Flat White

Marriage equality and other dangerous distractions

1 August 2017

9:33 AM

1 August 2017

9:33 AM

Threats by Tim Wilson and Trevor Evans to cross the floor in support of same-sex marriage have been greeted with the sort of fanfare usually reserved for grand final weekends. It is hard to see why gay LNP-types are so desperate for this to happen. It’s not like Wilson or Evans have taken oaths of abstinence until marriage and need the Prime Minister to unleash domestic bliss.

The real danger of gay republican claptrap is in the spillage between issues. The electorate is going to wonder if there are even any differences between the parties. The Coalition MPs excited about the prospect of same-sex marriage seem roughly to align with the republican cause. This is really about turning the Liberal Party into a private member’s bar called “inner metropolitan”. Next, they’ll be telling us Robert Menzies wasn’t a monarchist, but a bi-curious republican from Mars. His eyebrows were a little too well groomed.

Fortunately, some sense of self-preservation still grips the backbench. Christopher Pyne, in his capacity as Leader of the House, would have to be suicidal to allow such a divisive bill to be brought forward.


None of this has prevented the gay republicans in the Coalition banging the drum for their adoring fans in the Press Gallery. It makes for good copy and reminds the Prime Minister he needs their support. However, it leaves the parliament without a serious right wing political party. David Cameron thought this might be a good idea as well. He alienated a substantial portion of the British electorate to adopt progressive issues like same-sex marriage.

Parliaments operate in a way that requires MPs to consider issues on an almost singular case by case basis. This leaves open the idea that one can burn the base on a couple of major issues, but expect them to listen when it’s important. The spillage between issues eventually caught up with Cameron. The result was that conservatives (including many gay ones) just didn’t care what he had to say beyond a certain point.

Humiliating a large chunk of the electorate on issues like same-sex marriage and the republic sends a signal to the conservative voting public. Malcolm Turnbull simply isn’t your man. In politics, perception matters a great deal, probably more than substance. Conservative minded voters can only take so many five second grabs that scream “We Are Not a Conservative Party” before they start voting for another conservative party.

Turnbull’s stocks are already low enough in conservative seats like Dawson, held by the potential defector George Christensen. The Prime Minister can ill afford to become the rainbow warrior of the republic. Wealthy private school boys in the Coalition should leave the passage of same-sex marriage and the republic to, well, the Labor Party.

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