MPs Are Out Of Touch With The Rest Of Us


What do Kevin Rudd, Julia Gillard, Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull have in common?

They all voted against Labor MP Stephen Jones' marriage equality bill in the House of Representatives today. It's not just the PM who is out of touch with community sentiment, it's also the main contenders for her job. 98 MPs put marriage rights for same-sex couples on hold — and 42 voted in favour.

As many have pointed out, the proportion of MPs who voted against the bill — 65 per cent — is roughly equivalent to the level of support for gay marriage in Australia.

Cory Bernardi resigned as parliamentary secretary today after making obnoxious comments likening same-sex marriage to bestiality. Opposition Leader Tony Abbott described those comments as "ill disciplined" and praised Bernardi for his political talents.

Bernardi might have been consigned to the backbench but his view on same-sex marriage was upheld by a resounding majority of MPs. Wayne Swan rebuked Tony Abbott for his weak response to Bernardi — but he too joined Abbott in voting against marriage rights for all Australians.

The speeches delivered on marriage equality allowed some senators and parliamentarians to flaunt their homophobia and to vaunt an idea of family that is out of step with the experiences of millions of Australians — gay or straight.

More memorable are the speeches in favour of marriage equality which will eventually hold the day. Doug Cameron and John Faulkner both made the case for the bill firmly, as did the Greens senators who have long advocated for marriage rights.

Faulkner put it plainly: "I support this bill because I believe that no government should deny rights to any citizen on the basis of race, sex, religion, country of origin or sexual preference." It's notable that marriage equality is a plank of the ALP national policy platform.

Senator Penny Wong has been the most prominent ALP advocate for marriage equality and she addressed the Senate on the bill this morning.

"The aspiration and struggle for equality has been a constant in our history. Australia hasn't always been an equal society, but ultimately we always move in the direction of greater equality."

Wong's optimism about the future of marriage equality in Australia is rousing.

"Our numbers have grown, as the numbers of those who oppose marriage equality have got smaller. The momentum has been one way. Many of my colleagues who have previously opposed marriage equality, now support it."

Those 98 MPs who voted against marriage equality today are fighting that momentum. If they aren't prepared to move toward greater equality, it is certain that the heirs to their seats eventually will.

Launched in 2004, New Matilda is one of Australia's oldest online independent publications. It's focus is on investigative journalism and analysis, with occasional smart arsery thrown in for reasons of sanity. New Matilda is owned and edited by Walkley Award and Human Rights Award winning journalist Chris Graham.