Flat White

Gay Marriage – what the plebiscite question should be

30 June 2016

12:55 AM

30 June 2016

12:55 AM

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the 2011 census found about 33,700 same-sex couples in Australia. About 17,600 couples were male and 16,100 female. These represent about one per cent of all couples in Australia.

Last year, Roy Morgan Research asked how many Australians are homosexual. They found that in 2006-08 about 2.4 per cent of people identified themselves as homosexual. In 2012-14, this increased to 3.4 per cent.

Clearly, the number of people coming out in that time had increased, yet the number of self-identified gay Australians is still just one in 30 of the Australian population.

And when it comes to same-sex marriage, not all in the gay community are of the vociferous, We Want Marriage Equality And We Want It Now! mob.  So let’s say only half of those self-identifiers are big on gay marriage.  Half of 3.4 is 1.7 per cent.

Yet that measly 1.7 per cent of the Australian population has tied the national political agenda in knots for years now.  Their agitation, aided by extensive sympathetic media coverage (and not just from the ABC-Fairfax ‘love media’, helped destroy Tony Abbott’s leadership and install pro-gay marriage Malcolm Turnbull.  Bill Shorten is so determined to pinch the 1.7 per cent from the embrace of the Greens that, as the election campaign finally nears its end, he’s declared passing gay marriage legislation will be the first parliamentary act of a Shorten Labor government.

On Wednesday, Turnbull looked mightily peeved when an ABC journalist asked him persistently about gay marriage rather than about his economic plan – you know, the one the PM says he has but never tells us anything about.  For once I’m on Malcolm’s side: he is trying to appeal to the 98.3 per cent of the Australian electorate that isn’t obsessed with same-sex marriage, and of whom many feel they have to be positive about it because they don’t want to bring grief on their heads from the self-righteous and the downright haters.  Homophobia is a word too liberally (pardon the pun) fired at those who aren’t fully with the 1.7 per cent’s programme.

But at least Turnbull effectively confirmed on Wednesday that we will have the promised gay marriage plebiscite by the end of the year, and we can look forward to finally getting this over and done with.

Frankly, I think it should be a parliamentary vote because that’s what we elect those jokers for, but having been promised by the Coalition the plebiscite needs to be honoured by a returned Coalition government.  And, having abdicated their duty in a representative democracy, all MPs need to respect whatever the outcome is.  But while it’s important to be tolerant of different lifestyle choices and different political views – that’s pluralistic democracy after all – it is utterly wrong for a tiny, selfish segment of the wider Australian community to put their obsessive cause ahead of all the other, more important, problems facing our nation after Saturday.

Preserving a AAA credit rating is a genuine priority.  Dealing with the fallout of Brexit, and security threats from Islamic extremism, they’re genuine priorities.  Satisfying a tiny vocal minority’s political agenda is not.  If Shorten thinks that pledging an immediate gay marriage parliamentary vote is going to win him the 21 seats he needs on Saturday, tell him he’s dreamin’.  He just doesn’t understand Australia beyond the latte belts of the capital cities.

There hasn’t been a question set for the plebiscite yet, and naturally the same-sex marriage advocates want a wording that guarantees a ‘Yes’ vote.  So allow me to suggest:

Do you favour rewarding the incessant, self-absorbed bleatings of an intolerant vocal minority within a minority who demonise anyone who disagrees with them, if it means they shut up and go away?

I’d vote a resounding ‘Yes’, even though I’m personally happy with leaving the definition of marriage as it is.

I reckon most Australians would too.

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