Contributed by Ben Wilson
Francis, Tony Abbott’s daughter has come out campaigning for the Yes vote for Australia’s marriage equality postal survey, while her father heads the No campaign. Tony Abbot’s sister, who is gay, also supports the Yes cause.
The Abbott family division is not so important, from the point of view of the whole of Australia. What it does do, is draw attention to the reality that the way in which this national discussion is being conducted is divisive.
A finger points to the federal government and the Turnbull leadership, which so far have made a mess of it. Failure to show firm leadership, in the face of division within government ranks, caused a shift from deciding, to a referendum, to the ballot survey.
The government’s failure also created a window of opportunity for bigotry. This is not to say that everyone uncomfortable with a change to the marriage law falls under this definition. They do not. But the bigot element has highjacked the No campaign.
Within this there is a hidden agenda and that it to raise the kind of politics that Australians gave up their lives fighting against in the past. This is not only being used as a rallying call to the cause by certain religious sects and wavers of swastikas and other similar symbols, the No case is now entwined with the push to raise the politics of hate.
Consequently, it is not surprising that it has given rise to the same modus operandi. Reasoned argument has been replaced with virulent accusations, distortions and outright lies. Those supporting the other side of the argument are accused of pushing sexual abuse of children, recruiting for the homosexual cause and in one case at least, it has been suggested that there is the danger of approving parents having sex with their children.
This is the muck that has bubbled to the surface. At the same time, its creators scream and rave that they are being bullied and denied a voice.
Then comes the story of the Abbott headbutt in Tasmania. It was unfortunate. At the same time, what is really a minor incident, is blown out of proportion and manufactured as the final proof of a campaign of violence against those supporting the No campaign.
None of this would have been possible without the tacit participation of sections of the media that have been peddling the politics of hate for some time. Nor would it have been possible without the financial generosity of powerful people behind the scenes.
The No campaign has been reported to have spent five times more on television adds than its rivals.
Mudslinging did have some effect for a little while, according to the polls. But this is turning around and it looks like the opponents of marriage equality are failing to gain traction with an Australian community becoming fed up with the tactics being used and falling back on the tradition of a fair go.
The truth is that this is a vote for tolerance and inclusion.
Francis Abbott said it best.
“I look at aunty Chris and I don’t think she planned to fall in love with Virginia, it just happened…
“It never really changed anything, she was still aunty Chris.
“She’s still going to be at Christmas, she’s still going to be at the family BBQs, her children are still my cousins.
“That’s why it really doesn’t make sense to me that it’s not allowed.
“To see aunty Chris, marry Virginia, to do it here in front of friends of family, it would be so, so special and I’m so, so hoping that’s something that I get to be a part of.”
If the Yes vote carries the day, as is expected, the plan to defer making a decision will have become that much more difficult. Pressure will be on the politicians to act, even if the survey is not officially binding. The political pressure will be more intense. Failure to act is likely to cost the coalition heavily, increasing further its shrinking support base and aggravating its internal divisions.
Fore Malcolm Turnbull, this will be the time to find the courage to show leadership and failure to do so may be the last straw that will remove him from leadership and cost him the job of prime minister of Australia.
To date Turnbull has failed to find his courage and this does not look good for his future.