Brown Study

Brown study

11 July 2015

9:00 AM

11 July 2015

9:00 AM

There seems to have been an awful lot of evolving going on in Canberra lately. This has been particularly evident in the evolving attitude of some Coalition members on the issue of same sex marriage. One day we thought they were in favour of defending traditional marriage; the next day they have ‘evolved’ into wanting to destroy it or change it into something unrecognisable. One day they all seemed to hold to the fundamental conservative position of defending institutions; the next day we find that this commitment is flexible and that all you need say to explain abandoning an institution is that your views have ‘evolved’. At first I thought they had said that their views were revolving rather than evolving, as they seemed to be going around in circles with no idea of where they were going , where they would end up or why. And I think they owe us a bit more than simply saying that their views have evolved, when they are really advocating a complete realignment of an institution which, for all its shortcomings, has provided a sound foundation for our civilisation over centuries. Such a degree of evolution would make Charles Darwin blush- and he invented it. I suspect that one reason for the outbreak of evolution on this subject is the hope that it will win votes, which it might do, although it will lose other votes and sap the enthusiasm of traditional supporters who do not want any change in the marriage law and object to it being dressed up as some sort of equality when it clearly is not. In any event, if they think the new votes will come from the gay community, they are mistaken. I can tell you that many gay voters do not want this change to the law; they think it goes too far, will produce a backlash, puts half of their property at risk if there is a divorce (at least that is what they tell me) and undermines yet another of the foundations of a stable society in which they have as much a vested interest as anyone else. Undoubtedly, part of the recent support for same sex marriage has come from the decision of the United States Supreme Court to legalise it, an essentially political decision uncomfortably shoehorned into a question of law and the high watermark of the activist and unelected judiciary. But I suppose we should be grateful to the court for explaining that this legality was always there and that it was just that it had never been noticed by lesser mortals during all those dark years of ignorance. Yes, I am sure the draftsmen of the US Constitution really did have at the back of their minds that they were working to guarantee the future of same sex marriage; the curious thing is that they kept it a secret. In any event, why should a decision by a foreign court influence how we structure our society? At the same time as the decision on same sex marriage was handed down, the Supreme Court also decided that capital punishment by lethal injection that leaves the poor miscreant twitching to death is lawful and constitutional. Can you imagine the outbreak of hysteria if we said that was a valid precedent we should introduce here?

So there are two things I would like to say to politicians whose views have evolved into something quite different from those we thought they held, but who want us to keep voting for them. The first is that perhaps you should have told us you were the evolving type before your party endorsed you and before we voted for you; at the very least, you should be saying that we deserve a plebiscite to gauge public opinion on this issue in a more accurate way than public opinion polls. Second, if you can evolve from support for an institution as fundamental as marriage into advocating something so diametrically different, what is the next policy that you will start evolving about? Evolving between consenting adults in private is one thing; evolving on fundamental public policy is entirely different, and we are entitled to know where your evolution is taking you.


The other hot topic the moment is the ABC and you might have wondered why I have not had more to say about it. Well, I am on the committee that makes recommendations on the appointment of directors to the board of the ABC and, although it seems to have escaped the notice of the entire media, who claim they know everything that is going on, we are presently engaged on the Herculean task of selecting a short list of candidates to present to the government to fill a vacancy. So you will understand why I will keep out of the debate until that task is completed. Not that I see any conflict between saying on the one hand that the ABC is in need of reform and on the other hand that we should make some good appointments to the board and hope they will exercise the real power and authority of a board. I believe in both propositions.

Trying to understand the Greek crisis is as hard as the agonies we had in unravelling the Balkans (what happened to brave little Bosnia?) or working out who is on what side of the interminable wars in Syria and Iraq. One of my many problems with the Greek issue is why someone does not ask the Greeks the simple question: have you ever thought of paying the money back? I know it is a revolutionary proposal in these days where paying debts is optional, the creditor is always wrong and productive countries are expected to slug their citizens to cover for the indolence, kleptomania and waste of others. But it might do the Greeks some good to be reminded that debts have to be repaid. The rest of us have to do it.

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