Will same-sex marriage dethrone Turnbull and the Coalition?

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Prime Minister Turnbull takes selfies at the 2016 Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras (image via

The basic human right to marry whomever we choose is now a political football that may lose the match for the Turnbull Government, writes deputy editor Michelle Pini.

IT HAS BEEN much ado about nothing since Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's double dissolution election "emergency", just 12 months ago.

The Coalition now consistently trail Labor in the polls and, like a scene from Groundhog Day, the same issues keep regurgitating in an endless stream of government inaction.

Indeed, most Australians would now be hard pressed to name any Turnbull Government policy achievements. 

With the Coalition’s infighting now dominating the news, it is easy for many issues to become lost in the cacophony. Issues such as Australia’s declining standard of living, lack of jobs and housing, emissions reduction targets, the dogged pursuit of archaic fossil fuel extraction, the NBN, the indefinite imprisonment of asylum seekers and so on. Indeed, like a dog with a bone, Turnbull's "Liberals" seems intent on beating the same drum in the hope that the opposition and the public will eventually just get too tired and cave in.

More than any other contentious issue, however, the political football of same-sex marriage may well be the one that delivers the final nail in the coffin for Malcolm Turnbull.

Some may recall Turnbull once waxing lyrical about the right of people to marry, whatever their sexual orientation.

Some may recall endless "debate" on marriage equality, which culminated with the ridiculous and costly idea of a non-binding plebiscite.

Some who recall all this may even assume the earlier Turnbull used the basic human right to marry whomever we choose as a vehicle to gain political points. 

But, as we watch Pauline Hanson fly drones and listen to her bleat on and on about the many things she doesn't understand; witness Cory Bernardi take his political bat and ball and go home to a place where “common sense lives”; and cringe as Tony Abbott refuses to take his backbench banishment lying down, other nations – such as Germany – quietly move forward on the issue of same-sex unions (and other things besides).

Meanwhile, in the 1900s. where our current administration resides, some may have noticed that nothing has actually happened to advance marriage equality.

Enter Christopher Pyne's premature revelation that marriage equality "may happen sooner than everyone thinks".

Jumping on the bandwagon, WA Senator Dean Smith declared his reasonable proposal for a conscience vote, only to be stomped on by the PM who insisted on flogging the plebiscite dead horse.

Ignoring the pesky little problem of the Senate's rejection of his "solution", Prime Minister Turnbull said:

“We support a plebiscite where all Australians will be given a vote on the matter and that remains our policy.”

All of this has served to deepen the already bitter divisions within the Coalition ranks, which gain traction with each day of inaction. Suddenly, we have commentators talking up the fall of the Turnbull Government and the issue of marriage equality as the holy grail that will ensure the winner of the next election.

According to Jacqueline Maley in the Sydney Morning Herald, marriage equality will be the issue that sees Leader of the Opposition Bill Shorten handed the prime ministership on a platter:

'On current trends the Coalition will lose government at the next election and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten will slide into the prime ministership, the luckiest man in politics.'


' ... Labor will claim the reform when it wins government.' 

Spending $160 million on a plebiscite to determine something that already has majority approval and with even the majority of Liberal supporters now wanting it resolved is, of course, ludicrous. But the Turnbull Government's persistence is very telling of the expert smokescreens it employs to deflect attention from issues they do not wish to address.

It is not only that Turnbull is too impotent to quiet the bickering and just make a decision on this issue, it is that the incessant background noise of a party at war with itself sends a message loud and clear that it cannot run a nation.

And, although the PM tried to sell his party's small "l" liberalism, bizarrely, while in the UK this week, he sounded as though he was trying to convince himself. 

The hopes of the LGBT+ community have been hanging in the balance as they have patiently waited to be recognised as equals and afforded the same rights as their heterosexual counterparts. And heterosexual Australians are, for the most part, bemused, embarrassed and frustrated with the lack of decision-making and waste of public resources.

The political point scoring over this basic human right is frankly demeaning to us all.

You can follow deputy editor Michelle Pini on Twitter @vmp9

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