Flat White

If you don’t know, vote no

6 September 2017

11:59 AM

6 September 2017

11:59 AM

From its previous decisions, it is possible, indeed probable that the High Court will stop the same-sex marriage plebiscite on the grounds that a proper appropriation was not made by parliament to fund it.

In a case effectively brought by Get Up! on electoral matters in 2010, the High Court unusually gave its decision the day after the hearing ended. The court gave its reasons and how the judges split months later.  The result was that it overruled the law which required that the rolls close the day the election is called. One hundred thousand extra voters then came onto the rolls and the Gillard government was saved. So there is good reason to expect a decision by the High Court soon after the hearings close on 6 September.

But if the High Court allows the plebiscite to proceed, are Australians really ready to give politicians the blank cheque which will come with a “yes” vote? Not only is this a fake referendum, it’s hard to think of a problem today which, if it weren’t created by the politicians, has not been made significantly worse by them.

They’ve changed the world’s lowest electricity prices into the world’s highest and made the service unreliable. With billions extra poured into education, standards have fallen below those of even third world countries while children are taught about ”gender fluidity”, penis tucking and breast binding.

Billions have been lost on a low-speed NBN, debt is rocketing towards half a trillion dollars, housing is beyond the reach of the young, the defence budget has been misappropriated to shore up politicians seats, the justice system is notoriously soft on criminals, key assets shave been sold to foreign interests, water is not harvested and farmers are persecuted.

All this results from the fact that politicians today too often come from politicians staffers, party officials and union bosses who have never worked in a trade, all chosen because of their loyalty to some lobbyist or powerbroker, rather than on merit.  Our political parties and our representative democracy have been captured.


Quite reasonably, the churches are asking to see the government’s secret draft legislation on same-sex marriage to ensure their schools, hospitals and other charities can continue and their rights to teach about traditional marriage and the family are preserved. But even if such draft legislation were made public, there’s no guarantee it would be passed or not changed later.

A “yes” vote is a blank cheque to limit our freedoms and one day legalise such multicultural practices such as polygamy and arranged marriages even with child brides. This is not far-fetched. The British Conservative government is to allow men to become women by statutory declaration (and thus use women’s lavatories and dressing rooms) as a declared consequence of introducing same-sex marriage. Could another be decriminalising pre-matrimonial female genital mutilation?

The proposal for same-sex marriage should have been handled as the constitution directs, by a real referendum where people are asked whether they approve of locked-in draft legislation. This way the details are on the table before the people vote. They’re not pulled out of the hat by the politicians afterwards, which is exactly what happens with a fake referendum. As this is not urgent − the “yes” campaigners have argued this in the High Court – to save money it should be held with the next election with an appropriation in the next budget.

In a real referendum, the voters also have the benefit of a Yes/No booklet setting out all of the arguments on both sides – a proper debate. The vote also has to be approved nationally and across the country, not dominated by the Sydney–Canberra–Melbourne triangle.

Government thinking ahead would have also chosen a real referendum for the reason that the Senate can only delay this by three months. And we are, after all, talking about changing the marriage power in the constitution. When the people granted the politicians this power, they meant a marriage between a man and woman, nothing else.

In the meantime, some of the proponents of the “yes” case, including the self-selected leaders of a LGBTTQQIAAP community only existing in its ever increasing initials, seem determined to gag the “no” case. Meetings have had to be moved because of threatened violence and boycotts called to block advertising, and stop the mailing and broadcasting of the “no” case.

So why haven’t the politicians done the right thing and put this to the people in a real rather than a fake referendum?

The wise advice must be, as Alan Jones advised callers who weren’t sure in 1999: “If you don’t know, vote ‘no’.”

David Flint is an emeritus professor of law

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