Whilst he was still Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, on the question of same sex marriage, made a “Captain’s choice” decision on behalf of the conservative faction of the Liberal Party. The issue could have been easily resolved within parliament and in agreement with the Australian Constitution by allowing a conscience vote. He elected to delay the issue of same sex marriage by proposing a plebiscite be held after the next election.
Apart from the fact that Abbott’s political record is littered with at least 78 broken election promises and even if in this instance his promise would have been kept, his ultimate intention and hope may have been that the plebiscite was going to be resolved in the negative.
Abbott has given no assurance that even in the case of a positive outcome for the Gay community, ie overwhelmingly in favour of same sex marriage, he and the conservative lobby within the Liberal party would accept the result.
At first Tony Abbott tried to confuse, or lie to, the Australian electorate by implying that legislation on marriage required a referendum.
To save himself from personal embarrassment, George Brandis, as the Attorney General, had to publicly contradict Tony Abbott by stating that the issue of same sex marriage could be dealt with by the government within the Australian Constitution under section 51(21).
If Tony Abbott had remained Prime Minister the promise of a plebiscite at the next election would most likely have been broken because it was no more than a ploy to get it off the agenda and shift the issue to the ‘never never’.
Tony Abbott, with his unbroken adoration of the extreme conservative beliefs of Bob Santamaria, will deceive and lie and break promises and in fact do anything to avoid the wrath of Santamaria’s ghost.
Santamaria abhorred the use of the pill and thought it would lead to a broad cultural crisis, he deplored homosexuality and was against women in the workforce, women’s liberation and he loathed dissident priests willing to deviate from the orthodox.
The behavour of ultra-conservative Tony Abbott can be understood and explained in the light of his brief study for the priesthood in his early formative years and also his adulation of his extreme conservative hero Bob Santamaria.
These extreme conservative and religious views have now influenced Australian political policy and the legislative process and need further examination.
The social controversy over marriage and the conservative fight to maintain traditional customs and values is not new but an ongoing one.
The traditional values of marriage have been challenged many times and for centuries religion and the Church have been in the forefront of trying to impose behavioural boundaries on the institution of marriage whilst others have been fighting to liberate it from imposed church canons.
Those who oppose same sex marriage, often try to strengthen their case with arguments about the behavoural effects on the children in a same sex marriage compared to those of heterosexual marriage.
These arguments are fallacious because the environment in either case can vary to a large degree, there is not such an institution as a ‘standard family environment’.
Families cannot be evaluated on heterosexual or same sex relationship criteria alone; they can vary as to economic position and educational experiences and religious beliefs.
Even if the plebiscite was to come to pass and be resolved as ‘not in favour of same sex marriage’ children would still be part of same sex relationships unless homophobic laws were reintroduced - homophobic laws such as those which were still in existence as recently as 1997 in Tasmania.
Through the ages God’s Will (either singular or plural) has been interpreted differently by diverse civilisations and cultures such as the Greeks, Jews and Romans. In Christianity, little is revealed about Jesus’ view on marriage, or on heterosexuality or homosexuality, however the Old Testament is more explicit and prescriptive on those issues but in many illustrations, such as the polygamy of King Solomon, they bear no relationship to today’s canons.
The Christian hermit Jerome introduced the concept of celibacy into the Roman Catholic doctrine as late as 340-420 AD.
He produced the Latin Vulgate version of the Bible, which until recently was the only version recognized as valid by the Roman Catholic Church.
From those early times women, other than those who had chosen celibacy, were seen as ‘sinful and a distraction to salvation’.
Marriage was not a matter of love, too much affection was seen as a distraction from God and this was not questioned until the 1700’s.
Later in the 17th century, female literacy, the ready availability of romantic publications and enlightened thinkers created upheaval to the existing norms.
In those early times the existing perception of marriage was that there was a fixed set of economic roles for the husband and wife.
This description of marriage goes back to the Middle Ages but was still espoused by Santamaria in the 1980s and also recently in Federal Parliament by the 46 year old bachelor and Liberal Member Ian Goodenough, Member for Moore in Western Australia who spoke out against marriage equality in October 2016 saying;
“marriage is not a romantic notion—it is an important social institution that deals with progeny”
Labor Minister for Griffith, Terri Butler responded;
“——-I think we may have found an explanation for his bachelor status, given his description of marriage not being romantic, but a social construct important for progeny – if I was to counsel the member for Moore in his quest for love, I would say, maybe don’t roll that one out on the first date. “
Santamaria, Tony Abbott, Cardinal Pell and John Howard, as self-appointed guardians of Australian morality in their conservative world, prescribe marriage as, “the husband ensures income to the family by participating in the public world, while the wife maintains the domestic or private economy”.
Love is not mentioned here.
The institution of marriage was again challenged in the early 1920s when sexual satisfaction became a criterion for marriage and again in the 1960s-1970s people began to question the laws that made men the legal overlords of their wives. I can still remember the fury of my partner at that time when she applied to take out a hire purchase contract for our first fridge and was refused because only males could enter into hire purchase agreements.
The 1970s opened up a period where long accepted social practices based on gender came up for scrutiny.
Despite the many differences within feminist thought, all exploded the notion that a person’s sex or gender naturally dictates their social role.
Over the time span of more than four centuries the church canons have been challenged and the institution of marriage in the Western World has been revolutionised to a point where love in marriage is perceived to be the most important criterion.
The Gay argument is that if ‘love’ has become the most important criterion in marriage, the question then arises,” who is to deny love between the same sexes”.
Many of the Christian Churches, to counter this argument, do not refer to the New Testament but to the Old Testament, despite its many contradictions with the scriptures of the New Testament.
Australian laws and the Constitution are built on Christian philosophies and both have been amended over time to accommodate changing values and perceptions in society and views of individual human rights.
Homosexuality has found some protection in Human Right’s Laws but to see changes in same sex marriage laws in Australia will require a more representational government which reflects the values of the electorate. Not just values dominated by a conservative Government inherited from Tony Abbott, a man haunted by the ghost of B.A, Santamaria and influenced by his close relationship with Cardinal George Pell.
As stated before we have to more closely examine who are exerting considerable influence on policy in the Australian Government - who are those who call themselves conservative and to whom Malcolm Turnbull is now indebted.
The Labor party has also experienced ideological changes over the years.
In the 1900’s they were thought to represent the labour force which was less divided in its ideology - they had as their ideal,”the road to world socialism”.
However after the Russian revolution, the large Irish Catholic labour force was told from the pulpit to oppose godless Communism. This led ultimately to less unity in the Labour party and consequently, under the intense influence of Bob Santamaria, a break-up of the Labor Party.
In the early 1950’s the Catholic Labor members formed the Democratic Labor party and split from the original Labor Party.
The Democratic Labor Party was relatively short-lived and lost electoral support because of its opposition to the overwhelming protest against Australian military participation against the Communist Vietcong in the Vietnam War. As a result they lost electoral support and the party was dissolved in 1978.
Many of the politicians of the Democratic Labour Party still saw communism as a threat and went over to the Conservative Liberal Party - few returned to the Labour Party.
Bob Santamaria, activist and not so independent television and newspaper columnist, was elevated to national hero and given a state funeral by John Howard on the 3rd of March1998.
The Daily Telegraph carried the lengthy obituary, delivered by Tony Abbott where he stated that,
“elements of the Democratic Labor Party were alive and well and living inside the Howard Government”
Since Hawke and Keating and the pulling down of the Berlin wall the word Socialism, once an aim and concept of equality, is no longer used in the Labor Party or by nice people in Australia.
Even the Greens have a derogatory term for people with a lingering memory of Socialism they call them “water melons” which means they are only green on the outside but red on the inside.
We now have a two party system, both devoted to Neo-Liberalism and belief in the trickle down of wealth to the less privileged.
We have politicians trained as lawyers and without any real conviction other than a belief in a meritorious society - and with the acquired ability to easily switch from either side of an issue or argument.
An ability recognised as early in their lives as debating class at private school and which has now equipped them to easily serve in either major party in Australia.
Even union organisers are now favoured to have a degree in business management and a law degree to deal with the complexities of the economy.
Despite this, in the last five decades, Australian politicians have not acquired an elevated ranking and status in the perception of the general population. Their generally perceived status is closer to that displayed in the musical number “ I love to do my little sidestep” from the movie ‘The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas’.
The only notable difference between the Australian major parties is their membership of Catholic conservatism.
The more conservative Catholics have moved to the Liberal party and because of their perception as to what is moral for Australian society they may be more influenced in their decision making by their church leaders.
Contraception, abortion, divorce, embryonic stem cell research and same sex marriage for a Catholic are not issues which can be dealt with as a conscience vote and could lead to their being banned from taking communion or even excommunication.
Cardinal George Pell gave the following warning to Catholic politicians in relation to the abortifacient RU486 bill;
All Catholics who continue to reject important Catholic teachings, even in areas such as sexuality, family, marriage, abortion, euthanasia ,cloning where ‘liberals’ claim primacy of conscience rules, should expect to be confronted, gently and consistently, rather than comforted and encouraged in their wrongdoing.
Certainly every Catholic politician who voted for this bill should think twice and examine his or her conscience before next receiving communion.
Even though the Labor Party may have less conservative Catholic representatives in opposition, Catholics are still a large percentage of the total.
Indicative of a division within the Labour party is the considerably long time it took for the Labor party to come to the decision to oppose the plebiscite. For many Catholics in the Labor party the imminent defeat of the plebiscite may be a relief from ever having to have a conscience vote on the matter.
If the same sex marriage bill was to be decided by a conscience vote, the outcome would not necessarily be decided in favour of it by either major party.
Malcolm Turnbull is executing the conservative Catholic policy agenda – even by stating that he has a mandate for the plebiscite because of the 2016 election. However examination the 2016 election platform of 36 stated policies shows that there is no mention of a plebiscite:
Since is it estimated that only 30% of the Australian population is Catholic, one wonders if the Australian electorate is truly represented by its present government - considering the influence the church leaders may have on our elected representatives.
In a previous life, before he deposed Tony Abbott , Malcolm Turnbull remarked,
“for his government and party not to deal with the question of same sex marriage now and not even allow an individual conscience vote within the party is contrary to liberal principles and will be electorally damaging”.
It is beyond belief how ambition can change a politician’s conviction so rapidly.
*Bob Lubout is a ‘climate refugee’ from Perth WA. He has been living in Penguin on the NW coast of Tasmania with his artist partner Sandra and their two dogs, Tessie and Winston since 2013. Bob’s work history includes owning his own TV/Electronic repair and maintenance business for many years and travelling all over the world servicing and installing analytical mining and industrial X-ray equipment. He went to Curtin University as a ‘mature age student’ where he gained a Bachelor of Education majoring in Sociology and Politics and then onto Murdoch University where he gained a Graduate Diploma of Science and Technology Policy. This led him to a career as a TAFE lecturer, teaching electronics, maths, science and aviation. Bob now enjoys spending his time researching and writing and flying around this beautiful part of the world in a small aircraft.