Yesterday was supposed to be the big same sex marriage showdown in the Liberal partyroom. An emergency meeting had been called last week for 4pm Monday and Julie Bishop had cut short a trip to the Philippines to help resolve the situation. Same sex marriage advocates in the Liberal Party last week had launched a coordinated media campaign to lobby for the Coalition to abandon its election commitment to hold a plebiscite on the issue and instead allow Liberal MPs to have a free vote on a private member’s bill.
The mainstream media was more than happy to give the pro same sex marriage Liberal MPs ample airtime, the media also poured scorn on the concept of both a compulsory plebiscite or a voluntary postal plebiscite. They were adamant that a free vote was the only path forward the Liberal Party could take and anticipated a free vote would emerge triumphant from yesterday’s meeting.
The vote on the Liberal Party’s position on same sex marriage was conducted via secret ballot so supposedly MPs would feel freer to express their position on the issue. In the end, the supposed partyroom ambush was a fizzer, a meagre seven Liberal MPs voted for a free vote. The gang of six, which included the four openly gay MPs Tim Wilson, Trent Zimmerman, Dean Smith and Trevor Evans as well as Warren Entsch and Jason Wood were only joined by John Alexander (remember all these names next election).
This was a very refreshing outcome from what we have become used to from the Liberal Party. Despite the endless propaganda from the mainstream media that the issue of same sex marriage had to be resolved in the affirmative for the Liberal Party to move forward they held firm in their election commitment to hold a plebiscite.
This demonstrated they would not be intimidated by the media, the opposition parties and the LGBT from breaking their commitment to the voters. The mainstream media were sure not happy about this outcome, just look at these headlines from last night.
They will now try and pass the plebiscite legislation again, and if the Senate continues to block it they will then move to a voluntary postal plebiscite not withstanding a High Court challenge. They are now playing hardball on the issue, which they should have from the start. They need to make clear to the Senate that if they do not pass the plebiscite legislation that will be in the end of any action on the issue for as long as the Coalition is in government.
Allowing a free vote would communicate that Labor and the crossbenchers’ strategy of blocking the plebiscite (because they were scared it might fail) had worked to force the Coalition into their preferred policy position. It would mean that even though the Coalition is in power, Bill Shorten was still forcing the government to submit to his demands. It would have undermined Turnbull’s authority even further. It would mean that Shorten could feel he could force the government to adopt more of Labor’s agenda.
But to the Liberal Party’s credit they have called Shorten’s bluff and said it’s the plebiscite or nothing. They are aware that the Australian people want a say on the issue, as they were promised and that is who they are listening to. For once the Liberal Party has ignored the pressure from the political class and backed the will of the people. One just wishes they would do this on other issues such as Islamic immigration, maybe a secret ballot of MPs could have the same effect as well.
The overriding principle in all of this is still that a plebiscite on same sex marriage is the only way to resolve the question of whether it should be legalised in Australia. Marriage is an institution that belongs to the people, not the government and they should have a say in how it is defined.
A free vote does not decisively resolve the issue as nobody can truly say it has democratic legitimacy as the people did not get a say on same sex marriage at an election (Labor despite what Shorten says still does not have a binding vote). The hysterical opposition to the plebiscite from the ‘marriage equality’ advocates is quite bizarre as they say they want it legislated yet are blocking the most legitimate method of achieving that. If they had supported the initial plebiscite legislation, they may have had same sex marriage legal by now.
The Coalition should not allow the LGBT advocates to get away with denying the people their rightful say on the issue. They should promise at every election in the future to have a plebiscite on the issue. If a future Labor government decides to take it upon themselves to legalise same sex marriage, the Coalition should promise to still hold a people’s veto asking the Australian people if they approve of the change.
Let Australia not follow the paths of most western countries which had same sex marriage snuck in through the back door via quick legislation or even worse forced upon them by unelected courts, ask the people, the true custodians of the institution of marriage, how they want it defined.