Malcolm Turnbull has been open for many years about his personal support for same sex marriage. Nevertheless, he has done the right thing by the Coalition as Prime Minister in fulfilling their election commitment to hold a plebiscite on the issue of same sex marriage. Even his most strident critics such as Andrew Bolt have praised him holding the line on this policy.
Not only that but Turnbull has willing to incur the wrath of the left who want to ram same sex marriage through a vote in parliament. Normally Turnbull is in need of praise from the left and cultural elites but to his credit at least on this issue he knows that the people voted for a say on the issue and that is what he has delivered.
He has also stated that during the plebiscite debate he respects the free speech of both sides. When being attacked by FM Breakfast host Em Rusciano who demanded if Turnbull would pass hate speech restrictions during the plebiscite he reaffirmed the principle of free speech.
Turnbull has also not actively campaigned for yes side other than to say, ‘Lucy and I will be voting yes’. He rejected Bill Shorten’s proposal for them to sign a joint letter supporting same sex marriage.
This is because Turnbull knows that if he takes a prominent role in the yes campaign and Australians vote no that it would be a major blow to his Prime Ministership to be slapped down by the people in such a vote. It would at least lead to leadership instability as his predecessor Tony Abbott will be prominent no campaigner.
Let us remember also that Turnbull has suffered defeat in a national vote before as he was head of the Australian Republican Movement during the failed 1999 republic referendum. Therefore, he doesn’t want to be attached to another national vote that could fail.
Well that changed today with Malcolm Turnbull in Sydney today launching the Liberals and Nationals for Yes campaign. During his speech, he espoused that same sex marriage was a conservative cause and that a yes vote would strengthen marriage.
This group within the Coalition has been very active on social media sharing quotes from prominent current and former Coalition figures, it has released television commercials featuring the Federal Liberal President Nick Greiner and has held events in other major cities. It is interesting to note that even though it launched the Yes campaign page first it still has less likes than the rival Liberals and Nationals for Marriage page.
For both Turnbull and those current government ministers featured in the Liberals and Nationals for Yes campaign such as Simon Birmingham, Josh Frydenberg, Greg Hunt, Kelly O’Dwyer and Christopher Pyne it is a risky political move for them if the result comes back as a no. It could be argued how could these MPs exercise competent political judgment if they got this campaign so wrong?
Of course, this type of blunder is nothing compared to what Bill Shorten will do if the vote returns a no. A no result would simply mean there would be no free vote in the Coalition if this bill were ever to come up again. But Bill Shorten has said if he wins the next election he will legislate same sex marriage anyway regardless of the result. A very risky political position because he could possibly be going into the next election promising to overturn a democratic vote of the people.
While polling on the issue of same sex marriage still shows majority support in the Australian community, though yesterday a Fairfax poll showed support had dipped. Regardless nobody is confident in predicting the outcome of the vote, the betting market on the outcome is extremely tight. Malcolm Turnbull and other yes voices in the Coalition should probably leave the campaigning to the same sex marriage advocates and let the Labor Party suffer the political embarrassment if the vote returns a no result.