Rob Idol

Embracing the plebiscite: My indefensible one, you

The plebiscite. You don’t like it, I don’t like it. However, those who plan to silently protest through abstaining should know that they’ll be viewed as those opposed in the days to come.

 

 

When I do have the time to scribe something, I try my best to stay away from the headline issue of the week. This is primarily because in the digital age, almost everything that needs to be said has been said by the time I open my mouth.

This week, however, I am going to talk about that issue. It’s an issue close to my heart and an issue that I believe is going to test the limits of vitriol from many corners of the population. An issue that has been limply dropped into that hands of the populace, and in doing so has opened up the doors for us to witness some of the worst parts of humanity. Something that has split the supporting camp in twain, where the argument currently sits at Marriage Equality, yes Plebiscite, no. A fair argument, however, those in power will not make the distinction when the results come in.

Yes, it’s not a free vote. And yes, it should be easier. But, this is the insane form that the Marriage Equality debate has taken, and ignoring it through noble silent will kill the issue at large, a piece of history that can we twisted to suit the rhetoric in the future.

Example: If the ALP doesn’t get in next election, the Coalition (maybe lead by Tony) could blithely use the limp results as a pretext to bench the issue until 2023. Well, we tried. Australia said no.

Back to 2017. Despite all attempts by the Liberal Party to make the issue not their problem, it continues to create unrest within the party and in the public at large. Their plebiscite policy has been blocked at every turn for a variety of extremely valid reasons. There are those that can’t justify the exorbitant cost; particularly for something that is non-binding. There are those that fear a very likely gutter dwelling scare campaign designed to swing the vote but with the ultimate consequence of degrading and dehumanising the LGBTQI community; and there are those that rightly point the Marriage Act that expressly forbids Same Sex Marriage was introduced by John Howard without any public consultation, let alone a plebiscite.

 

If you are indifferent, then vote “Yes”. A vote for “No” does not reflect your indifference, it reflects a position of inequality.

 

To attempt to keep the pleb dream alive, Turnbull held an emergency meeting to dig upwards out of that chasm he had dug. Whilst the idealists held out hope that the Libs would emerge from this meeting and proceed with a free vote, the realists predicted the outcome. The Plebiscite would remain, and if it was blocked in the Senate again, they would proceed with Plan B. Plebiscite Lite: half the cost and none of the weight.

So here we are. Within nanoseconds of the announcement, the campaigning had begun. Unsurprisingly, the fastest and most vocal campaigner was the architect of this mess, one Tony Abbott. Abbott immediately called on those opposed to same sex marriage to vote no; and called on anyone that was worried about religious freedom and freedom of speech or didn’t like political correctness to vote the same way.

The bullshit had started.

Abbott (as only he could) has chosen to deliberately ignore the fact that the private members bill specifically protects religious freedom, making it very clear that Ministers, civil celebrants or businesses that are directly linked to a religious body could refuse to perform a same sex marriage ceremony. Which pretty much anyone in favour of same sex marriage would have absolutely no issue with. A Catholic Church can refuse to marry a non-believer and there is no reason that this should be any different.

Completely absent from Abbott’s war cry is the bassline of facts. This is a matter of law. It’s not a matter of religious belief. It’s not a matter of family structure. At its core, this is simply about removing exclusionary wording from the legal definition of marriage. Wording that wasn’t there originally. No-one is losing or will lose their right to believe what they want; but beliefs have absolutely jack shit to do with the law.

The punches, however, are swinging in both directions. Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has jumped on the biggest political king hit of his career, savaging Turnbull: “I hold you responsible for every hurtful bit of filth that this debate will unleash, not because the Prime Minister has said it, not because he agrees to it, he clearly doesn’t. But because the Prime Minister has licensed this debate.”

Shorten is very much on point; the postal vote will be conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics meaning that the safeguards provided under the Commonwealth Electoral Act will not apply. Safeguards that when absent will allow pretty much anyone to circulate whatever propaganda they want, with very little fear of consequence.

 

At its core, this is simply about removing exclusionary wording from the legal definition of marriage. Wording that wasn’t there originally. No-one is losing or will lose their right to believe what they want; but beliefs have absolutely jack shit to do with the law.

 

So the question is before those that support Same Sex Marriage…where to from here?

Odds on, the Plebiscite is going to happen, and it’s going to play out in a free for all battleground, which is exactly what the opposition wanted. This much we know, and frankly, the more time we set our attention on what has happened, the less attention we have to the pratical application of what should happen. Our attention must now turn to how to get the right result and how to protect those that will inevitably victimised and marginalised in the coming months.

The most crucial is participation. If you are pro Marriage Equality, then make sure you receive your ballot and you lodge it as instructed. You can be sure that every single person that is against it will be lodging theirs. If you are unsure of whether your electoral details are up to date, visit this link and check.

If you are indifferent, then vote “Yes”. A vote for “No” does not reflect your indifference, it reflects a position of inequality.

The next most important thing is our voices. The only way to mitigate the damage caused to members of the LGBTIQ community during this debate is to make sure the “Yes” voice is louder than everything else.

In reading too much of the divisive rhetoric emanating from the opposite camp over the past couple of years, one thing keeps standing out like a sore thumb. The term vocal minority. More often than not it’s used to make the LGBTIQ community look small, insignificant and effectively an annoyance.

We need to slap this rhetoric back to the stone age where it belongs.

Those in favour of Marriage Equality are not a vocal minority. They are very much a vocal majority.

The time to stand on the sidelines is over. If you have a modicum of belief in basic human rights then you owe it to yourself to make your opinion heard. If you believe in equality for all, then staying out of it negates that belief entirely. If you want your children and your grandchildren to grow up in a country that is inclusive, you simply must join in the conversation.

The only thing that beats hate is love; an adage that we must cling to right now. We mustn’t sink to the level of those that preach hate on this topic, rather, we have to meet their hate head on and drown it out with our message of support and solidarity. The Plebiscite may not be binding, but overwhelming public support comes with the benefit of making it very clear to those that would preach hate or discriminate that they are in fact the vocal minority, not us.

A former PM once described liberty, equality and fraternity as the touchstone of a modern democracy. That same PM fought for what was right rather than what would keep him in power; and to borrow his most famous two word uttering: It’s Time.

Rob Idol

Rob is an aspiring writer who balances his time between a “real” job and his passion for politics, social justice and all things creative. He has an MBA, an unhealthy obsession with current events, an even unhealthier obsession with pop culture and has been known to offer favourable food reviews in exchange for free meals. www.robidol.com.au

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