There is one big social issue being bandied about at this election. Should gay and lesbian couples be recognised by the government and should it be called marriage. It might have already been a big, throbbing political issue but Kevin Rudd thrust it into the spotlight at the start of the campaign.
So we know Kevin Rudd and Labor say yes – the government should recognise same-sex relationships and it should be called marriage. The Greens agree, but you would expect nothing less from a bunch of radical fringe activists who are intent on destroying society.
But where does the alternative government stand? The Liberal/National coalition says, well, they don’t know. That’s because the Coalition officially does not have a position on marriage. And don’t just take my word for it. Go and have a gander at what they actually say.
For instance, Tony Abbott has been asked personally about this question by Family Voice Australia.
How will he vote if gay marriage comes up after the election?
His response is ‘unsure’. That’s not very clear.
And pretty much all of his colleagues have given the same answer. On the issue of life’s greatest commitment, Coalition candidates can’t give any commitment.
The Coalition also gave a written response to the Australian Christian Lobby, outlining its position on marriage. And again, it’s not very clear.
Asked what it would do to protect the definition of marriage, the Coalition stated it supports the current definition but any change would be a matter for the Party Room – just like all other policies. But the Coalition doesn’t give itself that ‘get out of jail’ card for any of its other policies.
All of its other policies are commitments that the Liberal/National parties are taking to the election. Marriage is the one Coalition policy that it flags for change once people vote.
It’s important to note here that the very reason Tony Abbott gave no conscience vote on gay marriage previously was because he said it was an election commitment. No such commitment has been given anywhere by Tony Abbott or the Coalition in the lead up to Saturday’s poll.
Summarising up to this point, we know that Labor and the Greens are for gay marriage while the Coalition have a foot in both camps. I’ll admit that the perception is that the Coalition are against it.
But it’s just a perception and if there is one thing that Coalition governments have proven over the last couple of years it is this: despite the perception, Coalition governments actually support the homosexual movement.
Let’s give some examples.
- New South Wales’ Liberal Premier, Barry O’Farrell supports gay marriage and is racing ahead with plans to challenge the Commonwealth by legalising it in his state.
- Queensland’s LNP Premier, Campbell Newman, is on the record for supporting gay marriage.
- Western Australia’s Liberal Premier, Colin Barnett, although personally against gay marriage, wants a conscience vote because he recognises the concept has growing support.
- Leading Liberal, Christopher Pyne, has also said publicly that gay marriage could be legalised under an Abbott government.
- And even good ol’, anti-gay marriage Tony Abbott said back in April that the Coalition would sort out its position on marriage after the election. Plus, Tony’s views on the issue are shifting, according to those who know him best.
Then there’s the old civil unions chestnut in Queensland. It’s a backflip that tops all other backflips. In late November 2011, the LNP voted unanimously against civil unions. Then, during the election campaign in early 2012, the LNP couldn’t tell anyone exactly where they stood. Campbell Newman told some people the laws would be scrapped and he told others that they would be kept. Mostly, the perception in the media and the public was that the LNP would dump civil unions.
But that’s the funny thing about perception – it has nothing to do with reality.
In June 2012, barely 180 days after the LNP voted unanimously against civil unions, they turned 180 degrees and voted unanimously to keep them.
But that’s just all the old news.
What kind of noises have the Coalition been making about marriage during this election campaign – a campaign where it can’t tell us where it stands on marriage.
Well, for a start, the Coalition have promised to give $200 vouchers so gay couples can get ‘marriage’ counselling.
And Tony Abbott has promised that lesbian couples will be entitled to up to $75,000 in paid parental leave if they manage to convince someone outside their relationship to help them have a child.
And in Queensland, Family First asked Coalition candidates to give a commitment to vote against gay marriage in exchange for preferences. Only nine were prepared to do so, with an additional late comer joining the party. That’s out of thirty. The majority didn’t want to get involved in outlining a basic thing like their personal position on marriage. The glue that builds families – the basic building block of society – was not worth their attention. Remember, this is in an election where gay marriage is a major issue.
These are not the kind of actions a party supportive of marriage would take. But then again, the Coalition doesn’t actually support marriage. Its official position is that it doesn’t know what its position will be until after the election.
Only one Coalition figure has objected to this analysis – Senator Boswell. I respect Senator Boswell, not only for his valiant actions taken to fight the good fight over his career, but also for trying to defend his party. Unfortunately for the good Senator – who sadly will soon be retiring – his response only highlights the problems inside the LNP.
Senator Boswell released the following letter to Catholic Coordinators last week.
I write to address a media release sent out by Family First this morning claiming that a majority of LNP candidates support gay marriage.
On 21 August 2013, the Coalition’s Federal Campaign Director Brian Loughnane notified Family First’s Ashley Fenn of the Coalition’s official policy that it supports the current definition of marriage contained in the Marriage Act.
The Coalition leader Tony Abbott supports the definition of marriage as between a man and a woman.
The following are just some that I have spoken with today who are pro-marriage between a man and a woman.
- Warren Truss MP – Wide Bay
- Ken O’Dowd MP – Flynn
- Hon Bruce Scott MP – Maranoa
- Ted O’Brien – Fairfax
- Teresa Harding – Blair
These candidates were ignored by Family First in their media release. In the case of Fairfax and Blair, Family First has stated they will preference against two candidates who are firmly in support of the traditional definition of marriage.
Whilst not wishing to criticise any other political parties in this environment, I do have to say that most importantly in the Senate, Family First has preferenced KAP’s pro-gay marriage James Blundell in front of LNP number 3 Matt Canavan and LNP number 4 David Goodwin, who would be your very best advocates for marriage in the Senate.
Senator Ron Boswell
Senator for Queensland
Now, for a start, Brian Loughnane has never given a statement that the Coalition support the current definition and will continue to do so after the election. He just rehashed Tony Abbott’s position, which is that after the election the party room will decide.
But I’d love for anyone in the Coalition to actually confirm this is not the case. And I’d back them, support them for it and do my bit to make it public.
Then there’s the problem of the candidates. Senator Boswell claims they were ignored by Family First. The reality is that they ignored Family First’s request in the first place – even though it was a public request, followed by high-level discussions and contact with each candidate and also came with a promise about the currency of elections: preferences and votes. And it also came with the knowledge of the actions that would follow a non-response.
And let’s also put aside the fact that it’s taken Senator Boswell to give us the position of these candidates and not question why they could not make a statement themselves. We’ll just assume that Senator Boswell is correct.
That still means that out of the thirty LNP candidates in Queensland, the numbers who have responded to Family First, plus the numbers given by Senator Boswell, add up to less than half the party.
This is important. After the election, the Coalition party room will decide its position regarding marriage. And in the state of Queensland – one of the most conservative in Australia – over half the LNP either support gay marriage, are undecided, or don’t think this issue is important enough to respond to.
And if that’s not a warning sign, consider this. Senator Boswell claims that the LNP’s third and fourth Senate candidates ‘would be the very best advocates for marriage in the Senate’. He may well be right.
But it also means that Senator Boswell thinks somewhat less of the LNP’s lead candidates. They are, in his mind, obviously not the best advocates for marriage.
Senator Boswell has good reason to hold that position. He knows them. They are progressives. And unlike the lower-ranked candidates in the LNP, who have made it clear that they will vote against gay marriage, the top two blokes have said they are ‘unsure’ how they’ll vote.
That’s not a great endorsement of the LNP’s Senate team. It’s also not much of an endorsement of LNP party members who voted to put a great Senate candidate, Dave Goodwin, in an unwinnable position, while electing someone who has voted for euthanasia, RU486 and embryonic stem-cell research, Senator Ian MacDonald, into top spot on the LNP’s Senate ticket.
The truth is that the Coalition doesn’t have a position on marriage as it goes into Saturday’s election.
And the truth is that the Coalition today sounds a lot like Labor did in the lead up to its decision to support gay marriage.
So what, you may ask. The Coalition is still better than Labor. So why am I so hard on it?
I’m hard on the Coalition for three simple reasons.
Firstly, we deserve better. Better is not another government that is moving in the same direction as Labor.
Secondly, there are better options than the Coalition. We don’t have to settle on second best just because they are bigger than everyone else.
Thirdly, for my entire lifetime, the political answer to fighting dangerous social policy has been to vote for the Coalition. And this answer has clearly failed. The Coalition has been in government at state and federal level for much of this period. Things have not gotten any better. They have got worse. The reality is that the Coalition is more part of the problem than part of the solution.
If we want to stop losing the social fight in politics, we need to stop doing those things that keep resulting in defeat. Voting for the Coalition is voting for more defeat.
Whatever happens on Saturday, Kevin Rudd won’t be Prime Minister when the counting stops. That means you can vote for a good candidate, and you don’t need to vote for a Coalition candidate.
And in Queensland, every Family First candidate is pro-marriage and pro-life. But there are also other options as well. You do have a choice. It’s up to you whether you want to take it.
Finally, it’s always possible to vote for a good candidate and then preference the Coalition over Labor. That way you support the best person and ensure Labor’s demise.