Victorian premier Daniel Andrews has ears sticking out from his bonce like wide-open car doors. But for a bloke whose auricular orifices are so prominent, he hates to listen to anyone disagreeing with him.
Andrews has tweeted a letter to the Prime Minister urging him to ditch the returned federal Coalition’s plebiscite on gay marriage and replace it with a free vote of MPs to change the Marriage Act within 100 days – in other words, to implement Bill Shorten’s election promise.
Andrews is entitled to his view. Politically he must feel he’s on a winner as a Socialist Left darling of the Melbourne latte belt. “Marriage equality” – a misnomer if ever there was one, just ask any married man about whether their wife thinks them equal – is for that affluent, highly-educated and tree-hugging demographic, an article of their Lefty faith. It’s an issue they and Andrews believe in passionately, and good luck to them.
The Andrews letter is ugly, however, and shows its signer’s offensive contempt for the wisdom of the people whose judgment politicians invariably claim they trust. It is a disgraceful diatribe against we, the people by someone entrusted by the public to govern for all of us, not just the few.
“The plebiscite will hurt people. It will legalise a debate which will subject LGBTI Australians to publicly funded slurs and denigration, further alienating a proud community,” Andrews writes.
“It is wrong for you (the Prime Minister) to impose one last hurdle – one final insult … this plebiscite is not an opportunity for reform, but an opportunity for rejection”.
The overall tone of Andrews’s letter is arrogant, offensive and anti-democratic. He clearly sees the Australian electorate as ignorant oafs incapable of civil debate, disregarding the simple truth opinion polls overwhelmingly favour gay marriage with or without a plebiscite. Many of that majority may well share Paul Keating’s fabled view that “two blokes and a cocker-spaniel don’t constitute a family”, but are willing to vote for gay marriage in the spirit of tolerance and giving people a fair go that is the Australian way. They are putting their own misgivings aside in the spirit of goodwill, but the likes of Andrews still don’t trust them, and judging from the Premier’s acid words he views many of those who voted for him with snarling contempt.
For the Premier, however, freedom of speech only applies to people who agree with him. Andrews condemns bigotry as he sees it, but in doing so shows bigotry himself.
He may have thought himself very clever, but Daniel Andrews demeaned himself and his elected office in writing as he did. Yet I actually agree with him that a parliamentary vote is the best way to go: Edmund Burke was right when he said we elect MPs to use their best judgment for the common good. But having seen Andrews’s offensive letter, and his social media boast about sticking it up Turnbull, I’m now looking forward to the plebiscite, and to millions of Australians proving this grotesque factional Caliban wrong through their demonstrated goodwill and respect for others.
I also believe Coalition MPs are bound to, and will, accept the electorate’s plebiscite verdict, whatever it may be and whatever they, themselves, may have voted. The rest of us should respect the result too.
And as for the Prime Minister, he can be assured that in keeping his word and pursuing the plebiscite he’s respecting the dignity of a silent majority over a tiny, vocal, intolerant minority. I hope he puts the Andrews letter where it deserves: the wastepaper basket.