My Daily Advertiser column for today, Tuesday 21 November 2017: Lessons to be learnt from the Vote No campaign’s spectacular own goal

by ray goodlass

Last week we finally got the result of the marriage equality survey and Australia has resoundingly voted ‘Yes’. 61.6% in fact, with only 38% voting No, which compares very well with Ireland’s vote a couple of years ago, which had 62% of votes in favour of the change and 38 per cent against. Ireland’s was a formal referendum yet only 60% of the people turned out to vote, compared with almost 80% here in an in formal postal survey.

The Riverina electorate’s vote of 55% is also very encouraging, as is our federal MP Michael McCormack’s announcement that he will honour the wish of his constituents and vote for same-sex marriage when it comes to a parliamentary vote. It adds some credibility to his apology for his previous hostility to the Riverina LGBTIQ community.

Referring to individual politicians reminds me of the sordid role some of them, such as Messrs Abbott and Abetz, played in this campaign. Frustrated by the Senate’s vote against a formal plebiscite they foisted the very expensive postal survey on us and then proceeded to mastermind a very misleading ‘Vote No’ argument that in truth was seriously dishonest in its claims about what same-sex marriage would lead to.

But now they should be eating very humble pie, having spectacularly scored an ‘own goal’ – and with the whole world watching too!

It’s the most spectacular own goal on the conservative side of Australian politics since Malcolm Fraser called the early 1983 election and lost.

Indeed, the marriage equality survey was an utter miscalculation by the conservatives on several fronts. They thought they could defeat marriage equality. They failed.

What will the wider results of their pig-headed miscalculation be? Firstly, many more young people are now on the electoral roll and engaged in politics. Young people are likelier to vote Labor or Green, so they have enriched their opposition.

Secondly, the “yes” vote for marriage equality is also a “no” vote for the shock-jock, News-Ltd totally untrue view of the world that political correctness has gone mad and the world is full of dole bludgers and refugees wearing Armani outfits.

Thirdly, a repudiation of the myth that “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.

The survey result could also be a game-changer for Australian politics. This is because Malcolm Turnbull has at least 18 months before he faces an election. He has time to fix the mess he allowed to happen. If he is agile and innovative, he could make the survey result in his epiphany. He can take no kudos from the survey result for that belongs to us, the Australian people who, having had this unwanted agenda from the right-wing rump of the Coalition thrust upon us, turned the result around.

But Mr Turnbull can take lessons from the result, which means, unlike marriage equality, he needs to address things that are broke and need fixing, such as an energy policy that addresses climate change, housing affordability, a tax policy to fix the rorts exposed in the Paradise Papers, our inhumane treatment of asylum seekers, the appalling conditions our First Peoples have to endure, and so on.

A good start would be to limit the damage that those MPs amending the Marriage Equality Bill are trying to do by including provisions such as allowing marriage celebrants and wedding caterers to discriminate against LGBTIQ people under the false guise of religious freedom. Don’t let them legalise discrimination, Malcolm!

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