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The unpaid bill: Labor and moral equivocation on same sex marriage

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(Image courtesy Australian Labor Party)

Is Labor’s current push to legalise same-sex marriage an attempt to claw back the leftist support the party lost to the Greens in the last two federal elections? Alex Jones explores Labor's moral equivocation further.

IN A MESSAGE seemingly delivered without irony, Tanya Plibersek called for “bipartisan support” for marriage equality at a Sydney rally on May 31. The clarion call of the ALP could well be to never let the truth get in the way of a good story.

As Simon Copland points out,

“The ALP voted with the Howard Government in 2004 to change the definition of The Marriage Act 1961 and ensure same sex marriages were not recognised in Australia; and the ALP defeated The Greens’ marriage equality legislation twice, in 2009 and 2012.”

It would seem that up to this moment there has always been bipartisanship between the two major parties on the issue of same-sex marriage, and that consensus has been one of overwhelming rejection.

One is left wondering whether Labor’s current push to legalise same-sex marriage is an attempt to claw back the leftist support the party lost to the Greens in the last two federal elections. Many current Greens’ voters are former disillusioned Labor supporters.

Given that 64 per cent of the Australian electorate currently support the legalisation of same-sex marriage, it is easy to see how Labor are simply “catching up” to an issue that now lies firmly at a centrist position on the political spectrum.

Gone are the days when the progressive ideology of a political party left the electorate to reassess their own personal positions on an issue. Between 1975 and 1982, the Liberal Fraser government took in 56000 Vietnamese refugees. Australians had to adapt to the immigration changes rather than call on their leaders to take a stand on the issue.

In the 7½ years Fraser was PM he accepted more than 50,000 Vietnamese refugees. Of these 2000 arrived directly by boat.
 

Indeed, the populism inherent in Labor’s current agenda for marriage equality links up rather well with their own bipartisan support of the offshore processing of refugees, now ruthlessly employed by Abbott’s Liberal party.

A nationwide opinion poll by UMR Research last year showed that a staggering 60 per cent of Australians thought that the Abbott government ought to “increase the severity of the treatment of asylum seekers.” Knowing that there are widespread allegations of physical, mental, and sexual abuse on Nauru, and that, last year, Iranian national Reza Barati was murdered while in detention, how much more severe could their treatment be?

And what of Labor’s bipartisan support in February for a data retention bill speedily rushed through the Senate? While the bill paraded as a harsh new measure to catch terrorists, in effect its real agenda is to circumscribe the privacy of Australians.

We, therefore, have an image of the moral equivocation of the modern day Labor party. On the one hand, they can act as the champions for the legalisation of same-sex marriage, yet on the other, they have hitherto been pivotal opponents to the issue out of political expediency.

While they currently are campaigning for social justice for Australia’s growing yet marginalised gay community, the Labor party denies even the most basic international rights to refugees seeking asylum in our nation.

If Labor’s wavering sense of social justice and equal rights is a facade intended to recapture the middle-ground of Australian politics, then the race for the centre is very likely to be a race to the bottom.

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