Numbers don’t warrant political fuss

by on 14 August, 2013

ImagesGay marriage – Rudd’s only debate promise  


Bertel Torsten in Canberra

Last week (“Gay marriage – not a guarantee”) I wrote about the gay marriage issue which crosses the major party divide and showed what a divisive issue it was. Strong and opposing views are held by individuals within the same party and, demonstrably, this issue is one which could lose as many votes as it might win.

In the leaders’ debate on Sunday night, the only new promise that PM Rudd made was that his re-elected government would, within its first one hundred days, bring forward legislation to allow for same sex marriage.

When this issue was raised, tweets hit a peak of 1,952 per minute at 7.25 AEST. It was Rudd’s only moment of transient glory.

Australians, he contended, were crying out for gay marriage. So critical, so fundamental and so important this issue is, he said, that it had to be decided within the first hundred days of the new Parliament.

It must have come as a great surprise to those sitting at home thinking about the cost of living, the economy, illegal immigration, education and other really boring issues. Abbott refused to rise to the bait and remained circumspect saying that the Coalition would decide the issue after the election although he did agree that it was an important issue.

Yet even in Rudd’s own Queensland and inside his own lovingly loyal ALP, gay marriage is not a burning issue and, given the PM’s monumental ego, he must wonder why his conversion to advocacy for the issue has not been embraced by all of his colleagues. No doubt, he considers them out of step with the public view which is always his view, of course.

According to the major lobby group pressing for the change, Australian Marriage Equality (AME), Queensland Labor MPs opposed to gay marriage include his ex best friend Wayne Swan, Senate President John Hogg, Shayne Neuman, Yvette D’Ath and Craig Emerson. One presumes, since that is their only purpose in life, AME knows what it is talking about.  

Senator John Hogg has said, “I have a deep-seated belief that marriage is between a man and a woman exclusively”, former Minister Craig Emerson has stated, “My view is that marriage is between a man and a woman” while Senator Mark Furner went so far as to address a National Marriage Day rally outside Parliament last year declaring that same-sex marriage advocates had “highjacked” the debate by claiming that gay marriage equalled equality. He said those who opposed the idea “have a right to stand up.”

Shayne Neuman is on the record as saying that he does “not believe there is anything like sufficient community consensus which would justify change to such a fundamental societal institution as marriage.”

Rudd’s new best friend, former Labor Premier Peter Beattie, came out (as it were) in December, 2011, in favour of gay marriage and urged the impending ALP National Conference to endorse the concept – which it did. However, the canny Beattie did recognise that such as endorsement had the potential to damage then PM Gillard’s leadership. Beattie has been around long enough to recognise a political issue time bomb. 

Previously, Rudd had said he would consider a referendum on the issue. That now seems to have been junked.

In fact, the AME National Director, Rodney Croome, warned against any such referendum saying, “We fear cashed-up opponents of gay marriage would exploit a referendum to polarise the electorate and demonise gay and lesbian people in a way that would impact badly, particularly on young people.” It seems Mr Croome worries that a majority of Australians might not actually vote “yes” in such a referendum because of some presumed scare campaign.  

According to Croome, “A recent poll by the Australia Institute shows marriage equality is one of the top priorities of voters aged 18 to 24” and, in fact, he is absolutely right. However to say that, he also tacitly admitting also that it is not the number one issue even for that age group and not a top priority of any other age group at all.

And, let us remember, even if this promise does have some appeal to young voters, the cold hard fact is that this is the age group that is more likely not to be on the roll and, even if they are, are more likely not to actually vote.

So much for Rudd’s desperate sense of urgency – the “one hundred days” promise.

At least we can be grateful that it is one of the very, very few things Rudd has promised that won’t blow out his mounting deficit any further.

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