By Terence Mills
Usually the interviews on SkyNews are scripted and predictable and if you like that sort of thing then Paul Murray and Andrew Bolt are your men. But Peter Van Onselen on his program refused to allow his conservative guest, Tim Wilson MP – Liberal Member of the Australian Parliament for Goldstein – to dictate the format of the interview.
Van Onselen had invited Tim Wilson on to discuss the same sex marriage shenanigans going on in the coalition and, as a gay man, Wilson’s views would have been quite instructive. But the first question concerning a vote scheduled to take place on Monday, in the Liberal Party room – to be followed by a joint meeting with the Nationals on Tuesday – on the subject of the coalition’s insistence on some sort of Plebiscite, brought the interview to a screaming halt. This is how it went down:
VAN ONSELEN: Thanks very much for your company, do you like the idea of a secret ballot in the party room?
TIM WILSON: Thanks Peter. I said everything I had to say on this issue and I make no plans to make any other comment at this time. I’d rather talk about something else that actually matters to the Australian population – the economy, energy prices, what’s going on with Labor’s tax slug, you pick it, I’m happy to talk about it. I’ve said what I’ve said on this issue.
VAN ONSELEN: Tim Wilson thanks for your company.
TIM WILSON: [Pause] That’s alright, pleasure.
You have to give it to Peter Van Onselen determined to show that it was his program and that he would set the agenda; if only other presenters on Sky would adopt a similar approach rather than pandering to evasive politicians, they would soon get the message that sidestepping questions with scripted responses is not acceptable to the Australian public: looking at you, Peter Dutton and Scott Morrison.
Most politicians go through some sort of media training which it seems teaches them to ignore the question asked and to just trot out their own agenda of party political mumbo-jumbo most of which consists of bland statements.
On the subject of marriage equality it goes something like this: “we took this plebiscite to the last election and the Australian people returned us to government and expect us to follow through with the mandate they have given us” or “we believe that the Australian people expect to be asked for their opinion through a plebiscite, that’s how democracy works.” They fail to mention that when they went to the last election they had a majority of nine in the House of Representatives and after the election were returned with a majority of just one: that’s not a mandate! They also conveniently overlook the fact that since 1961 the Marriage Act has had some twenty amendments all of which were dealt with by the parliament and none of which went to a national vote.
Next week it seems we will be told, following the joint party room meeting between the Liberals and Nationals, that a plebiscite on same sex marriage is absolutely essential to our well being as a nation and in all probability Trumble will remain true to form and announce a wishy-washy non-compulsory, non-binding postal vote to appease the Nationals and the right-wing rump of Dutton/Abbott supporters. Why a postal vote? Well, as it means nothing and carries no constitutional or legislative weight, it doesn’t need Senate approval but it does fit nicely into Trumble’s style of ineffectual leadership