My Daily Advertiser Op Ed column for Tuesday 15 August 2017: Marriage equality should be unifying, not divisive

by ray goodlass

As I listened to Tony Abbott take to the air waves after the federal government resolved to press ahead with its postal plebiscite I couldn’t help but notice that he could teach President Trump and his team a thing or two about ‘alternative facts’, for of the three reasons Mr Abbott advised us to vote ‘No’, only one bore any semblance to reality.

That was the one about ‘If you are against same sex marriage, vote No’. Superficially this may look fair enough, but of course what Mr Abbott doesn’t mention is that if you believe in equality and a fair go for all, supposedly Australian values, you would vote ‘Yes’.

But it was Mr Abbott’s other two reasons for voting No that turned his remarks into ‘Alternative Facts’. The first of these was “If you believe in free speech vote No’. How on earth does that make any sort of logical sense? It doesn’t of course, but what Mr Abbott is doing is engaging in ‘Dog Whistle Politics’. That means sending out a coded message that only those for whom it is intended will ‘get’. In this particular example Mr Abbott is really saying ‘If you believe in hate speech vote No’.

The third example is ‘If you are fed up with Political Correctness vote No’. This is nothing more than a cheap slur, as well of course being another example of Mr Abbott blowing his dog whistle. It is also without any foundation, as politic correctness is simply an expression used by the likes of Mr Abbott when they really have nothing substantive left to argue with.

Of course, Mr Abbott’s thought bubbles were only the beginning of a campaign that promises to be full of homophobia, hate, bigotry, and other slurs against the LGBTIQ community. The so called Australian Christian Lobby, a body with a very misleading name given that not one of the major Christina churches is a member, has already started, and will no doubt ramp up its homophobic hate-filled rhetoric in the weeks to come.

With all the above in mind it was pleasing to note that Senator Mathias Cormann, in his role as Acting Special Minister of State offered to draft a bill that would subject the campaign to the usual electoral rules, including protections against malicious publications and bribery.

All well and good, and we will be grateful for small mercies, but this could of course have been avoided if Mr Turnbull had demonstrated a bit of internal fortitude and stared down the extreme right wing of the Liberal Party.

Marriage equality can and should be a unifying moment for our country. But rather than doing their jobs and voting in Parliament, this Government has decided to delay, distract and divide Australia. They have decided to waste $122 million of taxpayers’ money on an unnecessary and unacceptable postal opinion poll.

Australian Marriage Equality is preparing to seek an injunction to stop the postal plebiscite and will launch a legal challenge once it knows the full details, Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFAG) has already launched a High Court challenge, and Australian Greens LGBTIQ spokesperson Senator Janet Rice has lodged a notice of motion in the Senate requesting documents that lay out the advice the government has used to arrive at the postal plebiscite plan.

“The rights of a minority group should never be put to a public vote. John Howard didn’t go to a public vote when he changed the Marriage Act in 2004, so why does Malcolm Turnbull want to?” said Senator Rice.