Today is the last day of ‘voting’ in the same-sex marriage postal survey. By 6pm tonight, the last ballot will have been received by the ABS, and the last online vote will have been cast.
Even though it will be another eight days before we learn the final result, now is an opportune time to reflect on this pseudo plebiscite, and all I can think is:
What a waste of time. It is three months since the Turnbull Government announced the postal survey, and two months since voting started, with intense campaigning throughout by both sides – all on an issue that could, and should, have been resolved by Commonwealth Parliament in a week. Or even less.
What a waste of money. Prime Minister Turnbull has spent $122 million of public money, of your money, to outsource responsibility to you to answer the question of whether same-sex couples should be treated equally under secular law. And he has done so just to avoid internal division within the Coalition.
Of course, if the Australian public votes Yes, the issue will still have to return to be voted upon by Commonwealth Parliament – which is pretty much the definition of unnecessary duplication.
Oh, and that’s not even counting the money wasted on the campaign itself, including the $1 million donation by the Anglican Church of Sydney to oppose the equal rights of LGBTI Australians. Imagine how many disadvantaged people could have been helped by that money?
What a waste of effort. Thousands of volunteers have knocked on tens of thousands of doors, made hundreds of thousands of phone calls, and had millions of conversations, to encourage people to vote Yes to marriage equality.
That effort is not wasted as in useless – I am sure it has helped to ensure the ‘right’ side wins. But it is wasted in that none of it was needed. If ever there was a straight-forward issue of public policy – where the lives of one group of people could be improved, with nobody else adversely affected – then surely it is the question of marriage equality. It should have been resolved years ago.
What a waste of priorities. One of the most frustrating aspects of the past three months has been the fact that debate around the same-sex marriage postal survey has taken focus away from other important issues, including how to best advance the Uluru Statement from the Heart and efforts to stop the ongoing human rights abuses of people seeking asylum on Manus Island and Nauru.
Even within the LGBTI community, there are many, many other issues that could benefit from the attention currently devoted to marriage equality, including ending involuntary surgeries on intersex infants, improving trans access to identity documentation, and improving the treatment of LGBTI people seeking asylum.
What a waste of unity. One of the weakest arguments put forward by the Turnbull Government for its plebiscite was that, if the answer is Yes, it will be a unifying moment for our country. One where the ‘losing’ side would accept the legitimacy of the result and everyone would move on.
Instead, it has turned out exactly as everyone else expected – the campaign has stirred up hatred and intolerance, while more people will end the campaign with entrenched views than at the start. Neither side will give up if the result is not the one they were after.
The alternative? A parliamentary vote where marriage equality could have been passed quickly and without controversy, where people who feared change had the opportunity to see it become law, and to learn that the sky didn’t fall.
You know, like New Zealand.
Marriage equality in Australia could have looked like this:
Instead, Malcolm Turnbull held a postal survey that looked more like this:
What a waste of our democratic traditions. The decision by the Liberal and National Parties to hold an optional, non-binding, nation-wide public opinion poll on marriage equality has set a terrible precedent for how issues of public policy are decided in this country.
These parties, who claim to be ‘conservative’, have made a radical change to our system of government. Already there is pressure to hold plebiscites on all manner of issues, including euthanasia or even the death penalty. It is difficult for the Coalition to resist these calls in the future on the basis of how it has approached same-sex marriage.
What a waste of Malcolm Turnbull’s credibility. Okay, granted, there wasn’t much left by the time he announced the postal survey in August to get around the fact the Senate had rejected his preferred plebiscite.
But remember there was a time, in September 2015, when the population was briefly hopeful that Turnbull would be a much more modern, and progressive, leader than the man he replaced. A large part of that hope was founded on Turnbull’s supposed support for marriage equality.
The fact he has systematically sold out LGBTI Australians on this issue, including subjecting us to this absolute farce of a process, is a significant contributing factor to why he has so little credibility just over two years later.
What a waste in terms of the negative impact on the LGBTI community itself. The biggest waste, and the worst outcome, of the postal survey has been the harm that it has caused to members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex community, to rainbow families and to their children.
The tears that have been shed.
The worst fears that have been, sadly, realised.
The depression it has caused, or exacerbated.
The family divisions it has worsened.
The homophobic, transphobic and biphobic abuse it has triggered.
The violence that has been endured by too many.
All of this was completely unnecessary. All of this was completely foreseen by everyone – outside the Australian Christian Lobby, and the Liberal-National Government. All of this was their fault. We will never forgive, nor forget, what they put us through.
As I write this, it seems highly likely that on 15 November the ABS will announce the Yes vote was ‘successful’ in the postal survey. Same-sex marriage will probably, although not certainly, be legalised in the months that follow (whether it is genuine marriage equality remains to be seen).
But even if this process results in marriage equality finally being introduced, nothing will ever justify what LGBTI Australians have been subjected to over the past three months. Because nothing ever could. What a waste.