Monday Night Q&A: The Big Expensive Seemingly Illogical Gay Vote Thing


Editor’s note: For any LGBTIQ+ people in need of support as our rights are thrown around needlessly for political debate, please check out QLife for helpline and support services.

Ben Granger, Member of MQU Labor

The marriage equality plebiscite was a master stroke in political bastardry delivered by a desperate Tony Abbott in the dying days of his leadership.

Opposed at the time by the previously principled Malcolm Turnbull (we all remember him rocking those progressive values in a leather jacket), the plebiscite was initially an attempt to sidestep overwhelmingly pro-equality pressure from the public, and avoid having to take a position on a conscience vote.

Now the plebiscite is the $170 million price Malcolm Turnbull eagerly pays to appease right wing factions within the Liberal Party to remain in power.

Funding for this overpriced opinion poll won’t just cover the logistics of a vote, either. It will also include millions in public funds for opponents of marriage equality to publicly wage war against the LGBTI community and equality.

So basically, campaigns featuring the kind of sick ‘slippery slope’ bullshit usually reserved for a Miranda Devine editorial or a Cory Bernardi’s tirade around ‘bestiality’ will be funded by you and me.

I often hear people complain about how Labor should get out of the way and support a plebiscite, that somehow Labor is playing politics with this issue by supporting a free vote in Parliament on the issue.

Well we already have a plebiscite every three years. They’re called elections and in those elections the Australian people have returned an overwhelmingly pro-equality Parliament.

The notion that Labor is playing politics on this issue, when the Liberal Party is attempting to abrogate its own legislative responsibility with a non-binding, publicly funded opinion poll, is simply absurd.

Polling within the LGBTI community shows an overwhelming 85% opposition to the plebiscite. What’s more – general polling reflects that an overwhelming majority of Australians who voted for Labor do not support a plebiscite.

Labor is not only doing what the people who voted for it want, it is representing the views of those Australians who will be most affected by a plebiscite.

And lastly, (perhaps most obviously) who in their right mind can assert that they have the right to pass judgement on the relationship of a complete stranger? Because that’s what the plebiscite is, it’s the Liberal Party throwing a sop to the haters, and insidiously dressing it up as democracy.

This plebiscite is just more proof that Malcolm Turnbull is willing to sell out any principle or value so long as it means he stays in power. As Tanya Plibersek said this week: ‘Instead of a leather jacket we’re left with an empty suit’.

Satyajeet Marar, Member of the Macq Liberal Club

In a Stephen King-esque plot twist, the Labor party has been shedding crocodile tears in sudden concern about the expense involved in a same-sex marriage plebiscite. It is a plot twist reminiscent of a few years ago, when Julia Gillard and Penny Wong both with their least-crooked straight faces on, told news cameras that they remain ideologically opposed to gay marriage when Labor easily had the power to make their supposed dream for Australia’s same-sex couples a reality.

Though public expense is a valid concern and criticism, it is evidently not the true reason for Labor’s stance. A plebiscite would stop this issue from being a political brownie point, existing as a smug ego and image-polishing chip for either side of politics. A plebiscite would set a mandate for social change to be decided by Australia’s people – not by Liberal, Labor or any other political interest. For this reason, Labor is convinced that the Australian people are incapable of making decisions for themselves and need a group of enlightened stooges to do it for them. It is a form of contempt the opposition values above the fact that their attacks on the plebiscite would prevent legalised sex-marriage for at least another 3 years. If parliament are qualified to decide on the issue as our representatives, why does Shorten think we are unqualified to do it ourselves? The argument that a successful plebiscite would be non-binding holds no water as it is virtually certain that the resulting conscience vote would pass the people’s verdict with only a few hold-outs.

But why should same-sex marriage, a rights-based issue, be at the behest of the general population who would not seek one anyway? In our government system, marriage is not simply a contract between two independent parties. The state (as things currently stand) has an active role in sanctioning marriages. Moreover, when marriages fall apart, as they often do, state resources are utilised to deal with the inevitable mess that results and its effect on the most vulnerable in the situation – children. We can already see this in our current family court system whose resources are stretched enough dealing with broken straight marriages.

Opening marriage up to a new class of couples, whether only fair or not, means that our society, bearing responsibility for the children above all else, must to some degree deal with the negative costs. This may or may not be reason to oppose same-sex marriage, but it is reason enough why marriage rights are an issue the public have a right to a say on.

Some, including the LDP have proposed an alternative of making marriage an individual issue by abolishing the marriage act entirely and governing marriages in contract law – however, these alternative proposals do not have a realistic chance of passage with even the Labor party opposing them.