PREAMBLE It must be rare in the annals of democracy that a political elite abrogates its right to govern the people. With those with whom I have discussed the plebiscite issue this constitutes a serious dereliction of parliamentary responsibility.
BACKGROUND It appears likely the plebiscite was intended to protect Liberal party figures from a public affirmation of their faith and/or their opposition to marriage equality. The trumpeted upside was the ‘people’ would decide. For a minority of Liberal conservatives the plebiscite would remove the embarrassment of a parliamentary debate and the possibility, that like the Disciple Peter, they would dishonour their faith before the ‘cock crowed twice’. (The Drum, 28January 2016)
Within the Australian electorate there is majority support for marriage reform as illustrated by a survey that showed Coalition 58%, Labor79% and Greens 97%. (SMH, 3 July 2016) Quoting this majority opinion the Australian Marriage Council has excoriated the plan to spend $160 million on a plebiscite. In view of these survey results, it is inexplicable why a rump of Liberal parliamentarians oppose a parliamentary vote unless it is by reason of their faith or conservative dogma to the detriment of sectarian democracy.
BROKEN PROMISES Much has been made by Government Ministers that an election promise of the Liberal party was a plebiscite. Honour is all unless there is a darker reason.
Below is an incomplete list of broken promises or identified untruthful statements attributed to Liberal party spokespersons since 2013. These are:–no cuts to disability pensions, monitoring Indigenous school attendance, no deals with the Greens to raise debt ceiling, funding cuts to ABC and SBS, no subsidies to coal or agriculture industries, cancellation of whaling/customs vessel, funding to NGOs, tow back of asylum boats, ensuring open and accountable government and the list goes on. (Alan Austin, Independent Australia, 8 February 2016)
A recent broken promise and an example of smoke and mirrors are:– (The Australian, 9 May 2016)
- changes to superannuation arrangements
- a dissimulation to the South Australian electorate on submarine construction. Until 2019 at the earliest work will only involve design and planning not construction jobs.
There must be something special about this promise for a plebiscite. Either there is a desire to keep faith with the electorate – unlikely, review the above – or, the Australian people are witnessing a small number of conservative Liberal party members absolve themselves of their parliamentary responsibility because of faith in an imagined reality and/or dogma. Many of the above broken promises involve budget constraints or electoral ‘pork barreling’, strangely despite the worsening national debt, there is no desire to cancel an unnecessary $160 million plebiscite expenditure, admittedly only an incremental amount in the overall national debt. This is not helping the trend in the light of a recent warning by the Credit Rating Agency, Standard and Poor, who have placed Australia on a downgrade watch. (AFR, 7 July 2016)
REQUIEM Australia aspires to be a modern open secular democracy. By not permitting a parliamentary debate and jeopardising the AAA credit rating, is it possible the religious inhibitions of a few are being forced onto the many?
Are we worthy of the anthem?
ADVANCE AUSTRALIA FAIR