Abbott thwarts marriage vote

Timothy Kincaid

August 11th, 2015

“There will be no same-sex marriage while I’m in charge,” seems to be the unspoken position of Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

Although polls show that a large majority of Australians support marriage equality (a quarter of the population considers it a ‘high priority’), Abbott has dug in his heels and is refusing to budge.

But the problem with ‘not while I’m in charge’ mentality is that there is an obvious solution. And Abbott appears to be blind to the consequences of strong arm tactics.

The matter comes down to this: in parliamentary block-voting politics, Party members all cast the same vote. In that way the party’s positions are upheld by the members. The exception is when a party leader allows a ‘free vote’, or one in which members can vote their own conscience rather than the party position, and that is what some members of Abbott’s Liberal Party have asked for.

However, if Liberals are allowed to vote on marriage, there is a good chance enough will vote such that equality would prevail. So Abbott has done his best to make sure that doesn’t happen.

First, he stalled on the issue, insisting that it be delayed. Finally, when he could no longer delay debating on a free vote, he stacked the room. Rather than the Liberals meeting to determine whether they could have a free vote, Abbott also invited coalition partners Nationals, who are nearly unanimously opposed to allowing gay citizens the same rights as heterosexual citizens.

This allowed Abbott’s conservative block, along with the Nationals, to block a free vote for Labor. But it pissed off those Labor supporters of equality who felt sandbagged by their leader’s decision and that it was unfair to allow another party to dictate how Labor MPs could vote. They felt that Abbott’s win-at-all-costs tactic did not respect his own members.

This may all smooth over. But the thing about ruthlessness is that no matter how it turns out, it still leaves a nasty taste in the mouth of the voters. And when employed against allies, it tends to erode their loyalty.

It remains to be seen when Australia will join most of Europe and the Americas in respecting their gay and lesbian neighbors, friends, and family. It will come, of course, though perhaps not while Tony Abbott is in power.

But Abbott should have considered that his attitude on the issue may be a self-fulfilling prophesy, and sooner than he anticipates.

Joseph Singer

August 11th, 2015

Timothy, do not make the mistake that too many people make. Austria ≠ (does not equal) Australia. One has Kangaroos and Koalas and the other one has the Austrian Alps.


August 12th, 2015

and lederhosen… Don’t forget lederhosen! :)

Eric Payne

August 12th, 2015

Who could forget lederhosen?


August 12th, 2015

Yeah, one has lederhosen and the other has banana hammocks up the cracks – can’t forget those either.

Timothy Kincaid

August 12th, 2015

LOL. Thanks guys, I’ve added the missing “al” and banned the lederhosen.

(but not the banana hammocks)

Priya Lynn

August 12th, 2015

Mmmmmmmmm, banana hammock, argugharchgurgle [/homer simpson]


August 12th, 2015

Timothy, don’t forget their next door neighbor, New Zealand, which has had marriage equality for two years next week.

Here is an interesting graphic from Wikipedia:

Ian Streeter

August 15th, 2015

In your fourth last para above, references should be to the Liberal Party not the Labor Party. Abbott leads the Liberal/National coalition. Labor is in opposition and already allows a free vote on SSM.

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