The disgraceful behaviour by members of the Liberal Party continues. At a doorstop at Parliament House Member for Warringah, Tony Abbott said, regarding the plebiscite: “Obviously I will be voting no, but this is not about the politicians, this is about the people – it’s about your view”1. That, like most of Abbott’s utterances is simply a lie, something at which he is very practised2,3. It is simply a way for him to, as fellow Liberal Warren Entsch stated, to kick the issue into the long grass4, in the hope that it will at least be delayed, or eventually forgotten. In this, Abbott is aided and abetted by the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL), which is also adept at lying to get what they want5.
Abbott then went on to elaborate: “And I say to you, if you don’t like same-sex marriage, vote no. If you’re worried about religious freedom and freedom of speech, vote no, and if you don’t like political correctness, vote no because voting no will help stop political correctness in its tracks”. Again, these are lies. I don’t like mullet haircuts, but that does not mean that I want to legislate against them; I simply will not get one. Similarly, I have no desire to engage in same-sex marriage, so I simply will not have one. Abbott seems to be under the misapprehension that same-sex marriage will be compulsory. It wasn’t compulsory before the Howard Government changed the Marriage Act to make it illegal, so why would he think it would be when it happens in Australia?
The only religious freedom that is impinged by same-sex marriage is the freedom to impose your wacky religious beliefs on others. The religious right of the Liberal Party and the idiot right that is One Nation often whine about the possibility of Sharia Law being imposed on Australians, but they never whine about the bigotry exhibited by Christians against homosexuals, or those with gender issues. That is perfectly acceptable for them because it is their bigotry, not someone else’s. The Netherlands has had same-sex marriage for 16 years6, and last time I checked, there were still Roman Catholics and Netherlands Protestants tramping around the streets unharrassed7. None were in jail because of their religious beliefs; none were discriminated against either through employment, access to health care, access to schools, or access to any other service provided by the state. Indeed, the Netherlands Constitution prevents religious discrimination and protects the freedom of individuals to profess their religious belief, and it is a crime to publicly incite religious hatred8. The ‘religious freedom’ that Abbott speaks about is nothing of the kind. What really worries the religious nutters in government and in the ACL is the fact that in the Netherlands, those with no religious affiliation run to 67.8% of the population, with 25% of the population being atheists, 31% agnostics, and 27% ‘ietsistics’ (i.e. believing in something but adhering to no particular religion)7. That scares people like Abbott, Abetz, Andrews and the ACL more than anything else; the loss of bums on pews, and the loss of that great aphrodisiac; power. And when some pew-warmers realise that after same-sex marriage is allowed, the sky will not have fallen, they will begin to wonder about all the other bigotries that their befrocked shepherd has sold them.
How same-sex marriage will impinge on free speech is unclear, and given that Abbott uttered it, that lack of clarity is unsurprising. Perhaps he is harking back to the failed attempt to change Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act which prevents people from offending, insulting, humiliating or intimidating anyone because of their race, colour, national or ethnic origin. Nowhere does it mention religion, but the push to have it amended was simply a favour to ultraconservative commentator and Coalition mate Andrew Bolt, who was prosecuted under the act for some of his comments about Aboriginals9.
Lastly, Abbott mentions ‘political correctness’. What this means in the mind of a person such as Abbott is anybody’s guess. It has been a whine against progress and decency by conservatives for decades and is usually stated as an impediment to free speech, among other (unspecified) things. In Australia, it was first used effectively by the Howard Government, and is now used universally by the right as a pejorative. It is simply the ‘avoidance of language or actions that are seen as excluding, marginalising or insulting groups of people who are seen as disadvantaged or discriminated against, especially groups defined by sex or race’10. So, it is about not calling people names that offend them. In short it is about being polite, nonjudgmental and empathetic. While most Christians are polite, many tend to be judgmental and lacking in empathy, something that is unlike the values espoused by their eponymous carpenter. This can be characterised as the great Christian dichotomy11. If Jesus arrived in Australia in 2017, especially by boat, and continuing to espouse all that tolerance, pacifism and humility stuff, he’d be banished to Manus or Nauru as quick as a flash. Our erstwhile Christians in parliament wouldn’t stand for all that disgustingly extreme political correctness.
So, Abbott continues to be the de facto Prime Minister, protestations from Turnbull that he is a strong leader notwithstanding. The fact that any politician would consider a multi-million dollar non-binding plebiscite to be a necessary precursor to a free vote in parliament, when a free vote could be held immediately, simply beggars belief. It is simply a way of charging every man woman and child in Australia about $7 to make Tony Abbott feel better about himself. To see the extent to which the religious will lie about same-sex marriage, you only have to look at Howard’s recent ‘defence’ of Turnbull, in which he stated that the government had ‘no choice’ but to pursue a postal plebiscite process. Another lie. He also defended his government’s 2004 decision to amend the Marriage Act to exclude same-sex marriage and said that Australians had not really thought of marriage as otherwise before 2004. Yet another lie. Not only was it simply designed to prevent same-sex marriage, but also to prevent same-sex couples married overseas from having their union recognised in Australia12. Howard has taught Abbott well the art of lying for political and religious ends.
The caving in of Turnbull to the religious right wing nutters in the Liberal Party, makes it ever clearer what a recent focus-group study found; Turnbull lacks guts, needs to ‘grow balls’ and had sorely disappointed the electorate13. If Turnbull had had the intestinal fortitude to go against the religious nutters in his party, the parlous state of the Liberals’ poll numbers may have seen a significant uptick. However, Turnbull’s caving in will simply hasten his demise. As Paul Keating said: “If this mob were a car, you’d have to clean bugs off the rear windshield, they are going backwards that fast.” That is a sad indictment on the state of the nation at a time when we actually need a forward-looking government to help society cope with what are likely to be massive changes and dangers in the 21st century14. Agile and Innovative deeds, not talk, is what we need.
Now that the legislation enabling a compulsory plebiscite has failed again to pass the Senate, and we are to have a ridiculous, expensive, voluntary, non-binding plebiscite, my voting paper will go straight from the letterbox to the recycle bin. That is a matter of conscience, something that the Liberal Party seems to be entirely lacking. And I will not let such a bunch of vacuous, self-serving, venal liars off the hook by acquiescing to their travesty.