The Governor-General, the Honourable Quentin Bryce AC CVO, has offered to resign now that her son-in-law, Bill Shorten, is the opposition leader.
This was the right thing for the Governor-General to do.
The Governor-General holds the highest public office in Australia. It is a position of enormous discretionary power, although it has only been exercised rarely in our nation’s history.
The constitutional crisis of 1975 was a period of high political drama and great tension. Sir John Kerr faced a political pressure-cooker and fierce personal attack in making his decision to dismiss the Whitlam government. This probably would have been unbearable if he had close family connections with the opposition leader, regardless of the legitimacy of his decision.
It seems unlikely that our current Governor-General will face any similar circumstances. But a week is a long-time in politics, let alone the five months that separate today and March 2014, which is when the Governor-General’s period in office is set to end. The Abbott government will face a hostile Senate throughout this time.
Tony Abbott has declined to accept the Governor-General’s resignation offer. Maybe it was the right political decision for the present moment, given the apparent strength of his government. But it does risk politicising the office of the Governor-General if circumstances change.
It is also interesting to note why the Governor-General felt it necessary to offer to resign her position from the highest office in the land. It is all about marriage and nothing to do with her personal conduct.
This shows that marriage is more important than the state itself. It is a higher institution than the institutions of government and power in this land, or even those stretching across the sea to the Queen.
This fact means that another possible action that could have protected the office of the Governor-General has not even been contemplated. Because if the institution of marriage was not more important than the state, Bill Shorten could easily have offered to divorce his wife for the period this relationship risked damaging the Governor-General’s position.
But he hasn’t and no one would dream of suggesting such a thing. For now.
Unfortunately, the state is showing ever greater signs that it has a perverted understanding of the institution of marriage. Many in government now believe that the roles are flipped: that the state is more important than the marital contract. It will not be long before really crazy ideas are suggested and gain traction.
It is important for all politicians to remember this: laws about marriage do not mean that the government makes marriages, or that the government controls them. Nor can the state legislate to call non-marital relationships a marriage. Marriage has and will continue to exist, regardless of the government and its laws. And marriage occurs when a man and woman wed for life, to the exclusion of all others and with the intention of raising children. It does not occur because they get a certificate with the Commonwealth coat of arms in the mail.
Furthermore, the laws of the land regarding marriage do not legitimise them. Those laws exist for one simple reason: to ensure that the government itself recognises, protects and respects the most important societal institution on earth.
Marriage is about children and children should be raised in the most ideal situation possible – a stable family with a mother and a father. This is where the real government on earth exists. It is the fourth, but most fundamentally important layer of government in the land.
And when families fail, there is no amount of money the other three levels of Australian government can spend to fix the problem.