though really has very little to offer beyond his pet name-and-shame project, and animal justice.  Populist by nature, he could decide or shift his vote if a concerted push came from his electorate…

…and that is important to remember. You can write to your MP and your Senator to express your preference. This parliament is an opportunity for voters and community to have a real impact on the nature of the parliament, and what agenda the parliament pursues. Given that the independent parties may decide who gets to form government, the time to start writing is now.

Plebiscite: NOT a Civil and Respectful Debate

A Shorten Labor Government promises to pass Marriage Equality within the first 100 days if they win the election.   An Abbott-Turnbull Government favours a plebiscite. Both of these cases were argued at the first Facebook leaders debate last night.

Leadership Debate 17 June, 2016 – Marriage Equality Plebiscite

Malcolm Turnbull:  I support same-sex marriage, if we are returned to Government, there will be a plebiscite, then all Australians will get a say on the issue.  I’ll be voting yes. Lucy will be voting yes. We will be urging people to vote yes.  I am very confident it will be carried.

Bill Shorten: Now the argument says, Oh Plebiscite, it’s very democratic.  But the truth of the matter is that this is a debate where I don’t believe that people’s relationships and love for each other need to be submitted to a public opinion poll.  I think we have seen two terrible events in the last week that shows hate and extremism exists in modern societies. And I don’t want to give the haters a chance to come out from underneath the rock and make life harder for LGBTI people.

Malcolm Turnbull: With great respect to you. I believe Australians are better than that. I believe we can have a discussion about marriage equality. It can be civil. It can be respectful and we will make a decision as a nation and then, as a nation we will respect the outcome.

The debate on marriage equality so far, has been anything but civil or respectful. Therefore, one can conclude Turnbull is one or more of the following:

  • Outright lying
  • Responding with empty platitudes
  • Playing semantics with the words ‘can be’ and ‘will be’
  • Intentionally arrogant and insulting towards the people who have already expressed they have been harmed by this debate
  • Ignorant and out of touch with the commentary already occurring within this debate
  • Supportive of the hateful and harmful commentary from the Anti-Marriage Equality lobby and considers this commentary, a civil and respectful debate.

Let’s take a look just a small taste of how the marriage equality debate has developed thus far. It has been far from civil.

*Warning: This post contains comments and pictures that may be upsetting and hurtful to LGBTI people, their families and allies. 

A Taste of the Respectful and Civil debate thus far:

ssm1

Leaked pamphlets, to feature in an upcoming campaign against same-sex marriage, suggest children of gay and lesbian parents are more prone to “abuse and neglect” and more likely to be unemployed, abuse drugs and suffer depression.

The pamphlets, obtained by Fairfax Media, have been prepared and funded by Chris Miles, a former Liberal MP and member of the Foreign Investment Review Board.

“Not only is the information on this flyer wrong, it will put the lives of young gay people and the children of same-sex couples at risk by reinforcing the message that they and their families are broken.” (Croome, AME)

The Rainbow Noose
ssm2

Australian Marriage Alliance advertisement opposing marriage equality

AUSTRALIAN anti-gay-marriage group Marriage Alliance has depicted a woman with a rainbow noose around her neck in its latest internet campaign.

The group is claiming that same-sex marriage will increase suicide because people who are against it will be bullied over their views if it becomes law.

What About the Children?

Australian Marriage Alliance television advertisement opposing marriage equality. The central message that only children who have a mum and a dad “Miss out” on a real family.  

Alexander Regan, a 17-year-old boy with two lesbian mums, said on the petition that he was deeply offended by the commercial.

“I’m signing this because I’m a child of two absolutely loving lesbian parents and I’m really offended that this advertisement blatantly slandering same-sex parents’ ability to be parents simply based on their homosexuality,” he wrote. “My mums are amazing and I honestly need nothing more than them and their love in my life.”

Booklet

Australian Marriage Equality national director, Rodney Croome, said,

“This booklet denigrates and demeans same-sex relationships and will do immense harm to gay students and students being raised by same-sex couples.”

“The booklet likely breaches the Anti-Discrimination Act and I urge everyone who finds it offensive and inappropriate, including teachers, parents and students, to complain to the Anti-Discrimination Commissioner, Robin Banks.”

Mr Croome said he has received several complaints from teachers in Catholic schools who were horrified to learn at staff room meetings that the booklet will be distributed.

Comparing Marriage Equality to Animal Sexual Activity

ssm3

A federal Nationals MP has drawn a comparison between same-sex relationships and two rams having sex in a paddock, provoking condemnation for the ‘offensive’ and ‘inappropriate’ statements, with the Greens calling on him to apologise and retract them.

Educating Children and Parents about the dangers of Marriage Equality

 

ssm4

Parents took to social media to express concern over the event some described as “highly offensive’’, “extremely bigoted’’ and “totally inappropriate to be sent out through a Catholic school parent email list’’.

In a plea sent to the school, obtained by the Mercury, one parent said: “Although the teachings of the Catholic religion is one of husband and wife I find it inappropriate that the Catholic Diocesan of Wollongong  would find it appropriate to be “informed” about this topic by a (group) with a clear agenda leading up to a federal election.’’

“There are many families within our school community that would be extremely offended by this type of ignorant propaganda as they are not a ‘family’ as is defined,’’ the email said.

ssm10

The Australian Christian Lobby has compared same-sex marriage and the Safe Schools program to the Holocaust, dubbing them all “unthinkable things” that happened because societies lacked strong moral guardians.

offensive FFP.JPG

offensive tweet.JPG

Peter Madden is running for the Tasmanian Senate with the Family First party and his campaign is anti-marriage equality and anti-Safe Schools.

On Monday he made a comment on Twitter: “Though Orlando is abhorrent, it doesn’t change the real & present dangers of the gay marriage agenda to Aus children.”

People have condemned the insensitive tweet and even called the hopeful politician “scum”.

“Absolutely disgusting. Completely offensive,” one commented.

As I live in a Regional Town, I am dedicating a section just to debate within regional communities. 

There are extra complexities to consider in regional communities for LGBTI people. There is no Mardi-Gras. There is no wide-spread community support. Young LGBTI people often move away from the area quickly and there is a high rate of suicide. A harmful and hurtful debate only places further stress on young LGBTI people in regional communities.

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ssm6Mr Christensen, the Member for Dawson, posted a photo on social media showing a gun loaded with a rainbow coloured magazine.

“My point is that people saying ‘let’s follow America’ in their argument for same-sex marriage … well what about the right to bear arms?” he said.

“I mean, you wouldn’t follow America on that one.

George Christensen, LNP Member for Dawson.

 

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“Many kids do flee Mackay straight after high school,” she said.

“I am sure this has something to do with it. People do not feel welcome here. You get shunned. So people leave and go to places where it is acceptable.”

BuzzFeed News asked Christensen (QLD LNP MP) what he thought about LGBTI teenagers in the area feeling as though a program like Safe Schools is needed.

He (Christensen) likened it to children wanting to eat ice cream.

“Kids love everything. Kids would love free ice cream at school,” the MP said. “Is that good for them? Y’know. Of course they are going to defend something they are being told is good.

“But is it good? Is it social engineering? I think it is clearly social engineering.”

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Using the plebiscite as campaign fodder.

The Capricornia Young LNP accuse the Labor candidate of vandalising the LNP member’s office.  (The Labor candidate responded in the original thread that she was there to support the rally and was writing “Love is Love” on a heart-shaped post it note.  The other person in the photo is the gorgeous Ben Norris from Big Brother, who spoke at the rally.

marriage equality rally

I attended this Equal Love Rally.  We held a peaceful rally. Marched a distance to the LNP Member’s office and those who desired could place a post it note on her door with a message in support of marriage equality.

Equal Love Rally

SMS to the Editor – Rockhampton Morning Bulletin

TMB SSM

This is such a small sample from the commentary within the debate against marriage equality thus far and it does not do justice to the plethora of uncivil and disrespectful commentary from the Anti-Marriage equality lobby found within this debate. 

This quote from Shirleene Robinson, spokeswoman for Australian Marriage Equality calls for people to understand that language and narrative can cause deep hurt to people.

“Words can inflict terrible harm sometimes and we would ask that people of all opinions remember that,” she said. “The use of intemperate language can cause deep hurt among LGBTI people and their families.”

Deciphering the Leaders Debate Comments.

A plebiscite – Abbott-Turnbull Government

I refer back to Turnbull’s comments within the leadership debate:

“….then all Australians will get a say on the issue”
“….we will make a decision as a nation”

Normally Turnbull palavers on with great verbosity and his words can be deciphered and reduced to something quite simple.  On this occasion he used a few words, but it translates to much more:  That is:

“When considering marriage, Australia currently recognises two groups of people: heterosexual people and LGBTI people. Australian law currently only respects the right to marry belongs to heterosexual people and excludes LGBTI people and discriminates based on gender.

The Abbott-Turnbull Government thinks the appropriate way to redress this gender based discrimination is for Australian citizens to decide if LGBTI people are the same as them, or a lesser class of citizen.  LGBTI people belong to a minority group.

The Government will ask LGBTI people (the minority group the current law discriminates against) to vote on this.

However  we will ask the majority – their friends, their allies, people who are apathetic and indifferent, but we also think it is important to ask people who do not consider LGBTI people ‘the same’ or ‘normal’ and should not have the same rights and also those who harbour a deep-seated hatred and contempt for LGBTI people.  

These people will make up of the majority group who will decide whether to uphold discrimination towards the minority group.

To ensure people are informed before they vote, as part of this, we will force LGBTI people and their families, loved ones and allies, to listen to the hateful rhetoric from people who argue that we should uphold this discrimination and LGBTI people should remain as a lesser class of citizen, which could cause deep hurt and harm to this group.

To ensure enough information is out there to decide whether LGBTI people are a lesser class of citizen or not, this will cost approximately 160 million dollars of taxpayer money.

It should also be noted that if a majority votes to continue discrimination towards the minority group, then discrimination based on gender should be fully respected and upheld. “

End Translation.

The Legislative Approach – Shorten Government

The legislative approach states that: Discrimination exists within our marriage law and separates citizens and discriminates based on gender. We will move a bill to redress that discrimination and ensure every citizen is equal under the eyes of the law.

Marriage Equality NOW.  Say NO to a plebiscite.

Marriage Equality. How Tolerant?

Today marks another year of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. Malcolm Turnbull will be the first Prime Minister to attend the Mardi Gras. Our Prime Minister will be smiling and waving at the very people he denies the basic right of marriage to. A right that he himself enjoys.

This blog post is about a question of tolerance and if the widely accepted norm of tolerating opposing views is regressive and harmful to our progress in this debate and if there should be any debate at all. To argue to maintain tolerance of the anti-marriage equality stance, we need to recognise that democratic societies are not pure and that there is an imbalance of power in debates for progress. I will discuss this further in this piece.

In an earlier blog post “The biggest consequence of marriage equality” I said this:
Tanya Plibersek believes that the vote should be binding within the Labor Party.  As a member of the Labor Party; I fully support this.  I support this for the reason that it is discrimination.  I listened to Anthony Albanese (Albo) on ABC Qanda on 1 June and he indicated in his response we need to tolerate and respect the views of others to bring them along with us.   I question whether this is a necessary patience or a subconscious accommodation for the class of people who understand discrimination well enough in other contexts; but not when it involves stamping out discrimination for something they fear.  The same class of people who use religion and/or prejudice as a shield to ward off progress. As a progressive, I do not feel I need to respect groups or individuals who actively fight against progress and who uphold discrimination.

To me, asking me to respect people’s opinions against marriage equality, is like asking me to respect people who are for racism, ableism, and sexism. I don’t respect that.  It is not a question of conscience. It is a question of enabling discrimination.

I look forward to a world where I am not asked or expected to respect people who actively uphold discrimination and who stifle progress.

This, of course, triggered much debate about freedom of speech and also if I considered myself a bigot. A person intolerant of other points of view.  These were confronting yet important questions. This led to much soul searching and subsequent researching and this has led me to Marcuse’s work on repressive and discriminate tolerance. Marcuse is a post-Marxist philosopher, socialist and political theorist.

Repressive and Discriminate Tolerance

Repressive tolerance argues freedom of speech as underpinned by the constructs of (small l) liberalism exists to share ideas and have those ideas respected unless those ideas cause harm. Marcuse believed that even in the 1960’s that the tolerance of ideas that were harmful to society encouraged a repressive society rather than enable a progressive one.

Discriminate tolerance is framing and setting aside the ideas that should not be tolerated in a debate towards progress. We already do this as a society.  We do not have complete indiscriminate tolerance, as those ideas will harm society.  Our national security legislation is one example. Another example is Section 18c of the Racial Discrimination Act which makes hate speech unlawful.

Those who sit on the right wing and the extreme right, the Conservative-Liberals and the Libertarians argue for complete indiscriminate tolerance. They argue that unless they can be completely indiscriminate, this impedes their freedom of speech, even if that speech is harmful.

Marcuse does not argue for complete indiscriminate tolerance, but discriminate tolerance where we tolerate ideas unless they are harmful. The harmful ideas should be framed and set aside. His argument is that unless this is done, we are tolerating for the sake of being tolerant and impeding progress of the Left.

Marcuse argues that indiscriminate tolerance is indeed beneficial in many forms of debate, however “But society cannot be indiscriminate where the pacification of existence, where freedom and happiness themselves are at stake: here, certain things cannot be said, certain ideas cannot be expressed, certain policies cannot be proposed, certain behavior cannot be permitted without making tolerance an instrument for the continuation of servitude.”

So what of Truth?

In a democratic society, democracy is not pure. Debate exists within an unequal framework. The institutions of Government and the media as two examples, have privilege and power to define what is ‘normal’ for the majority and what is not.  These entities have the power to stigmatise groups of people and spoil normal identity (see Erving Goffman). They have the power to place minority groups in the place of ‘weird and unacceptable.’

This imbalance of power in our democratic society frames truth in a frame that there is only one rational and objective truth. However, there is strong argument supported by the theory of relativism, constructivism and phenomenology as examples, that there are multiple truths and multiple realities.

The inclusion of the opposing view in the framework of this debate shrinks the space around the voices of the people who are the centre of this debate.  As the voices of anti-marriage equality are given more space in the media and enabled by the laws of Government the opposing voices are enabled to take up more space, allowing less consideration for the lived experience of LGBTI people and their arguments for the right to marry.

Indiscriminate Tolerance and Harm

When we tolerate the words and actions of the anti-marriage equality voices, we also enable harm.  A clear and recent example of this was on Qanda on Monday 29 February, where Lyle Shelton (Australian Christian Lobby) was putting forth his opinion that the children of same-sex couples are a stolen generation.  Dr. Karen Phelps (Former President of the Australian Medical Association and prominent LGBTI commentator) retorted to Lyle Shelton “You know I am sitting right here?”  His words were clearly offensive and hurtful.

The observable phenomena of LGBTI couples that they consistently reinforce to society the longevity of their relationships during debate; appears to me from the outside looking in, that they feel the need to justify or qualify their relationships in a way that heterosexual couples do not.  This is an indication to me that this group is treated as a ‘lesser’ group in society in terms of relationship rights.

The toleration of the actions of anti-marriage equality protesters, the narrative, the physical symbols of anti-LGBTI propaganda, their fight for exclusion, even marriage equality marches are reminders that there is no equality and that LGBTI people are seen as ‘others’ in a world of ‘normals’ by a significant and influential group which the institutions, Government and media give space to in the debate. The inequality these institutions create for minorities is that they are powerful influencers of distributors of information, swayers of opinion and the makers of laws of the framework we must work within.

Should we discriminate?

The question of “Should we use discriminate tolerance” can by understood by identifying the multiple truths in the debate.  The decision of discriminate tolerance would negate the need for a plebiscite. 

The major identified truth that I have personally observed for the Pro-Marriage Equality side is that they suffer from legal discrimination and this needs to be redressed. The exclusion of the right to marry has harmful consequences to individuals, and as a group within society.  If objective reality is applied to this truth, the practicalities for this is that this can be determined through logical, rational and empirical evidence. This is indeed an objective and rational truth and these individuals do suffer from legal discrimination and do suffer harm.

The wider consideration of harm to society is this: The denial of the right to marry enables critical information to be excluded from considered arguments for societies progression. For example, there is limited data (qualitative and quantitative) on single parents who have exited a same-sex relationship. The rational objective truth is that when Government is developing a policy to ensure that laws exist to ensure a fair and just life for single parents, if LGBTI single parents are excluded from the data considered, then decisions are made with the active exclusion of one group of single parents. This is harmful as it does not enable an inclusive, progressive society.

The major reality or truth that I have identified for the anti-marriage equality side is mainly identified as insular, as in how marriage equality will change the meaning of their marriage.” If the objective reality is applied to this truth, the practicalities for this is that marriage equality does not change anyone else’s marriage.

When the words of those tolerated are transferred to deed (what Marcuse argues is where harm occurs) we have inequality for a significant proportion of people in our society. We remain servants to discriminating legislation which causes harm to those affected and also to those who witness this harm as parents, friends and allies.  We enable discrimination.

The much uglier reality or truth that I have identified for the anti-marriage equality side, is that LGBTI people are perverse or deviant, that marriage equality will harm children and other abhorrent arguments linking marriage equality to paedophilia and bestiality.  If the objective reality is applied to this truth, the practicalities for this is that LGBTI people are not perverse or deviant and are indeed born as LGBTI people and this is as natural as being born a heterosexual. There are significant studies and empirical evidence that marriage equality has no links to paedophilia or bestiality.

When the words of those tolerated are transferred to deed through protests, visual signs, symbols, movements, vocal commentary on prominent TV Shows on the National Broadcaster and also as from the lawmakers themselves – the members of Government, these words and accusations create the stigmatisation of one group of people. This stigmatisation can have the most harmful of consequences including suicide. Through this tolerance, we enable harm.

What of progressive Government? It is time to get serious.

The overarching question is should the Government use discriminate tolerance to redress the discrimination caused by the current Marriage Act? A tolerant, intelligent, critical thinking and progressive Government would do so.  They would not tolerate a public plebiscite, they would analyse the legal framework and vote on redressing discrimination, regardless of conscience. They would bind their party to this vote.

In the framework of an unequal democracy, the imbalance of privilege and power and indiscriminate tolerance, minorities are expected to fight harder, to be louder, to be more aggressive to overpower the dominance of the oppressive voices. This is seen consistently where workers have had to fight for the rights of workers, women have had to fight for the rights of women and where people of colour have had to fight for the rights of people of colour.  These fights continue to this day within this same framework of inequality of voice, privilege and power.

A Government already has the power to work with the aggrieved group to measure the harm of the existing law or societal norm and use their power to redress that discrimination and to enable equal rights.

A Government which thinks deeply and critically and considers their privilege and power, the privilege and power of the media, the privilege and power of the free market economic system and how this shapes the opinion of dissenters; can place this debate in a framework to use discriminate tolerance and apply the rational outcome of redress.

A Government which thinks deeply and critically about the individuals within this framework and extends care to all people in that framework who are harmed can use their power to provide leadership to change laws which will underpin and enable the necessary societal change and mitigate or eradicate stigma.

If discriminate tolerance was enforced to frame and set aside repressive ideas and people who have stigmatised LGBTI people as others from the beginning of time, then LGBTI people would have been developed in society’s view as non-stigmatised ‘normals.’

The Marriage Act would have been developed as inclusive of heterosexual and same-sex relationships from the beginning of time. Any attempt to change this, such as in 2004 by the Liberal Party would not have been tolerated by society and this change to exclude LGBTI people from the right to marry would have been viewed as an abnormal and perverse view.

Am I a bigot? No. I am a leftist thinker who uses discriminate tolerance where thoughts words and actions cause harm.  I encourage our next Prime Minister Bill Shorten to do the same and support Tanya Plibersek and lead a binding vote for Marriage Equality.

Originally published on Polyfeministix

Ten things more reckless than funding Gonski

Paul Keating was so right about Malcolm Turnbull, wasn’t he? “A bit like a big red bunger on cracker night. You light him up, there’s a bit of a fizz but then nothing, nothing”

After all the glasses-twirling hype and the selfie-induced-train-hopping; nothing is exactly what we are getting from an undemocratically elected, Liberal Party appointed Prime Minister who is quickly learning that he can’t please the people and his party. However, he has clearly chosen who he aims to please. Malcolm Turnbull has clearly chosen to please the conservative right wing of his party and not the people of Australia and certainly not our children!

In his interview on 3AW with Neil Mitchell, Turnbull described Labor’s commitment to fund Gonski as, “Reckless.” Malcolm Turnbull believes that the fair and equitable education of ALL little Australians is “Reckless.” Malcolm Turnbull believes that investing in our children, the very people who will shape this country for our future, is ‘Reckless.”

Malcolm Turnbull believes that your child does not deserve a fair go!

Any leader who undermines the very essence of our shared Australian value of – “The Fair Go” is reckless. It is reckless toward us as individuals and it is reckless toward us as a collective. Turnbull’s rejection of Gonski funding is not just reckless, it is irresponsible and regressive.

To play on a phrase Julia Gillard famously used … If Malcolm Turnbull wants to know what Reckless looks like, he just needs a mirror. That’s what he needs.

The Abbott-Turnbull Govt has been the most reckless Government of my lifetime. That is why we need to talk about the:

Ten Things More Reckless than Funding Gonski:

1. Not Giving a Gonski

Education changes people’s lives.  The Gonski Reforms are an opportunity for fairness and equality in education.  It is an opportunity to provide equal access to pathways of future success for all of our children. The Gonski reforms will pull some sectors of our society out of generational disadvantage. The Gonski reforms enable our country to be competitive and improving our economy. Giving a Gonski is giving our children, your children, a chance to be competitive in the jobs of the future. Committing to Gonski could mean enabling the pathway for a future Prime Minister. Refusing to commit to Gonski is keeping the door shut to a Prime Minister that could have been.

The Prime Minister of Australia willingly choosing to uphold disadvantage over fairness and equality for all is beyond reckless, it is downright destructive.

2. The Job Seekers can Starve for Six Months Policy

This little gem drummed up by the ‘let’s stigmatise poor people’ rabble of the Abbott-Turnbull Government, decided that in the era of high unemployment created by decisions by their own party, that young people who could not find a job are not entitled to social security payments. Deciding that young unemployed people should have no money for basics such as food, clothing, shelter, hygiene products or medicine is very reckless indeed. (Labor, Greens and some cross-benchers opposed this and a new policy is in progress for jobseekers to starve for one month instead.) 

3. Trashing Labor’s FTTP NBN 

I’m just going to leave this here because I’d rather watch Jason Clare explain how reckless Turnbull has been with the NBN, rather than write about it.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dwatQqj3Hvs&w=560&h=315]

4. The Trade Union Royal Commission

Wasting millions and millions and millions of dollars on a political witch hunt, presided over by a judge with a history that spans decades of  very close ties to the Liberal Party of Australia, is one of the most reckless acts against the working class this country has ever seen. The reckless attack on workers to bring back a reckless star chamber style ABCC is abhorrent. No Mother or Father ever wants the young man in this video to be his or her child! Shame. Shame. Shame.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=og-GzJwprbw&w=560&h=315]

5. Attacking the Most Sick and Vulnerable in Our Society

The cuts to health and the continuous push towards a user pays system are reckless to the extreme. The situation the Abbott-Turnbull Government is pushing for, is where your wealth decides whether you are in pain, undiagnosed with a serious or terminal illness, or possibly even die.  This type of class division of access to health will lead to a broken country.  No human life is less valuable than another life based on the amount of money someone has in the bank.    

6. Being a Fake Friend

Both John Howard in 2005 and Tony Abbott in 2014 said that the Liberal Government was the best friend the workers have ever had. Pretending to be a friend to the worker, is not just reckless, it is deceitful. A Government who makes it easier to employ foreign workers instead of Australian workers is not a best friend to the worker. A Government who does that is made up of a pack of self-righteous, out of touch lazy gits and by taking a generous wage, are the real leaners on society. MP’s are not elected by the people to do backroom deals to push Australians out of work.  How reckless is it to make changes to employment rules that result in Australians being replaced with foreign workers and then laugh about it.  Really? How reckless is that to everything the people in this country value?

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aN65QxIzbtY&w=560&h=315]

7. Attacks on low paid workers and their families

The push from the Abbott-Turnbull Government to make life more difficult for families by cutting family payments and attacking penalty rates is indeed reckless. Some parents rely on weekend shift work to help the family get through the week. Sometimes this is the only work mum or dad can get to work in with their primary duty of caring for children. To attack the penalty rates of some of the poorest people in the country in conjunction with cuts to family payments and abolishing the School Kids Bonus is yet another step closer to the Abbott-Turnbull led class divide trotted out by the Liberals and Nationals time and time again. Class divide is indeed one of the most reckless things a Government can do.

8. The Government’s policy of Secrets and Lies

The approach and treatment of Asylum Seekers under the Abbott-Turnbull regime is abhorrent, shameful, disgusting and damaging.  The Abbott-Turnbull Government’s commitment to the secrecy provisions of their policy is beyond reckless. I do not believe a word exists for how damaging this extreme practice is. The treatment of Asylum Seekers is in the name of all Australians, not just in the Government’s name. Concerned citizens and advocacy groups have the right to investigate the treatment of people seeking asylum in our name. Asylum seekers have the absolute right to advocacy, medical treatment and legal representation. The cloak and dagger approach has only lasted so long. As reported yesterday, Border Force admitted that at least 23 boats have been turned back and this is a regular occurrence. To say the boats have stopped is a bald-faced lie. With the Government casting its invisibility cloak over people seeking asylum, the public have no idea if people are still drowning or the number of deaths at sea. As Harry Potter Fans will appreciate, the Government has the invisibility cloak and with Dutton’s face as the stone and Turnbull’s twirling glasses as the wand, the Government really could be the Masters of Death.

9. Income Management – Basic and Healthy Welfare Cards

The Cashless Welfare card is the symbolic mechanism that brings the Abbott-Turnbull Government’s agenda of stigmatisation of the poor to life. This draconian, punitive measure ensures that those who are unemployed are branded as such at the checkout. The Government harps on about how they understand innovation, but then deny the unemployed the ability to purchase cheap goods off buy and sell sites on Facebook and at the local market. The cashless welfare card denies an unemployed mother the ability to give their school child that $3.00 in an envelope for the school excursion they just remembered about that morning. Income management only serves to degrade the unemployed as incompetent and not able to manage their own meagre budgets. It is a punitive and degrading measure, which takes away the liberty and freedom of those who are on welfare. Income management increases barriers to employment for jobseekers and that is indeed reckless to the individual and to our society as a whole.

10. Not allowing a free vote in Parliament on Marriage Equality

One of the roles of the Prime Minister and Government is to provide leadership of tough issues. This often means doing what is right for minority groups, regardless of popular opinion.  I was deeply perturbed at the very vocal Abbott-esque backflip by Turnbull in question time on Thursday.  The new Malcolm appears not only to be reckless, but now completely unhinged.

Terri Butler: Given it is clear that members of the Prime Minister’s own party will not respect the $160 million plebiscite on marriage equality; will the Prime Minister immediately allow the free vote that he used to argue for on the private member’s bill that is currently before the parliament?

Malcolm Turnbull: I am not sure what it is about the honourable member’s approach to democracy that she so despises the views of the people that sent her here.

Parliament did not conduct a plebiscite to determine if we should or should not have sexual harassment laws introduced. They did not conduct a plebiscite to pass the Racial Discrimination Act 1975, contrary to what the popular belief at the time would have been. The Government of the day saw legal entrenched discrimination and had the guts to redress it.

By standing by a plebiscite, Malcolm Turnbull is valuing the opinion of bigots and homophobes who have recently photoshopped rainbow nooses around a woman’s neck in an anti-marriage equality advertisement. That is not valuing democracy. That is upholding bigotry and allowing bigots to have a voice against those they seek to oppress.  As leaders, the Government has a moral obligation to view this debate from a legal standpoint of discrimination based on the choice of sexual preference and redress this discrimination immediately.

It is reckless for a Government to deny people who love each other the right to marry, based on their sexual preference.

Conclusion

If Malcolm Turnbull wants to know what reckless really is, here are just ten of the many reckless things the Abbott-Turnbull Government has done in the short space of two years and four months.  Investing in Gonski is not reckless, it is responsible and visionary, two things the current Government lacks.  To fight this Government’s recklessness, remember always to put the Liberal/National or LNP last on your ballot paper and Give a Gonski today.

 

Previously published on Polyfeministix

The Governance Report

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“You cannot believe in democracy and at the same time expect that the party you support is the only one that should ever win”.

What can you expect then, if your team doesn’t win? You won’t be happy and you know in your heart that the new government will do things that you disagree with. And it has every right to do so.

I have a general view of government that goes something like this.

“Good government is about making and implementing decisions that serve the common good. That give security to the people it governs. Follows the rule of law and is truthful about its intentions. When making decisions it must be responsive to the will of the people. It should allow its citizens to be participatory in the function of government.

It should be inclusive, equitable and supportive of the people’s right to know. By equity I mean the people have a right to a fair reward for the fruits of their labour and the wealth of the country. And above all it should be answerable to the people”.

And I might add that in the recipe of what makes good government the most important ingredient is ‘leadership’.

So I have an expectation that the government elected by the people in a democracy I support, might show competency. That it might govern for all the people keeping in mind that a fair proportion of them would have voted against them.

Looking back, the 2013 election was the worst in my memory. On the one hand we had a party with a public perception of dysfunction although the reality was that it passed 585 bills 87% supported by the opposition and was never defeated on the floor. It took to the election some excellent policy reforms. On the other hand the LNP, who never saw the government as legitimate, brought very little policy to the table choosing instead to play small target, piggy back Labor’s, and relied on the unpopularity of the government to secure victory.

From all this the public were the losers. There was no debate on the best way forward for Australia’s future. There was no exchange of ideas or credentials for government. It was an election devoid of intellectual integrity, discourse, ideals and honesty.

As the Abbott Government approaches its second birthday it’s interesting, for me at least, to in hindsight appraise the Prime Minister’s leadership and governance against my own performance criteria by measuring a few key factors.

Leadership

Abbott has been an abject failure as Prime Minister. His leadership has survived one challenge and as I write the feeling in political circles is that he will undergo another one soon. He chose to make unilateral captain’s calls that have done nothing more than reveal a predisposition for bad judgement.

He is a dour fellow with unrelenting negativity that runs like rust through his veins and has little time for ideas that don’t reflect his own. He is aggressive both physically and in the use of language. He is by evidence and his own admission a liar of some consistency.

Added to that he has a political gutter mentality and little respect for the institution of parliament and its conventions.

What sort of leader would say this prior to an election and then do the opposite.

“It is an absolute principle of democracy that governments should not and must not say one thing before an election and do the opposite afterwards. Nothing could be more calculated to bring our democracy into disrepute and alienate the citizenry of Australia from their government than if governments were to establish by precedent that they could say one thing before an election and do the opposite afterwards” (Tony Abbott).

Abbott’s long history of making inaccurate and more often than not statements that offend individuals and groups is legendary.

As opposition leader he spent most of his time pursuing the demise of Gillard. Accordingly he went to the election with no policies, has developed none since, and has no vision of what a future Australia might look like.

He leads a government of political reaction. By that I mean that every reaction on whatever topic has the measure “how will it affect us politically” attached. Its first reaction is to always react rather than control situations.

Some governments manage to negotiate the inevitable potholes of office with a modicum of grace. The Abbott Government has been hopeless at crisis management. It has repeatedly failed to foresee obvious perils, and struggled to deal with soluble dilemmas. The cause of this has undoubtedly been very poor leadership.

Employment

The fact is that despite all its propaganda to the contrary there are now 800,000 people without a job. More than when Labor was in power. Or the highest total in 23 years.

Marriage Equality

Public support for Gay Marriage in current polling is at 69 per cent. With all the polls indicating such high support why is it necessary to spend 100 million of a plebiscite. The demand to act and act now is further reinforced. Otherwise the public will view a non-decision as nothing more than a tactic to first delay and then defeat the push for equality. Which it probably is.

The Economy

Hockey and Abbott whilst in Opposition hounded the Gillard/Rudd Governments as hopelessly incompetent financial managers. Abbott said things were so bad that he described the budget as an emergency, when the deficit was $18billion and Net Debt was $176billion. The deficit is now $35 billion and net debt $265billion. What explanation have they.

Hockey’s first Budget was the worst received ever and his second amounted to nothing more than a repair job on the first. It predicted a deficit of $35.1bn this financial year. This would be followed by deficits of $25.8bn in 2016-17, $14.4bn in 2017-18 and $6.9bn in 2018-19, and these figures assume the passage of contentious budget savings that are stalled in the Senate and unlikely to pass. On top of that the growth projections in the budget are considered by both Howard and Costello to be fanciful.

The importance of budget surpluses has been overstated. Since 1945, significant budget surpluses have been achieved only rarely: once by Ben Chifley, three times by Bob Hawke, and eight times by John Howard, who shared another with Rudd, who was elected during the 2007-08 fiscal year. That is, the Menzies, Holt, Gorton, McMahon and Fraser governments managed only a few, small surpluses. So much for the claim about the Coalition’s fiscal management being superior to that of Labor… The surpluses by Howard came from an unprecedented, never to be repeated mining boom and the sale of public assets. Let’s keep it in perspective.

The NBN

The NBN was a major initiative of Labor. Howard during his tenure of government tried 13 times to develop a policy and failed each time. Abbott being the Luddite that he is wanted to destroy it and appointed Turnbull to do so. He at least saw the light in terms of future benefits and possibilities but as it stands now the LNP continues to make a meal of the NBN rollout with a cost blowout of $15b since last estimate in December 2013.The budget had already blown out considerably (after having blown out to $41 billion, twice what the Coalition insisted their less-ambitious version of the NBN would cost before the 2013 election) and that NBN Co are going to have to find the money from either greater debt or private equity. Yes they were telling lies all along.

And the revised rollout of the network will end up being 20 per cent fiber-to-the-premises, 38 per cent fiber-to-the-node, 34 per cent HFC, 5 per cent fixed wireless and 3 per cent satellite.

Fiber to the house is the rolled gold connection and MPs will have to explain to their electorates why some are getting it and some are not. Are you in a marginal seat?

Morality of governance

The Abbott Government has demonstrated a willingness to govern for the rich, the privileged and corporations.

The word “lying” (in political terms) has been replaced with the more subtle reference of “overstatement. Almost everything spoken by him and his Ministers has an element of exaggeration or downright untruth about it.

By appointing Bronwyn Bishop as speaker he knowingly trashed an already tarnished Question Time. Bishop treated the position as some form of reward or distinction for longevity of service. Under her stewardship, and with Abbott’s approval, Question Time descended into a chamber of hate. Now it is just an excuse for mediocre minds who are unable to win an argument with intellect, charm or wit to act deplorably toward each other. And in doing so debase the parliament and themselves as moronic imbecilic individuals.

By allowing cabinet papers to be scrutinized by Royal Commissioners he trashed another long held convention.

The people’s right to know became obsolete with the FOI Commissioner forced to work from home because of funding cuts.

Ministerial responsibility became a principle of yesterday, unsuited to today’s politics.

Parliamentary expenses became privileges and over a long period the Prime Minister showed a taste for extras by leading the way.

Climate Change

Tony Abbott from the very start of his term of office has conveniently said that emissions cause Global Warming but his every action, his every statement, would indicate otherwise.

The Governments announced 26% target on greenhouse emissions below 2005 levels by 2030 is pathetically inadequate and less ambitious than most other developed countries.

We have a group of deniers being reluctantly dragged to Paris without a clue about what the science is telling them.

People should not be fooled by the % but consider the level by date and the end date. The government might also explain how it intends to pay for it.

On these numbers we would still be the world’s highest per capita polluter in 2030.

Royal Commissions

Abbott’s leadership has had all the hallmarks of retribution. Politics to him is as much about the annihilation of ones opponents as it is about making the country a better place. So he set about implementing Royal Commissions that in reality were nothing more than witch hunts against his opponents calculated to damage them as much as possible. There is nothing that has been found thus far that could not have been investigated by existing authorities. The appointment of Dyson Heydon who was a known Coalition supporter and the consequent controversy over his perceived bias has tarnished the process to the point that democracy itself is the biggest loser.

Women

Although he purports to be the Minister for women what he says and does are direct opposites. In the budget he withdrew money from Domestic Violence programs only to have to embarrassingly reinstate it later. On the whole he has done nothing to advance the prospects of women. Even in his own party, despite the rhetoric, women find it difficult to find a pathway to political representation.

Indigenous Recognition

Again he is found wanting in the area of Aboriginal advancement. There is much confusing talk that simply amounts to putting the ‘’black fellars’’ in their place but little in the way of constructive policy outcomes.

Conclusion

There are many other areas that I could have touched on like International Diplomacy, Health, National Security and the NDIS but I have said enough to make my point. Even if you voted against him you are entitled to expect better than this rabble. Even if, in all fairness, you admit that the winner has won the right to rule according to the parties ideological strategies, you are still entitled to expect a modicum of good government.

We have not had anything like it. On the contrary, commentators suggest Abbott has led the worst government ever.

People need to understand that to re elect him would only serve to reinforce his extremism. The consequences of which this writer does not want to even comprehend.

 

A ‘People’s vote’ on marriage equality: Abbott’s latest Truthiness phrase?

Following last week’s cabinet discussion on marriage equality, Tony Abbott announced that:

“going into the next election, you’ll have the Labor Party which wants [marriage equality] to go to a Parliamentary vote and you’ve got the Coalition that wants it to go to a people’s vote”
(12 August 2015)

According to our Prime Minister, he is champion of the people’s will when it comes to marriage equality – offering a ‘people’s vote’ over a ‘politician’s vote’ dictated by what he calls ‘stalinist rules.’ Certainly sounds like a no-brainer. Who would pick Stalin over the good people of Aus?  We do live in a democracy after all – not Stalinist Russia – we should get a say.

But is Abbott’s claim to be the people’s champion true – or is ‘people’s vote’ just the latest entry in the Truthiness dictionary. (In case you missed my earlier article on Abbott-speak, ‘Truthiness’ is something which feels true, but isn’t necessarily backed up by facts. Or truth.)

Is Abbott really trying to facilitate the possibility of an outcome that might go against his stated position against marriage equality? Or is he taking a leaf out of his favourite ex-Prime Minister, one Mr John Howard’s playbook. Let’s roll back the clocks and have a look.

Roll back the clocks to late January 1996 . . .

Toy_StoryAussies have just passed a summer rapping to Gangsta’s Paradise and singing along with Seal. Toy Story is one of the most popular movies. And more importantly – for our story at least – an election has just been called for March and one of the key election issues is whether or not Australia should become a republic.

The push for this change had been mounting for a while. As early as 1977, polling showed that 58% of Aussies accepted that we don’t need a Queen. By the early 90s, the republican movement had critical momentum.  In 1993, Prime Minister Paul Keating created a ‘Republic Advisory Committee’ to look into what changes would be needed to the constitution for Australia to become a republic. The chosen chairperson for this committee was then banker and lawyer, one Mr Malcolm Turnbull – but that’s another story….

This brings us to January 1996, and by this point it was fairly clear that the cry to consider that Australia become a republic – much like the current cry for marriage equality – was not going away. With an election pending, the leader of the Liberal party at that time – staunch monarchist John Howard – was left with no choice but to put considering that Australia become a republic on the table for discussion. Not wanting to adopt becoming a republic as Liberal party policy, Howard instead promised that if elected, he would make Australia becoming a republic a people’s issue – it would go to a people’s convention, and then to a people’s vote via a referendum.  (Sounding familiar?)

Roll forward to 1999 – and Australia becoming a republic is looking good

Following his election in March 1996, John Howard kept his pre-election promise, and set up a ‘people’s convention’ to consider whether Australia should look at becoming a republic, and if so, what that would look like. He said he didn’t want to rush this because after all, ‘things won’t really change too much’ and there are ‘more important things to focus on than a republic’.

So it’s not until early 1998 that the people’s convention meets and comes up with a number of different models for an Australian republic – which mainly focused around who would replace the current Governor General (the Queen’s representative in Australia).

Support for Australia to become a republic had not waned during the 90s. The following graph shows opinion poll results on the question of Australia becoming a republic from 1993 to shortly before the referendum in late 1999.  The green line represents the percentage of people who were for Australia becoming a republic, and the red line is people who were against it.

PollsPriorToReferendum99

Clearly the number of people who were pro-republic was materially higher than those against it. So how exactly did John Howard get the ‘people’s vote’ to go his way?

Tricky Howard divides and conquers

For Australia to become a republic, a referendum is needed to change the constitution. Howard clearly knew that a majority of Australians were pro-republic – so a simple vote as to whether or not Australia should become a republic was very very VERY unlikely to have gone the way he wanted it to. But like Abbott today, Howard never let a little thing like public opinion get in the way of him achieving his goals.

The key to reducing the ‘Yes’ vote was to divide and conquer. Simply put – those who were pro-republic didn’t all agree on which republican model Australia should adopt. The most popular model that came out of the people’s convention in 1998 was one where the public voted in a President to take the place of the Governor General. In fact, over 70% of Australians said that they were in favour of this model.  A less popular model was one where the parliament voted for who was President (instead of regular Aussies).

And this was how Tricky Howard pulled a rabbit out of his monarchist’s hat – or should I say crown? He divided the pro-republic vote, by:

  • Combining the issue of whether or not Australia was to become a republic with the issue of what model should be used – asking only one question, and not two.
  • ONLY offering one republican model to the Australian people – and not the one that most people were in favour of. Instead he put forward the less popular model where politicians got to choose who the President was.

The actual referendum question put to Aussies was whether or not they approved of:

A proposed law: To alter the Constitution to establish the Commonwealth of Australia as a republic with the Queen and Governor-General being replaced by a President appointed by a two-thirds majority of the members of the Commonwealth Parliament.

Howard could have split this into two questions, asking first if people approved of Australia becoming a republic. And secondly, asking people which of two republic models they preferred (in the event that sufficient people voted yes in the previous question). But he didn’t do this.

By tying the question as to whether Australia became a republic to the less popular republican model, Howard all but guaranteed that the ‘Yes’ vote in favour of a republic would fail by dividing the pro-republic camp. And it worked. Instead of uniting against the ‘no-voters’, a portion of the ‘yes’ side switched camps, many under the mistaken belief that support for an Australian republic was so strong, that if the model they disapproved of was voted down, they would get another go at a vote for the model that they favoured.

And so the ‘no-vote’ – against Australia becoming a republic – triumphed. Howard’s divide and conquer strategy wasn’t the only reason of course – there were a number of others, including that the ‘no’ campaign utilised the popular campaign strategy of fear mongering – arguing that the republic would give even more power to politicians than they already had. In the words of the High Court Justice Michael Kirby:

“it was a belief that constitutional monarchy is a safer and more temperate form of government because it denies to political ambition the top office which such ambition commonly most prizes.” (Hon. Justice Michael Kirby, March 2000)

The vote for Australia to become a republic was defeated – 55 to 45.

And so tricky Howard, the staunch monarchist, was able to say that ‘good sense’ won out – that Australians had abandoned their desire for a republic, successfully hosing down the republic movement, which has been unable to gain any significant ground since then. Certainly it is not an issue that is commonly on the public agenda today.

Back to 2015, and Tricky Tony is facing his own battle on Marriage Equality 

“From time immemorial in every culture that’s been known – marriage, or that kind of solemnised relationship, has been between a man and a woman.” (Tony Abbott, 23 October 2013)

This is not true of course – it’s another of Mr Abbott’s Truthiness phrases – but it does reflect Tony Abbott’s view on marriage equality. And just like Howard, he is faced with the fact that a clear majority of Australians don’t agree with him. In fact, according to regular polls which indicate that around 70% of Australians support marriage equality, an even greater proportion of Australians support marriage equality than did a republic.

So what is Tricky Tony to do? Well the two most honest options would be to:

  • Remember that he is the servant of the Australian people, our representative and not our ruler – and allow a ‘conscience vote’ permitting representatives in the LNP to vote in a way that represents their particular electorates. But if he did that, he’d risk not getting his way.
  • Come out strongly against marriage equality and seek confirmation from his LNP colleagues that this is their ongoing policy. Certainly based on last week’s party-room vote it seems that a majority of LNP representatives and senators do not support marriage equality – so he’d be likely to get backup in the party room for this. But if they did this, Abbot would risk Labor making this an election issue which might win them valuable votes – and let’s face it, he’s already looking pretty shaky.

Since neither of these options would lead to Abbott’s desired outcome on this issue, what he did instead was to ‘stack’ the party-room with National party imports, just to be doubly-sure that he had the numbers to stop marriage equality going to a conscience vote. But that wasn’t enough.

Abbott knows that he needs to neutralise marriage equality from becoming a problem for him at the next election – just as Howard did with the republican issue back in 1996. So Abbott, like Howard before him, has committed to putting this important issue to a people’s vote. And just like Howard, he has committed to do this in his next term of office – not straight away of course, but within three years of being elected. Just as Howard did.

According to Abbott, a vote for him is a vote for a people’s choice on marriage equality! Finally a story that is salable to the electorate and can potentially neutralise any advantage Labor has from its pro marriage equality policy.

But do we even need a people’s vote to introduce marriage equality? 

No we don’t.

Unlike if Australia were to become a republic – which does require a referendum in order to change the constitution – a change to marriage laws doesn’t require a change to our constitution, and therefore doesn’t need to be put to a referendum (or plebiscite – which is essentially just a large opinion poll).

And people’s votes aren’t cheap – at least the way we do them currently. And while I’m all for people getting more involved in our democracy, at a cost in excess of $100 million, this is a HUGE expense, and will probably mean funding needs to be cut elsewhere.

Abbott could ask people what we think about marriage equality at the next election 

We’re already going to the polls to vote at the next election. If Abbott is so committed to a people’s vote, he could put the question to us then. This would be a much cheaper and quicker way to give the people a vote on this issue than by undertaking a completely separate vote. But of course, according to Abbott, that would be distracting for us poor little voters. Apparently we’re unable to make more than one decision at a time.

Beware the politician bearing gifts – in this case a people’s vote 

On the face of it, a people’s vote on marriage equality sounds like a good thing to do. But if Abbott is following Howard’s Playbook, then he will be looking for a way to divide and conquer on this question, just as Howard did with the republic. And if he succeeds at this – as Howard did with stopping the republic movement – at the end of the day, we’d be over a $100 million worse off, still not have marriage equality in place, and potentially set back the marriage equality movement for decades.

And so ‘People’s vote’ enters the Truthiness to English Dictionary

I’m calling it. The evidence is fairly conclusive – ‘People’s vote’ is a Truthiness phrase. When Abbott uses it, he makes it sound like he is supporting popular opinion on marriage equality, when all indications are that he is doing everything he can to make sure he gets his way on this issue.

I’ve provided the appropriate English translation below and it will shortly be entered into the official Truthiness to English dictionary as follows:

Truthiness: People’s Vote (as in ‘We’re going to put Marriage Equality to a People’s vote’)
English:  Holding pattern – as in ‘I’m going to put Marriage Equality into a holding pattern until I can figure out how to make sure it doesn’t get through’

This article was first published on Progressive Conversation

 

Ten Questions for Cory Bernardi and Penny Wong

Yesterday, along with many others I watched the much anticipated marriage equality debate between Cory Bernardi and Penny Wong.  I found some of the questions from the press gallery quite predictable. I felt the questions did not really challenge what marriage equality may mean for us as we progress as a nation. I have put together ten questions I would have liked to have asked Cory Bernardi and Penny Wong.

Question 1 – Twelve Year Olds
Many young people dream of their wedding.  Even at twelve years old I dreamt of my wedding and would often gaze at a good looking boy in my class and wonder if it would be him.  If marriage equality becomes the norm, how will the world change for all twelve year olds?

Question 2 – Is it time to really scrutinise marriage?
Marriage as currently defined, has no specific parameters of what that actually means, besides the union of a man and a woman.  If a man and a woman are married, they can live a life as a sham. They do not need to sleep in the same bed or even live in the same home or even town.  They do not have to share parenting, or be good parents or even be parents and there is always a contentious argument of if and when the housework is actually shared equally.  Heterosexual married couples do not even have to treat each other with respect or endearment. They do not even have to be in love.

My question is, if we do not question the validity of what marriage means, outside of the bringing together of gender opposites, then why is the anti-marriage equality side constantly debating the morals, scruples and behaviour of the LGBTQI community who would like to be married? If this is such a strong area of concern, how do we redress the imbalance here if the anti-marriage equality advocates do succeed? Should we have more scrutiny of heterosexual married couples?

Question 3 – Gender Transformation
If an individual who is married decides to undertake the journey of gender transformation; what do the current laws mean for the married couple if they want to stay together, if both individuals identify and are legally recognised as the same gender?  How will marriage equality have an impact on individuals who undertake the journey of gender transformation,and their spouse?

Question 4 – Domestic Violence
Domestic violence is a very prominent issue in Australia at present.  Domestic violence is often discussed in terms of between a man and a woman, rather than between two people. There is now a shift in reports and language surrounding intimate partner violence, which includes same sex relationships.  How will marriage equality assist Governments to legislate for protections for all people in domestic violence situations and enable Governments to fund programs inclusive for all victims of domestic violence?

Question 5 – Atonement
Because it is 2015 and Australia still does not have marriage equality, there may be some LGBTQI people in our community who have felt they could not just ‘be who they are’ and may have chosen to live a life married in a heterosexual relationship for whatever reasons they decided this was best for them.  If marriage equality is achieved, is it fair to say that there may be some resentment from those who feel they have been forced to make decisions they would not have had to? Is it fair to say that by not recognising marriage equality earlier, we have not allowed people to live a full life with freedom of individual expression and decision making and how do we as a nation atone for this?

Question 6 – A parent’s perspective
As a mother to a newly engaged daughter, my excitement is over-whelming awaiting the wedding. Weddings are something which do bring family and friends together for such a celebration of love and happiness. Weddings are seen as a key milestone for so many.  I see myself as someone who is privileged to enjoy this excitement and my heart pains for mothers and fathers who do not have this privilege. From the perspective as a parent, how does a Government see their role in interfering in such a personal, individual celebration of love which is only afforded to mothers and fathers given this privilege? This question is particularly for Senator Bernardi, considering his Government favours small Government and is supposed to favour distancing themselves from interference in the private sphere.

Question 7 – Our social fabric
One of the biggest arguments for marriage equality is that it will end discrimination and enable equality for all.  As per my last question, marriage is currently for those privileged to do so under our laws.  If we do not allow same-sex couples to ‘be’ as heterosexual couples are allowed to just ‘be’ then our social fabric will always be woven from those in a position of privilege.  How can our social fabric ever be complete when we are unconscious of a discourse that is currently silent about love, understanding and togetherness for all? How will marriage equality assist to weave our social fabric or in Senator Bernardi’s case destroy our social fabric?

Question 8 – Regional and Rural communities
I live in a regional community and I am aware that as I have aged over the years, many friends from my younger days have moved on to live in capital cities where communities are generally more supportive of LGBTQI Individuals, as regional and rural communities have not been very supportive in their experience. Some studies also cite very harsh treatment towards LGBTQI people who reside in regional and rural communities with some contemplating suicide or sadly, taking their own lives. What impact will marriage equality have on LGBTQI individuals living in rural and regional communities and what impact will marriage equality have in shaping these communities as a whole?

Question 9 – A Government’s responsibility to understand all groups in society
Although liberal feminism has achieved some great progress for women; liberal feminism was criticised by women of colour for excluding their lived experiences of discrimination and their need to redress areas of discrimination. This is because liberal feminists made assumptions from the perspective of middle class white women. Feminism has evolved to now women of colour having a much stronger voice and leading the issues in many areas of feminism. Including more experiences from a broader range of individuals can only result in better informed legislation.  There are many areas of social policy and statistics collections where research assumptions are made on research and data collected from a heteronormative viewpoint.  For example, there is little data to understand issues for single mothers who were previously in a same-sex relationship.

As it is the Government’s responsibility to develop social policies and legislate for same; isn’t it also the Government’s responsibility to ensure they have an understanding of all groups in society? How will marriage equality impact on the development of social policy and legislation of same? If Cory Bernardi believes these groups should be excluded by default by not having marriage equality legislation to redress this imbalance, does he support ill-informed legislation and policies?

Question 10 – Tolerance and conscience vote versus binding vote.
Anthony Albanese (Albo) on ABC Qanda on 1 June indicated in his response to a question about marriage equality and a conscience vote, is that we need to tolerate and respect the views of others to bring them along with us.  We have many different pieces of legislation which already make discrimination unlawful. Therefore, the battle against discrimination and inequality has been won on many fronts with political parties or Governments coming together to legislate for change to enable equality.

My question is about a conscience vote versus a binding vote. I question whether a conscience vote is a necessary patience, or a subconscious accommodation for the class of people who understand discrimination well enough in other contexts; but not when it involves stamping out discrimination for something they fear.  The same class of people who use religion, ignorance and/or prejudice as a shield to ward off progress.   As a progressive, I do not feel I need to respect groups or individuals who actively fight against progress and who uphold discrimination.

So my question is: How do Governments or even political parties make the decision about what is characterised to be morally and ethically sufficient or insufficient to determine whether a binding vote or conscience vote will be used?  Also, to truly progress, how tolerant should we be of all views?

Originally posted on Polyfeministix – take a poll about how you will vote here

Abbott caught between a rock and a hard place on marriage equality

One of the more illuminating aspects of Abbott’s predictable reaction to the co party sponsored legislation on same-sex marriage is that it highlights just how conservative the Coalition has become. And it’s not only on this issue. They have adopted many of the base instincts of American Republicanism and its nutty offshoot, The Tea Party. They are now so far to the right that they are in danger, if they go any further, of falling of the flat earth they believe in. To illustrate just how out of touch they are with public opinion on the issue consider this:

82 (three quarters) of Government members oppose marriage equality, 18 are for it and 23 are undecided.

Abbott’s response to the Private Members Bill was dismissive and swift saying that there were more important issues and it was low priority. He had, it seems, forgotten that he had promised a party room debate if such a bill was presented.

He says Private Members Bills are unusual and rarely acted on yet produced 9 himself when in opposition.

Reading between the lines of the Prime Minister’s statements it seems, despite the promise, he is prepared to delay it for as long as he can.

And this from Government Whip Andrew Nikolic who heads the committee that decides on what legislation comes before the Parliament: MPs who expect a vote on same-sex marriage any time soon must have rocks in their head”.

They are treating this issue the same they treat climate change. They confess belief and concern but every decision they make is contrary to the professed concern which in truth, means they really are deniers.

With same-sex marriage they say it is an issue, but a minor one, and set about doing everything possible to prevent it happening which in reality displays homophobic religious bigotry.

Anthony Albanese probably summed up the Prime Minister and his Government with this gem of a comment on television:

“They are stuck in the past and they want everyone to go back there and keep them company”.

I have written at length on this subject in my piece Gay Marriage and Why I Support It. In it I covered the history of marriage, the conflict with religion and the current status of gay marriage. The religious influence I also covered in The Future of Faith in Australia.

In this piece I address the issue as it stands now.

Eric Abetz, the man who lives on weird street, as if to confirm a reputation for conservative homophobic negativity writes an article in which on many levels he draws conclusions and makes assumptions that are blatantly wrong.

But firstly let me put the issue in perspective. It has moved on from being a debate about people of the same-sex being able to marry, in the conventional sense, to that of one about equality. I fail to see, given that love has no gender, why two people regardless of gender should not be availed of the same opportunity.

On the issue of love

There are males in my life whom I can say I really love because their goodness transcends self, and manifests itself in empathy towards others. To love someone of the same-sex is as normal as loving someone of the opposite sex. This is because love has many faces and surpasses gender. Indeed 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.

Bible references

2 Samuel 1:26 – I am distressed for thee, my brother Jonathan: very pleasant hast thou been unto me: thy love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women.

1 Samuel 18:3 – Then Jonathan and David made a covenant, because he loved him as his own soul.

1 Samuel 18:1 – And it came to pass, when he had made an end of speaking unto Saul, that the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul.

It’s the same as loving our children. We don’t love one more or less than the other. We just love them differently.

Now back to the Senator. He seems to want to protect an institution that he considers the complete domain of the church (which it isn’t) without admitting that because in Australia 50% of marriages fail, it is a failed one. If the Senator could for a minute take his head out of the dark religious cloud of bigotry it is trapped in he might just see that by allowing gays to marry the institution might just regain its legitimacy.

The public support for the proposal is overwhelming. 400 companies have signed a letter of support. Major sporting bodies including the AFL and the NRL have also.

He berates the media for focusing on an issue of little importance and instead reckons it should give prominence to some tiny island in the pacific that has rejected gay marriage.

He is ably supported by Andrew Robb who in response to a question about the Coalition’s attitude to the co-sponsored Private Members Bill on same sex marriage said:

“None of the millions of families out there who are concerned about their jobs and paying the bills will thank us for being preoccupied for weeks and weeks with this issue”.

Conveniently, it seems, forgetting the inconvenient truth that some of those families might – in fact, wait, definitely do – including same-sex couples.

And to think he negotiated three international trade deals!

The good Senator also suggests that we should be following Asia which thus far doesn’t condone gay marriage. So I take it that it’s fine to follow America into war (as we do) but not marriage equality.

Then he suggests that decisions that could “dramatically transform society” should be determined by the people.

In doing so he ignores opinion polls that over a long period have favored gay marriage. 72% by Morgan over 60% by Essential. Other polls show that 76% of Coalition members support a conscience vote. 53% of Christians are in favor.

He also says that Marriage has “always existed just for one man and one woman”!

This is of course is simply not true. It was once polygamous, love had nothing to do with it. Men married pre-pubescent girls. It was one the domain of the church but is now the states responsibility.

It has changed dramatically over the years: there’s far fewer child brides these days, interracial couples can get married and it’s fair to say we’ve come a long way on divorce.

Then, like others of his ilk, Abetz raises the issue of children saying they need both a mother and a father. Again he ignores the fact that a stable upbringing between two adults of the same-sex is far better than being raised by two separated ones continuously in conflict. There are ample studies that show folk of the same- make excellent parents.

If the Senator could produce evidence to the contrary he should.

Here are two links that say there is no evidence that same-sex couples aren’t capable of raising happy and healthy children.

Australian Psychological Society, the American Psychological Association and the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy

He further says that The Coalition is here to protect the institution of marriage, “just as we did at the last election”!

So he and the government of which he is a senior member has no compunction in breaking promises at will and changing their mind when it suits them to politically do so.

It’s just that on this issue it seems it cannot align itself with public thinking.

This Government may indeed have an inherent hatred of pensioners, asylum seekers, the poor, Muslims, Aborigines, students in public education, unionists, the unemployed, those on welfare, the ABC, equality opportunity, but they reserve a special kind of religious hatred for people of the same sex who have the audacity to seek to have their love confirmed in marriage.

In delaying the passage of the bill the Prime Minister is placing himself between a rock and a hard place thus ensuring the issue will be front and centre at the next election.

If he rejects it he will be seen as grossly out of touch with the electorate. If he allows a conscience vote he will alienate his own supporter base. If he allows it to fester it will become an election issue. Blocking what is inevitable, inevitably leads to defeat.

“The world is full of love unspoken that dares not speak its name”.

gay marriage

 

Would you take advice from this man?

Queensland MP George Christensen has thrown his two cents worth into the debate about marriage equality issuing the following warning to Tony Abbott:

“The party policy to retain the definition of marriage as contained in the Marriage Act is supported by the majority of Liberal and National MPs and senators and I’d say many of them would hold the view that this is what our party stands for.

To many it would be both bizarre and a slap in the face to our grassroots members to suggest that the conservative parties adopt a policy which says we don’t have a stance on marriage and everyone can be a free agent and vote how they want.

The party membership didn’t like being ignored on the ETS and they won’t on this one either.”

Aside from the hubris of an inexperienced backbencher issuing veiled threats to the Prime Minister, and the fact that the government have already broken more promises than I can list, Christensen is courting danger by inviting attention in this area.

As editor of a student newspaper, he published a series of virulently racist, anti-semitic, homophobic and woman-hating rants back in1998.

On one page, Christensen expressed concern that new versions of the Bible were “removing accusations that the Jews killed Christ.”

On another page, he tells jokes about AIDS:

“A homosexual walks into the Doctor’s office, sobbing. ‘Doctor, Doctor’, he says ‘ think I’ve got AIDS. ‘Well,’ replied the Doctor, shocked ‘Who gave it to you?’

‘I dunno, says the homosexual. ‘I haven’t got eyes in the back of my head.’

He doesn’t restrict his venom there either. In an article about the Hollywood actor Will Smith he expressed his thoughts on women:

Most Aussie men often try to crack onto good-looking women and neglect the not-so-good looking (read fat) ones

Perhaps it’s the intelligence of women or, rather, the lack of it?

My thoughts: the truth is women are stupid and that’s that. So on behalf of you, me and the guy that’s shrugging his shoulders in bewilderment after reading his sister’s copy of Dolly, let me just say: Will Smith, you’re lucky God gave women no bloody brains.

Other contributions express concern about the special privileges being bestowed on Aborigines, the transgendered, republicans and so on. He is even critical of former Prime Minister John Howard for being a sell-out to aboriginal interests. He argues that there is an Australian system of “apartheid” which benefits Aborigines through land rights, Abstudy and so on.

After this was revealed during the 2010 election campaign, Christensen apologized. Kerry O’Brien interviewed Tony Abbott who brushed it off as adolescent silliness and defended Christensen as a good  candidate.

Gay group, the Coalition of Equality, accepted Christensen’s apology:

“If he has apologised for that particular publication and he’s willing to recant the fact that they were not in the best of taste, and he apologises for them, then I think we should let bygones be bygones and move forward,” he said.

“[We should] make sure that we do understand what is acceptable and suitable comment in regards to gay and lesbian people in Australian.

“We have to accept that what he says now on face value is a sincere and heartfelt apology.

“If in the future, it turns out not to be, I’m sure there will be words said at that point, and embarrassment caused to him.”

But George seems impervious to embarrassment.

Right from the start his tenure was questionable as he had failed to resign from his position on the Mackay Regional Council before the election, putting himself at risk of high court action because of the constitutional ban on “officers of profit under the crown” being elected to federal parliament.

Coming from generations of cane farmers, in 2012 Christensen launched an attack in parliament on the National Health and Medical Research Council which he accused of demonising the sugar industry through their new food guidelines. The strong defence of the sugar industry earned Christensen the title of “sugar plum fairy”.

George hates environmentalists with a passion.  In September 2014 he labeled Greenpeace and other environmentalists as terrorists, stating that they are “gutless green grubs” for opposing the expansion of the Abbot Point coal terminal in his electorate. In a speech to Parliament, Christensen said “the greatest terrorism threat in North Queensland, I’m sad to say, comes from the extreme green movement”.

In January this year he posted on his Facebook page a cartoon depicting Opposition Leader Annastacia Palaszczuk naked on a wrecking ball, crashing through a wall with the words “Abbot Point Coal Terminal jobs” written on it.

When criticised, he defended his actions saying “Some people need to get a sense of humour  I think it’s pretty pathetic to fake outrage at a cartoon that’s satirical just to score political points.

“Taking the mickey especially out of politicians has always been a strong part of the Australian culture and I think we should all just lighten up and have a laugh sometimes because as a nation we’re losing our sense of humour to political correctness.”

Unsurprisingly perhaps, George is also in favour of the death penalty.  In May 2011, he refused to back a motion condemning the death penalty and instead told federal parliament he supported the death penalty “for terrorists and for those found guilty of the most heinous of crimes – murder of a child, particularly those involving rape, murder of an elderly person or a person with disabilities, again particularly those involving rape.”

And when it comes to Muslims, George really fires up.

He started off slowly with the live trade export ban, blaming Islam for the torture of cattle in Indonesia and saying it wasn’t the concern of Australian farmers.

He ramped up in the wake of the 2012 Sydney anti-Islam film protests, launching a public attack on those taking part in the demonstration, saying those who broke the law, other than himself, should “jump on the first plane and head back to where you come from because that stuff is just simply not on in this nation.”

In 2013, Christensen was the only federal MP to attend a rally featuring controversial Dutch politician and anti-Islam campaigner Geert Wilders during his tour of Australia. Christensen said he supported Wilders’ view that “people of dual citizenship who act in a way that is contrary to the values of this country and engage in extremist violence should have their citizenship stripped and be deported.”

Last year George tweeted “We shouldn’t tolerate sharia law in Aust and the burqa/niqab shouldn’t be worn in public.”

In November 2014 Christensen claimed in an online opinion piece that Halal certification was “outrageous” and a “religious tax.” He also claimed that it is “entirely feasible” to think some halal certifiers could be financing groups such as Hamas or the Muslim Brotherhood.

When the #illridewithyou campaign was created to counter potential anti-Muslim sentiment in the wake of the Sydney siege, Christensen took to Twitter calling it a “pathetic left-wing black arm band brigade campaign” that casts “Aussies as racists who will endanger Muslims”.

He elaborated further on his public Facebook page.

“So Twitter has erupted with a typical politically correct, left wing response to the Sydney siege with these hashtag campaigns #weridetogether & #illridewithyou going viral,” he wrote.

“These campaigns falsely portray Aussies as thugs who terrorise Muslims and, in doing so, create victims where there are none.

“How about we just focus on the real victims of the Sydney siege (who, in my view, are more heroic than the left-wing twitter clicktivist keyboard warrior army combined): Katrina Dawson and Tori Johnson.”

So, in summary, George appears to hate Jews, Muslims, Aborigines, republicans, environmentalists, gays, transgender, women, and anyone who says we should cut down on sugar.

And the scary part is that he is feeling increasingly empowered to thrust his views upon us as our government continues its lurch to the extreme right.

The Biggest Consequence of Marriage Equality

As a self confessed social media junkie and one who believes qualitative analysis is damn sexy; reading the marriage equality debate online across many forums has been like the moment Augustus Gloop saw Willy Wonka’s river of chocolate. Here is Augustus standing at the edge of this stream of endless deliciousness and excitement – the best thing he has seen in his life; and he is hungry for it. He wants to touch it, taste it and be part of it.  However, coming up from behind him is this eccentric and very strange man, (who mumbles many, many things that simply do not make sense and answers questions with more questions and never, ever gives a proper answer) screaming at him not to touch the river; not to contaminate his beautiful river or he will ruin it forever.

This is the parallel to the online marriage equality debate.  There are couples who are standing at the edge of the real prospect of marriage equality and yet there are those who are caps locking us to death, screaming at us with warnings of the contamination of society and ruining society and marriage forever.

The other parallel to this scene from this 1971 classic is that Augustus enjoyed for a brief moment in time, just a tiny taste of the river before he suddenly went down the tube and the pressure forced him up the pipe into oblivion (well, possibly the fudge room) to be never seen again.  Between December 7 – 12, 2013, couples could experience just a taste of marriage equality and couples were married under the new ACT law.  However, this suddenly went down the tube and forced up the pipe by the Christian lobby groups and the Abbott Government to the high court just a few days later, where it was blasted into oblivion and never seen again.

The other curious parallel to this scene is this eccentric suit wearing man calls to his little followers, the Oopma Loompas to lead Augustus’ mother up high to where Augustus possibly awaits certain death.  Wonka then calls after them “Goodbye! Across the desert lies the promised land.”  We can metaphorically link this to the “vast barren desert of no hope” Tony Abbott expects couples to cross before they will reach the promised land of marriage equality.

Interestingly, the Oompa Loompas remain silent and obey Wonka with a nodding of heads and then break into a song about actions and consequences.  How peculiar is the similarity to Abbott’s comment on the 12 December, 2013, when the high court overturned the ACT marriage equality laws.  Abbott’s comments were about risk in the action of taking the opportunity to marry and having to accept the consequences of this action.

Is this where the comparison ends? The moral of the entire story of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, is if you are honest, good, gracious and kind to others and put others before yourself; your reward will be to inherit a wonderful world to make your own and share with others.  Is it possible that Abbott will put his prejudice aside and allow a bill to pass which grants a pathway to a better world? Only time will tell.

The Biggest Consequence of Marriage Equality

The biggest consequence of marriage equality is that we will be able to understand our social fabric as a tightly knitted woven thread.  The consequence of not having marriage equality is that our social fabric will remain as one loosely sewn by those of privilege. This is where my primary concern for this debate lies – that we don’t know what this other inclusive world looks like or sounds like. My concern is there is something missing from the narrative in this country and that is ‘the world of married same-sex couples.’ By denying equality, by blatantly discriminating based on gender, we are not allowing our society to develop as a whole in collegiality. We are forcing pockets of silence and darkness upon an entire population of people in this country.  We are shutting doors and issuing confined space tickets to same sex couples.  We are not granting the space and privilege in society others enjoy.

We are not allowing this space in society  to understand marriage for all people. Marriage equality is also such an issue as the social and legal constructs of Australia, predominantly focus on hetero-sexual white (European) thought and many in society tend to view LGBTQIA as ‘outsiders’.  Society for the most part stigmatises LGBTQIA people and this is evidenced through existing derogatory language targeting this group, which is often viewed as acceptable ”Aussie slang.’  Extreme difficulties and targeting of people coming out are told in personal recounts, particularly in rural and regional communities 1. Our legal system also supports such a society.  This is evidenced by laws such as the homosexual provocation law still in existence in Australia today and the ongoing and uphill battle to ensure marriage equality for everyone.  It is also prefaced by the inability to understand fully the issues facing LGBTQIA relationships through lack of data available on this group. For example, one of my previous blog posts about single parents and welfare discusses the absence of data on single parents resulting from a same-sex marriage / unit breakdown.

Stigma is woven as part of our social fabric

As a member of a regional community, the research I have completed for this article, includes the harsh reality for LGBTQIA people living in regional, rural and remote communities. Depression, suicide, stigma and abuse are common themes, as is leaving their home town, family and friends to move to a larger, more understanding environment.  I contemplated what that would be like. I reflected on what it would feel like to be treated as ‘an other’ and feel not fully accepted in my community and alter my life, due to an inherent trait I cannot control. I reflected on what it would be like to feel forced to move away from my loved ones and family, so I could have a ‘stab’ at ‘normal.’

With stigma, society separates the ‘normals’ from the ‘other.’ In this instance it is gender and/or sexuality, which pockets of society choose as the inherent trait to separate as ‘the other’. However, imagine for a second, this inherent trait was blue eyes, or shoe size over size 7, or freckled skin.  Imagine being stigmatised, cast aside and unable to access the same rights of others because of your eye colour, shoe size or freckles.  These traits are beyond our control and if the examples I have chosen seem preposterous; the active choice to stigmatize any individual or group in society for an inherent trait is exactly that.

Some of the arguments within the marriage equality debate online use Christianity as an excuse to discriminate. Online they patronisingly deliver these judgements against others ‘with love.’ Where is it ever taught in the bible to fight with all your might to make people less equal than you? To make someone believe they are less worthy than you because you were born as a heterosexual? To cause people the pain and grief of stigma and ostracisation? Where does it say in the Bible to do that? If it does say any of these things, it is a seriously sick book that should be banned. Let people be happy and enjoy their lives. We only get one life. That is it. From this day forward no one should every feel alone, isolated, depressed or suicidal because they are attracted to someone of the same sex, or they feel they are two genders, or they aren’t sexually attracted to either sex, or they feel like they were born in the wrong body and want to change that. From this day, right now it needs to stop. Every day you judge, every day you stigmatise, cast aside another as lesser, you take away the joy, love and acceptance that they could be experiencing instead. If this is you. If you do this. Look in the mirror and say “What sort of person am I to do this to another?”

What sort of country are we choose to have a social fabric that is full of holes, instead of whole?

design ssm 2

I have hope that this new inclusive and holistic society is well on track to emerge. However, I do not believe it will be in the term of this Government or if this Government is returned to office.

On April, 26, 2015 Tanya Plibersek Deputy Leader of the Opposition of the Australian Labor Party announced that she would be pushing the Labor Party for a binding vote on Marriage Equality and ending the choice of a conscience vote for the party.  Plibersek’s argument is that Marriage Equality is a case for discrimination and the Labor Party is the Party opposed to discrimination.  On Monday 1st June, 2015, Bill Shorten, Opposition Leader introduced a bill to parliament which proposes to alter the Marriage Act to define marriage as between two people. Tanya Plibersek seconded the Bill.  The reason I do not believe that marriage equality will exist under the Abbott Government; is that his Government responded to this bill with contempt, through their silent boycott and absence from the chamber.  Every member of the Coalition Government purposely being absent during the reading of this bill, indicates a lack of support for marriage equality and their overwhelming attitude that marriage equality and the rights of LGBTQAI people are irrelevant and are not worthy of their time in Parliament.

Tanya Plibersek believes that the vote should be binding within the Labor Party.  As a member of the Labor Party; I fully support this.  I support this for the reason that it is discrimination.  I listened to Anthony Albanese (Albo) on ABC Qanda on 1 June and he indicated in his response we need to tolerate and respect the views of others to bring them along with us.   I question whether this is a necessary patience, or a subconscious accommodation for the class of people who understand discrimination well enough in other contexts; but not when it involves stamping out discrimination for something they fear.  The same class of people who use religion and/or prejudice as a shield to ward off progress.   As a progressive, I do not feel I need to respect groups or individuals who actively fight against progress and who uphold discrimination.

To me, asking me to respect people’s opinions against marriage equality, is like asking me to respect people who are for racism, ableism and sexism. I don’t respect that.  It is not a question of conscience. It is a question of enabling discrimination.

I look forward to a world, where I am not asked or expected to respect people who actively uphold discrimination and who stifle progress.

What are the arguments for marriage equality and discrimination?

Finally, I would like to end this article with research I have completed for an earlier 20103 blog post.  I want to re-post it here as I believe it supports Tanya Plibersek’s stance that the Marriage Act in its current form, is discrimination.  NB: This research was originally conducted with a specific focus on women and marriage equality.  It is not my intent for the purpose of this section to exclude others.

Discrimination against women, through lack of legislation supporting marriage equality.

Although both men and women are discriminated against through lack of legislation supporting marriage equality; my focus at this point is to discuss points of discrimination, particular to women.  I will address two areas, discrimination through legislation and discrimination by default through exclusion in society.The Subsection 5(1) of the Marriage Act 1961 defines marriage as ‘…the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life.’   The definition of the marriage act, merely states that this is a union voluntarily entered into for life.  There are no specific parameters which specify what a union means.  This is defined in Mary Case’s journal article, “What feminists have to lose in same-sex marriage litigation’2  

A marriage certificate now allows heterosexual couples to have an open marriage, to live in different cities or in different apartments in the same city, to structure their finances as they please, without having their commitment or the legal benefits that follow from it challenged (p. 1203). 

As there are very little restrictions relating to the private behaviours of the marital union, this act is discriminatory purely on the grounds of sex. This is only for persons who identify with having physical, hormonal or genetic features that are distinctly characterised as male or distinctly characterised as female.  Therefore, marriage as defined as a union between a man and a woman, itself is discriminatory based on sex alone.

Women are discriminated within this act as it focuses on ‘sex’ and not ‘gender.  This act excludes all persons who identify with a gender, that isn’t normative to their physically or biologically recognised ‘sex’. This act discriminates against all persons who identify as inter-sex. This Act excludes all persons on the grounds of sexual orientation.

Under the federal Sex Discrimination Act 1984 it is illegal in Australia to discriminate against a person either directly or indirectly on the grounds sexual orientation, gender identity and intersex status. 3

Women are also discriminated against, through legislation informing a society, which excludes understanding and valuing the experiences of unions that are not specifically between a heterosexual man and woman.

Various academic journals discuss that marriage is ingrained in the patriarchal notion that women are subordinate in society. Although this notion is not as entrenched within our whole society today; a quick search of Google for ‘subordinate wife’ will return over six million hits, with a high volume supporting the subordination of women/wives, particularly in a religious context.  Through legislating marriage as it currently exists, many women are discriminated against and are exempt from marriage, simply because they choose not to have a union with a man and some because they view marriage as placing women in a subordinate role to men.

Mary Case also highlights in her article, that before becoming pope, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger advocated for a normative view on gender in relation to subordination of women.  This is an excerpt of his 2004 Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Collaboration of Men and Women in the Church and in the World.

“This theory of the human person, intended to promote prospects for equality of women through liberation from biological determinism, has in reality inspired ideologies which, for example, call into question the family, in its natural two-parent structure of mother and father, and make homosexuality and heterosexuality virtually equivalent, in a new model of polymorphous sexuality……… While the immediate roots of this second tendency are found in the context of reflection on women’s roles, its deeper motivation must be sought in the human attempt to be freed from one’s biological conditioning. According to this perspective, human nature in itself does not possess characteristics in an absolute manner: all persons can and ought to constitute themselves as they like, since they are free from every predetermination linked to their essential constitution.”

For Australia to move forward, we need to eradicate the stigma by enabling marriage equality for all.  It stands to reason that the existence of ‘unions’ and the ‘recognition of same-sex partnerships has not eradicated the stigma which forms the basis for the opposition to marriage equality.   The only way forward is to use legislation as a tool to reform society, which will in turn see marriage equality as a lawful and accepted norm in our society.  There needs to be a Golden Ticket to allow us access into this new world and this Golden ticket is the Bill presented by Bill Shorten and seconded by Tanya Plibersek to amend the definition of marriage in Australia and the new world is the world which includes marriage equality for all.

Stigma is a process by which the reaction of others spoils normal identity.”
―Erving Goffman

Originally Published on Polyfeministix

1. Gottschalk, LH 2007, ‘Coping with stigma: Coming out and living as lesbians and gay men in regional and rural areas in the context of problems of rural confidentiality and social exclusion’, Rural Social Work & Community Practice, vol. 12, no. 2, pp. 31-46.

2. Case M, 2010, ‘What feminists have to lose in same-sex marriage litigation’, UCLA Law Review, vol. 57, no. 5,  pp. 1199-1234

3. Sex Discrimination Act 1984

 

It is Never a Bad Time for Equality

By far the most frustrating of all discourse on Labor’s recent push for same-sex marriage is the discussion of timing and ownership. When should this issue be tackled? Who should table and sponsor the bill? Whilst these questions seem like fairly mundane administrational stuff, of concern only to parliamentary staff and the writers of Hansard, on an issue as divisive as same-sex marriage these issues become electrified with the cries of moral outrage.

First, the issue of timing. Many so-called supporters of marriage equality have given scathing criticism of the timing of Bill Shorten and Tanya Plibersek’s bill, due to be tabled in parliament on Monday. For instance, Liberal MP Warren Entsch said that, “Bill hasn’t helped matters at all” by bringing up the issue now. Yet for someone who is supposedly behind the push for marriage equality, shouldn’t any time be a good time?

Perhaps objection to the timing was regarding Bill’s low opinion poll ratings, with pushing for same-sex marriage assumed to give these a boost. This criticism was most notably mounted by radio shock jock Alan Jones, despite his somewhat surprising support for legislative change. Yet if 70% of Australians support the change then Shorten will likely receive a poll boost whenever he introduces such a bill. Should he never introduce one?

Or perhaps the timing criticism was due to Labor’s upcoming national conference, which is due to debate whether to change the party’s platform from a conscience vote to a binding vote in favour of change. Such debate could prove heated if more religious, socially conservative representatives agitate against the more socially progressive representatives, which could damage the tentative unity of current federal Labor (imagine hard-line Joe de Bruyn of the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employee union engaging in verbal fisticuffs with Tanya Plibersek – not a good look).

On this issue Bill Shorten is clearly being strategic, attempting to avoid argument and achieve this reform without getting too many of his own colleagues toes out of line. Read that sentence again and replace the words “Bill Shorten” with quite literally any progressive leader ever and you would have a generally factual statement.

The other bemoaned issue is that of ownership. Other political leaders have played a game of “well I thought of it first” or “I won’t support it until I get an equal share of the spotlight.” Warren Entsch said, “It’s just all about Bill. We’ve got to do this in a dignified, respectful way, not with this partisan bullshit”. The fact of the matter it that to pass progressive reforms such as this, the majority of the Labor party must support it. So you might not like Bill Shorten’s face on your TV screens every night, but unless you’re prepared to endure it then it is unlikely we will achieve marriage equality in this country. The movement of the Labor party on this issue has been slow and underwhelming, however it has been the key missing puzzle piece which now seems to be fitting into place, with many MPs announcing their shifted position on the issue well before the introduction of Shorten’s bill.

Furthermore, one has to ask whether the fact that Shorten is being politically cunning about this issue actually matters at all to its contents and potential impact on society. The ABC’s Barrie Cassidy claimed Shorten’s actions were “dripping with… opportunism, cynicism and wedging your opponent.” Those descriptions might be in some ways accurate, but why is it such a pertinent observation that it should occupy the thoughts of one of Australia’s premiere political commentators and many others?

Here there is clearly a disjunct between the interests of your average citizen and the political elite. For those involved in the political process, the cut and thrust of Canberra’s daily grind might seem interesting. But for your average citizen, they just want to see their neighbour free to marry whomever they choose. And for many gay people, they simply want to marry the one they love. Is that not worthy of more spilt ink than political thrusting, needless prevarication and the moral indignation of a bunch of out-of-touch “representatives” who are failing to deliver on a social reform the vast majority of society is in favour of?

Following political parties on Facebook often just increases your immunity to propaganda. However I have to admit that seeing Labor’s post signalling they would table a bill to legalise same-sex marriage made me unusually optimistic about Australian politics. Party politics is necessary to achieve marriage equality, but surely it should not be the focus of our dialogue. Our discussion should be on the lives being affected, unable to express through legal means a basic emotion that speaks to the very essence of being a human. Politicians and the press should address this core concern in Canberra, and brush aside all less important matters. In my mind, it is never a bad time for equality.

You can also view this post and many others on Ben Clark’s blog https://benclark56.wordpress.com/

 

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