Title: Marriage Equality: Going Round in Circles? Credit: Craig Young Comment Monday 12th September 2016 - 12:23pm1473639780 Article: 18777 Rights
One problem of the Australian federal snap election that precariously returned Malcolm Turnbull and the Liberal/National Coalition to power is that Turnbull is reliant on an anti-equality faction within his own caucus to maintain his own shaky grip on power. The Australian marriage equality debate is going round in circles. At present, the situation is something like this. Malcolm Turnbull has tentatively scheduled the Australian marriage equality plebiscite for some point during February 2017. The sticking point is the ethical principle that human rights and civil liberties should be seen as inalienable and permanent, not subject to popular plebiscite or referendums. The second that while marriage equality supporters would have a parliamentary majority if the Houses of Representatives and the Senate were allowed a free vote on the matter, Turnbull's hand has been stayed by the question of party unity. Effectively, he is being held to ransom by religious social conservatives within his party. But while the Liberal/National Coalition is factionalised, the same cannot be said for the unified supporters of marriage equality in Australia. This isn't good enough for mainstream ALP and Green supporters of marriage equality, who have stated their intention to bring the issue to the parliamentary chamber in Canberra and use their combined strength in the Australian Senate alongside the Australian Labor Party and Nick Xenophon's Team, outmanoveuring the Australian Christian Right. Due to Australia's Senate Single Transferable Vote electoral system, the federal upper house lacks an incumbent government majority. Once again, one is grateful that New Zealand has only one parliamentary chamber to negotiate- we abolished our own ornamental Legislative Council back in 1951. As noted beforehand, the Australian marriage supporters lobby has pointed out that this never ending recurring circle legislative dilemma could become self-sustaining unless the legislative logjam is broken somehow, as it needs to be. There are several possible outcomes to this dilemma. One is that Turnbull does an about face on the marriage equality issue and calls off the plebiscite. The other involves a referendum with civility rules built in, so the Christian Right is forced to behave itself. The third is that the plebiscite is held, but an Irish outcome results, which means that a liberal and secularist majority votes to embrace social change. This would not be without precedent- Australia voted against mandatory conscription for national service and for the enfranchisement of Australian aborigines in the late sixties, but also voted against a Bill of Rights akin to that of New Zealand and the United Kingdom in the early eighties and against a republican head of state in the late nineties. At present, the Christian Right are still somewhat disorganised, having little real precedent or experience in this context. On the other hand, the Irish LGBT community is advising their Australian counterparts what to do to win any possible referendum. For that matter, so is the Coalition, which has missed its own self-selected deadline for a preliminary marriage equality plebiscite infrastructural bill to establish the machinery for the planned referendum. This may suggest prevarication or continuing indecision with the Coalition parliamentary caucuses. After this year's Australian federal election, the conservative National Party of Australia plays a greater role within the federal Coalition and may end up obstructing the measure as well, given its rural social conservative domination. To add an additional complication to this overall picture, the ALP has now offered an olive branch to the Coalition. It now states that it would support a plebiscite if the latter was 'self-executing'. That is, it would be in itself a final vote on the matter of marriage equality, without being merely indicative and leading to yet another parliamentary vote in Canberra. One wonders what might finally emerge from the current impasse. Will Turnbull relent, or will marriage equality be postponed still further until the end of the current parliamentary term? To end this review of current debate over marriage equality within Australia, it is noted that all of the contenders have something to gain in marking out territory in this debate. The Australian Greens and Nick Xenophon Team can use opposition to the plebiscite to reflect their progressive orientations, the Australian Labor Party can use it to flex its newfound political strength, Coalition religious social conservatives can either play a populist pro-plebiscite card or obstructionist anti-plebiscite card. Malcolm Turnbull would be the only one to gain in this context, through imposing his model of 'change' on marriage equality and campaigning for its victory, while satisfying religious social conservative calls for a "people's"/populist mandate for this reform. Recommended : Katherine Murphy and Paul Karp: "Blocking marriage equality plebiscite could delay it for years"Guardian: 25.08.2016:http://www.theage. political-news/greens-to-vote- against-samesex-marriage- plebiscite-20160826-gr1tq0. html Tom McElroy: "Irish gay mariage referendum campaigner warns Malcolm Turnbull and MPs against plebiscite"Sydney Morning Herald:23.08.2016:http://www.smh. political-news/irish-gay- marriage-referendum- campaigner-warns-malcolm- turnbull-and-mps-against- plebiscite-20160823-gqz0o8. html Michael Koziol and Tom McElroy: "Greens to vote against same-sex marriage plebiscite"Sydney Morning Herald:27.08.2016:http://www.smh. political-news/greens-to-vote- against-samesex-marriage- plebiscite-20160826-gr1tq0. html Tom McIlroy: "Marriage equality plebiscite dealt a potentially fatal blow: Nick Xenophon decision leaves Turnbull marriage plebiscite plan in peril"Sydney Morning Herald:29.08.2016:http://www.smh. political-news/marriage- equality-plebiscite-nick- xenophon-decision-leaves- malcolm-turnbulls-plan-in- peril-20160829-gr3crv.html Fergus Hunter: "Malcolm Turnbull, so called moderates lack courage on gay marriage: Penny Wong"Sydney Morning Herald: 29.08.2016:http://www.smh. political-news/malcolm- turnbull-socalled-moderates- lack-courage-on-gay-marriage- penny-wong-20160828-gr3ac1. html Paul Karp: "Marriage Equality plebiscite: Coalition misses deadline for its own bill"Guardian:08.09.2016:Marriage equality plebiscite: Coalition misses its own deadline for draft bill Michael Koziol: "Labor could 'support' self-executing same-sex marriage plebiscite"Sydney Morning Herald: 08.09.2016:http://www.smh. political-news/labor-could- support-selfexecuting-samesex- marriage-plebiscite-20160905- gr9fum.html Craig Young - 12th September 2016    
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