Contributed by Jim Hayes
The same sex marriage issue is causing immense strife within the Liberal Party and government. Enough to push Malcolm Turnbull into calling an emergency meeting to deal with a building revolt over the intended postal ballot.
The idea for a postal ballot was hatched out as a result of pressure form the hard line opponents of any shift on this issue. As was the earlier plebiscite, which is a non-binding vote though polling centres. Each step has been a walk away from commitment to passing laws the guarantee equality of treatment to all.
But the attempt to patch up the divisions is blowing up in Turnull’s face and the divisions are becoming more acute, to the extent that some of the government’s members of parliament are threatening to cross the floor.
Member for Mallee Andrew Board has threatened to resign from the party and become an independent, if the plebiscite is abandoned. This is a big deal for a government that is hanging on by its finger nails.
Given that polls show that most Australians support marriage equality, the whole charade is unnecessary and one would think that introducing legislation into parliament would have been a much easier way top go about it. But it went the way is did for two very solid reasons. One is that the resolve of Australians to bring about a change was underestimated by the politicians. The other is that it is occurring in a broader context that extends well beyond this single issue.
A battle over the future economic, political and social direction of Australia is taking place. Whether everyone is conscious of it or not, this battle involves the whole of Australia. One of the battle zones is within the government’s ranks.
This is a big part of what is making the resolution of the marriage equality issue so problematic. The contenders are using this important cause to wage war against each other. A war that is about whether Australia’s economic and political future is going to be continued on the present course of increasing restriction for the majority and hard line policing, or whether there is going to be some compromise.
In a sense, marriage equality is being cynically used to muddy the waters.Despite this, the government is finding itself besieged by problems on many fronts, including building reaction against growing wealth inequality in Australia, pressure to turn away from fossil fuels and embrace a sustainable economy and disgust over the failure to deal with profiteering by the banks and wholesale corporate money laundering to avoid paying taxes is palpable.
Overlaid over this, are the unpopularity of the government and the personal ambitions of the leading contenders within the government.
Turnbull finds himself falling deeper in to the quagmire of political instability as time moves on. Every move is designed to save his hide. Each step involves a compromise that is really a step backwards, which gives his enemies in the party room greater strength.
Failure to move forward is adding to political instability and it remains highly likely that Turnbull will fall in the end. You can only retreat backwards so far, before your opposition becomes too powerful and seizes the moment to strike.
Turnbull’s demise might not upset too many people. It is the damage caused to real people along the way that is more important, especially it Australia is left on the path to a less caring and crueler society, where caring about and for each other is tolerated by those with power, even less than it is now.
It is worth fighting to realise the opposite vision.