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Turnbull: Abbott from a better postcode?

By 2353NM

Assuming the Opposition agrees, there will be a plebiscite on the proposition to allow same sex marriage in Australia in February 2017. The independents in the parliament have (mostly) stated their positions on the matter and the Greens are against the plebiscite but in favour of same sex marriage.

The history here is that the Marriage Act was legislated in the 1961 saying (basically) marriage is a union of two people and that union is recognised across Australia. It also recognised marriages legally made under the laws of another country. As Rodney Croome wrote in the ‘Winter 2011’ issue of Overland magazine, the reason the law was made was to eliminate blatant discrimination in Australia whereby Aboriginal people were not allowed to marry who they wanted to in some states and Territories. Until 2004, there was nothing in the legislation to suggest that marriage had to be between a man and a woman, leading some same sex couples to have their marriage legally recognised in jurisdictions such as Ontario, Canada which, they claimed, automatically made their marriage ‘legal’ in Australia. The Howard Government didn’t agree and stripped the marital rights of same sex couples as soon as they landed back in Australia.

According to Croome, in early 2004:

… two such couples sought a ruling from the Federal Court on whether Australia’s relatively liberal laws on foreign marriages extended to the recognition of their Canadian unions.

The court was never allowed to decide. Liberal senator Guy Barnett petitioned the prime minister to ‘protect marriage’ from being ‘demeaned and degraded’. The petition was successful, not least because 2004 was an election year in both Australia and the United States, and the politicisation of ‘gay marriage’ welded wealthy and highly disciplined evangelical churches in marginal electorates to the conservative cause.

In August 2004, the Senate passed the ‘man and woman’ amendment to the Australian Marriage Act. Again Croome suggests:

The government’s marriage amendment — declaring matrimony to be exclusively hetero-sexual, and limiting the powers of the courts to recognise overseas same-sex unions — was raced through parliament, prioritised over government anti-terror legislation. For good measure, the prime minister addressed a rowdy meeting in the Great Hall of Parliament House in defence of ‘traditional marriage’, during which homosexuals were condemned as ‘moral terrorists’.

Not that the ALP was any better:

In her address to that anti-gay audience, shadow attorney-general Nicola Roxon declared Labor’s support for entrenching discrimination against gay relationships. She was given a standing ovation.

So why waste somewhere between $160 and $200 million on a plebiscite to change the legislation back to the way it was in the 45 or so years until 2004? Clearly, the reason is not due to some specific wording in the legislation, as Howard had no problem in changing the law in the first place.

In 2015, Time Magazine listed 21 Countries (apart from the USA) where same sex marriage is legal. The USA legalised same sex marriage in June 2015, New Zealand did in 2013. It is plainly obvious that life as we know it has not ended in either the USA or ‘over the ditch’ in New Zealand.

We’ve done the history — now for the politics. Turnbull, like most prime ministers before him, claim that they govern for the benefit of all Australians, regardless of whether or not you voted for him. While it is true that the ALP governments between 2007 and 2013 could have legalised same sex marriage, to be fair around half of the countries on the Time magazine list have only acted since 2013. It makes sense that while the issue had been building for a while, it was the Abbott Coalition government that felt the effects of the debate from 2013. Abbott ‘bought some time’ by promising a plebiscite in the next term of government (he also didn’t know that he wouldn’t be the prime minister at the 2016 election — and that story has been done to death so let’s move on).

Details of the Coalition Agreement between the Liberal and National Parties are re-negotiated every time the leader changes and subsequent to each election, so when Abbott was ousted in favour of Turnbull in 2015 there was a re-negotiation. Both parties confirmed there was an agreement for a plebiscite on same sex marriage in the next term of parliament (the parliament subsequent to the one elected in 2013). Subsequent to the 2016 election there was another renegotiation, as is customary. The 2016 agreement is secret but believed to include an understanding that a plebiscite on same sex marriage is required before the legislation is considered. (A small but worthwhile digression is to ponder why a secret agreement governing an arrangement between two political parties is perfectly acceptable in the case of the Liberals and Nationals, but any co-operative arrangement between the ALP and the Greens is frowned upon by both the ALP and the Liberals.)

Turnbull, rightly or wrongly, has continued to support a number of Abbott government measures, including a plebiscite on same sex marriage, claiming it should be non-binding but compulsory. The logic here is interesting as Howard rammed through changes to the Marriage Act in double quick time (with ALP support) in 2004 to insert the ‘man and woman’ concept into the Act. So according to Turnbull it is completely logical to change legislation to address the concerns of conservative members of his political party in 2004, but we have to waste $200 million in a vote to change it back to the way it was. To ensure tracing the logic is the equal to the triple pike with twist, the plebiscite is non-binding, so if your conservative member of parliament doesn’t want to change the legislation, they can still vote no in parliament — in spite of the results of the plebiscite (however the individual politicians choose to ‘spin’ the response and their eventual vote).

To make it even worse, the federal government has decided in its wisdom to fund both sides of the argument to the tune of $7.5 million each. Turnbull claims this will allow for a respectable debate which will allow the public to make an informed decision. Before the funding was even allocated, the ‘no’ case was linking the same sex marriage discussion to educational matters as well as using (apparently without permission) the image and words of Nelson Mandela.

Managing Director of the Australian Christian Lobby, Lyle Shelton, claims that:

“The baby who is taken from the breast of her mother doesn’t have a voice in this debate, the child who doesn’t get to know their father doesn’t have a voice,”


“Research clearly shows the quickest pathway to poverty for a child is for their biological mum and dad to break up, that’s just a fact.”

While Shelton didn’t offer any evidence to support his claim, he is claiming that those who are brought up in a family that doesn’t replicate his idealistic view of the world are somehow fatally flawed, something that both Shorten and Turnbull (who were both raised by single parents) should demonstrably be arguing against. Instead Turnbull proposes to give the ‘no’ case $7.5 million to further denigrate those who don’t live in Shelton’s ‘nuclear’ family. While you could suggest that Shelton has ‘jumped the shark’ (again), Turnbull as the nation’s leader has a responsibility to ensure that all are treated equally. He clearly hasn’t to those children in Australia who for a variety of reasons (including same sex partnerships, death, divorce or numerous other reasons) have only have one parent. Clearly keeping the conservative rump of his political party ‘on side’ is far more important than correcting the false testament of people like Shelton who is belittling Turnbull’s own upbringing.

Another example of Turnbull’s behaviour concerns his ‘new’ approach to climate change. It has been widely reported that the Great Barrier Reef is undergoing significant bleaching of the coral. The government’s own Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (better known by its slightly easier to say GBRMPA acronym) reported in June 2016 that this was caused by a seemingly small rise in sea surface temperature. The overwhelming consensus of scientists with experience in the area of study suggests that sea surface warming is an indicator of human induced climate change. One proven way to reduce human induced climate change is to move away from burning fossil fuel to generate electricity. South Australia has probably moved quicker towards renewable energy power than other states connected to the ‘National Grid’, but recently suffered a statewide power failure. Turnbull is publically implying that ‘extremely unrealistic’ renewable energy targets are the problem.

In reality, the South Australian blackout in late September had nothing to do with renewable energy. Twenty-two high voltage power pylons blew over due to excessive wind during a severe storm. As the article points out:

If the recently closed Port Augusta coal power station was still operating, it would have been cut off by the downed distribution lines too. And that would have likely made the disruption worse, since it would have created an even bigger sudden change to the network.

Lenore Taylor argued recently in The Guardian:

… state targets are exactly what Australia needs to meet the promises the prime minister made in Paris last year about reducing greenhouse gases.

Of course it would be preferable to have a consistent national policy to reach those goals, but it’s not exactly the states’ fault that we haven’t got one.

That vacuum was Tony Abbott’s proud achievement, with the abolition of the carbon price and the winding back of the federal renewable energy target, after a lengthy debate about whether it should be abolished altogether, which of course dried up almost all investment in renewable energy.

And consistent, credible national policy hasn’t been any more evident in the year since Turnbull took over either.

His own officials admitted in a Senate inquiry this week they had undertaken no modelling at all about how to meet the target Turnbull pledged in Paris for reducing Australia’s emissions out to 2030. That’s the target he is about to ratify, the target that will be Australia’s legal obligation.

But plenty of others have done modelling and analysis for him, and they all conclude that he won’t meet it, not with the Coalition’s current policies.

Clearly Turnbull is keeping the conservative rump of his political party ‘on side’ and apparently arguing the false testament of notable ‘thinkers’ and conservatives such as Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce, Queensland Senator (with 77 direct votes) Malcolm Roberts and Brett Hogan, the Research Director of the Institute of Public Affairs.

(Roberts actually linked to a news item stating the real reason for the power failure and still gets it wrong!).

In an environment where Turnbull publically called for the resignation of ALP Senator Sam Dastyari for accepting around $6,500 from people who have ‘connections’ with the Chinese government, he is doing nothing about the claims of a former minister in his government, Stuart Robert, who apparently sees nothing wrong with attempting to stack the Gold Coast City Council with people sympathetic to development proposals. Robert was sacked from his ministerial position in February after (separate) claims of inappropriate use of political donations. Fairfax’s The Age called for his resignation from parliament in an editorial on September 29. At the time of preparation, however, it appears that Turnbull is again keeping the conservatives in his own party ‘on side’ rather than calling out Robert’s behaviour for what it is.

When Turnbull became prime minister, there was a hope that he would bring the claimed decency and ability to appeal to the middle ground that was so lacking with Abbott. After 13 months, it hasn’t happened. There are two possibilities: Turnbull is just as bad as Abbott (except for better clothing choices and living in a ‘more expensive’ postcode); or, to coin a phrase, Turnbull ’doesn’t have the ticker’ to promote and implement policy and legislation that isn’t approved by his conservative rump thereby ensuring his longevity as prime minister.

Either way, the rest of us as Australian citizens will continue to suffer as a result.

This article was originally published on The Political Sword

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  1. Kaye Lee

    There are some other important parts to the history of the marriage legislation.

    In 1961, federal Attorney-General Sir Garfield Barwick stated the main purpose of the legislation was to:

    “Produce a marriage code suitable to present day Australian needs…which resolved modern problems in a modern way.”

    The Marriage Act as originally enacted in 1961 did not contain a definition of marriage. Delivering the second reading speech, Attorney General Barwick said:

    “… it will be observed that there is no attempt to define marriage in this bill. None of the marriage laws to which I have referred contains any such definition. But insistence on monogamous quality is indicated by, on the one hand, the provisions of the Matrimonial Causes Act, which render a marriage void where one of the parties is already married, and by a provision in this bill making bigamy an offence.”

    They were more concerned about monogamy than heterosexuality.

    On its passage through Parliament, Senator Gorton, who was responsible for the carriage of the Bill through the Senate, remarked:

    “… in our view it is best to leave to the common law the definition or the evolution of the meaning of ‘marriage’ as it relates to marriages in foreign countries and to use this bill to stipulate the conditions with which marriage in Australia has to comply if it is to be a valid marriage.”

    They were far more enlightened in the early sixties than in 2004 when the government stated that “Including this definition [man and woman] will remove any lingering concerns that people may have that the legal definition of marriage may become eroded over time.”

    The definition of marriage was inserted along with changes to expressly preclude the recognition of same-sex marriages conducted overseas. These amendments were in the main a response to reforms legalising same-sex marriage in a number of overseas jurisdictions. In this regard, the Attorney-General, Philip Ruddock, stated:

    “A related concern held by many people is that there are now some countries that permit same sex couples to marry. It has been reported that there are a few Australian same sex couples who may travel overseas to marry in one of these countries on the basis that their marriage will then be recognised under Australian law on their return. Australian law does, as a matter of general principle, recognise marriages entered into under the laws of another country, with some specific exceptions. It is the government‘s view that this does not apply to same sex marriages. The amendments to the Marriage Act contained in this bill will make it absolutely clear that Australia will not recognise same sex marriages entered into under the laws of another country, whatever country that may be.”

    The original 2004 Bill also included amendments to prevent same-sex couples adopting children from overseas. These were dropped in return for a guarantee of speedy passage of the substantive Bill.

  2. helvityni

    Excellent post, and indeed a better postcode does not a better man make.

  3. Adrianne Haddow

    It’s a pity the parents of these politician clots were ‘allowed’ to marry and procreate.
    Their hypocrisy on this matter, and any others that require empathy and ethics, negate their stance that a child needs a male and female parent to be a ‘good’ person.

  4. Geoffrey England

    Why is it that the ACL continues to conflate marriage Equality with children??? It is already a fact of law that same sex couples can adopt and have surrogate children…..
    Is Sheldon and his ACL army trying to confuse the issue or is he genuinely stupid. Just because two people want to get married does not necessarily mean they want children……
    I pity Sheldon’s children, if indeed the effwit has any children at all ….having to grow up with their father’s blinkered view of the world, having a father who is not only stupid, but also an ignoramus disingenuous liar and PRICK OF THE FIRST MAGNITUDE.

  5. wam

    I happen to agree with gillard about marriage.
    However, I cannot understand why there is any opposition to marriage between same sex couples.
    There are ample examples of the failings of marriage and the consequences of divorce.
    I am lucky enough to have been in love with, and married to, a wonderful, loving person since Feb 1963.
    My elder sister has had two loving same sex, relationships since 1958. Both of which may have resulted in marriage The first was in Tassie where, on holidays, we met many loving couples who occasionally suffered great hardship from a homophobic society steeped in the rabbottian gay-bashing culture. The second is a lovely sharing home between two women nearing 80.

    My younger sister has had two disastrous marriages with one a lazy drinker and the other a xstian bully.

    The tragedy of a plebiscite is the divisive subjective arguments against. They are outdated, homophobic and should be unsustainable in 2016.

  6. Gangey1959

    I have to protest. there I was, all ready to get into a good argument about those effwitted object’stupido we have in Canberra called politicians, and their bullshiting around over the simple task of re-amending the Marriage Act (1961) to enable any human to marry any other human (unless one of them is already married) and you have gone and sidetracked the whole debate into who lives in/was born in the best postcode. Neither the mad monk nor talcum turdbullshitartist were born in or live in Seymour (3660). It’s a moot point, they just have too much money and their houses cost too much.
    Anyway, back to the original train of thought..
    Let us NOT cut the alp any slack for either their attitude to little johnny’s bullshit in 2004. It is just plain wrong on any and every level. I don’t know whether krudd/julia/krudd would have had the numbers to slap the little shit ex-pm down as soon as they were elected in 2007, but they should have if they could have just because they could.
    The plebiscite , and as a ”Latin” student I squirm every time I hear the term, is going to show just how lowbrow and gutter-bred the common person (aka pleb) really is, and dare I say it regardless of their (read his, because the worst are going to be men) upbringing and education. If the plebiscite eventuates, the preceding debate will be absolutely disgusting, and humiliating and degrading to both the ”victims”, and Australians as a whole. I guess what makes me maddest about the whole bullshit mess is the concept that the entire of Australia could vote 99.99% FOR same sex marriage, and the dudes in Canberra can use their ”faith” and ”conscience” to still vote NO. SCREW THAT.
    It is obviously a subject that normal Aussies want dealt with properly at zero cost, so our pollies should just vote on it. In the House, and then in the Senate. Or the other way around if that’s what it takes. Simples.
    Alternatively, hold a proper referendum. on the matter, and let the real people decide. The debate will be just as ugly, but at least the decision at the end will stand for itself. We could vote on a number of things at the same time and save a but load of time and cash, and give our jerkoffs in Canberra something to actually get around to achieving.
    Power to the people and all that stuff.
    That’s enough from me for now. I’m going to play trivia at the pub.

  7. Ken Wolff

    While I am one who thinks the parliament should change the Marriage Act (just as Howard) did, I also think the conservatives are forgetting how the Irish referendum on same sex marriage was won. Ireland is strongly Catholic and while the influence of the church had been tarnished by the child abuse scandal, many pundits were surprised that a majority of rural areas in Ireland also supported same sex marriage. The reason – mothers supporting whatever choices their children made and supporting what would make their children happy. I see newly elected Labor MP Susan Lamb has made a similar argument today, that it is unfair that one of her sons is treated differently to his brothers. The role of mothers in this debate seems to be being overlooked in Australia but, based on the Irish experience, it is crucial.

  8. king1394

    Many of the ACL’s arguments about the difficulties of children in same sex marriages can equally be applied to situations where adoptions take place, and to children who are being raised in sole parent families.

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