Whatever the outcome of Bill Shorten’s surprise move this week, he has caught Tony Abbott on the hop and executed one very successful wedge. Nice one, Bill.
The Irish vote for marriage equality has turned the issue on its head in Australia and one can be confident there is no going back now. Abbott can no longer hold back the tide. Shorten might have been playing politics announcing that he would introduce a private member’s bill to legalise same sex marriage, but so what?
Those Liberal party members critical of Shorten’s move are, on the face of it, also playing politics. We know that Tony Abbott would never have made a move himself, even if his own party members wanted it and were moving towards it.
And now it appears that they were. Well, what took them so long? Whether it is Shorten’s bill (no pun intended), or a cross party consensus submission demonstrating a rare moment of unity, one can be confident that same sex marriage will be a reality in Australia by the end of this year.
One might well ask, what took them so long? A majority of the Australian public have supported the move for some years. New Zealand, the United Kingdom and several states in the USA have already done so. The answer is, religion.
Religion and religious leaders have for too long been given a position well beyond their level of influence. The constant claim that marriage is between a man and a woman passed its use-by date long ago. It has only been their ability to lobby, to have the ear of too many parliamentarians unable to think for themselves, that they have stalled reform in this area for so long.
But not any longer. Ireland, the most Catholic of European countries and until recently so closely controlled by its clergy, has been the unlikely leader of the new enlightenment.
A country that once had its close association with the Catholic Church written into its constitution, has dumbfounded its critics and done a forward pike, double somersault with twist. Bravo!
Marriage is between two adult people who choose to be married. That is all it ever was and should ever have been. There will, of course, be the doomsayers, those warning that every pestilence, disease and war to come will be the hand of God coming down in anger. But we have been hearing their dire predictions for centuries.
Even in the United States, where that most prudish of Western nations has for so long been hamstrung by a Christian dominated mindset, the time has come. Next Tuesday the US Supreme Court will bring down a verdict on the constitutional rights of same sex couples that is expected to open the way for the federal government to legislate for marriage equality, nationally.
In today’s Australian newspaper a full page advertisement lists the names of Australian businesses who back the move to legalise same sex marriage. The prime minister’s sister, Christine Forster told the ABC she believed gay marriage would be legal in Australia by the end of the year.
In reference to her brother, she said, “At the end of the day I’m sure he will understand that this is good and fair for everybody and it will be great for Australia.”
And so, who do we acknowledge as the instigator for this long overdue move here? Why, none other than Bill Shorten. Bill, himself a Catholic but one mature enough to see the foolishness of Abbott’s stubbornness and the outdated views of the Church has gazumped his opposite number. Mind you, it took the Irish to create the spark that lit Bill’s fuse.
Finally, our ultra conservative parliament will be dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century, at least on this issue. This is a victory for common sense and one that we should celebrate with all the gusto of an Irish tea party (wink, wink) craic.