Turnbull’s postal opinion poll: A vicious, bullying farce

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Director of the ACL Lyle Shelton (left) and Vice President of the Liberal Party Karina Okotel at the National Press Club (image via @PressClubAust).

The same-sex marriage poll is insidious and privileged bullying, since gay people will never participate in a government-initiated opinion poll on the sexuality of straight people and their right to marry, writes Jennifer Wilson.

IT'S RATHER DIFFICULT to empathise with the marriage equality "No" crowd’s insistence that they are being “bullied” by the "Yes" side.

Rather, the postal opinion poll on the issue is, in itself, one of the most outstanding examples of government and social bullying that we’ve seen in quite some time.

Subjecting groups to the judgement of their fellow citizens on the basis of their sexuality is bullying of the most insidious and damaging kind. Sexuality is an integral part of who we are. It ought not to be the business of anyone other than ourselves and those we choose to share it with. And yet here we are, bullied into participating in a bullying opinion poll on our bullied fellow citizens.

(Well done, Prime Minister Turnbull. We all know you chose this persecutory path because you’re scared dickless of your right-wing. We also know that bullies are always cowards.)

The opinion poll is a survey – and I use the word loosely, given it wouldn’t pass muster as an actual survey anywhere except perhaps North Korea – of what some Australians think of the sexuality of other Australians. It is inherently privileged — gay people do not and never will have the right to participate in a government-initiated opinion poll on the sexuality of straight people and their right to marry. The very fact this comment sounds ludicrous is solid evidence of entitlement and privilege. It is a survey with a non-binding outcome if the answer is "Yes" and a binding outcome if the answer is "No".

I understand that the national result of the opinion poll will be broken down on a Federal electoral basis, thereby enabling politicians to claim they will vote in Parliament according to their constituents’ wishes and not their own. Yet again, they’ve worked out a way of getting themselves off the hook. Eluding responsibility is the one skill this Government seems to possess in abundance.

The postal poll is, to say the least, haphazard — piles of envelopes left in the rain at apartment blocks, sent to people who’ve left the address ten years before, stolen forms auctioned online and so on. But the results will be a permanent record of opinion in each Federal electorate, without any safeguards in place to ensure everyone in that electorate had the opportunity to comment.

It really is an absolute farce, confected by Immigration Minister Peter Dutton and embraced by Turnbull as a way to save his sorry arse from a right-wing kicking. If this isn’t bullying, I don’t know what is.

The "No" crowd, on the other hand, seem incapable of distinguishing between disagreement and bullying or silencing. It’s a conservative trait to believe anyone with an opinion that differs from yours is your enemy. According to the rightwing, if you aren’t agreed with, you are “silenced”. To this end, the "No" crowd continues to appear on every available media platform on a daily basis, protesting their “silencing”. Not one of them can see the irony in this.

Here, yet again, we see entitlement and privilege in action. The "No" crowd is working from the premise that they must be agreed with, simply because of who they are and what they believe. It’s become perhaps an over-used concept since the advent of Donald Trump, however, the notion that anyone who doesn’t believe what you believe is wrong and wickedly trying to silence you is teetering towards narcissistic. It’s also bullying.

So far throughout this debacle, the right has shown itself to be relentlessly seeking victimhood. However, for mine, Lyle Shelton’s appearance at the National Press Club last week conclusively undermined his accusations of silencing, both for him personally and for his followers.

Let’s face it: we should be so lucky…

You can follow Jennifer Wilson on her blog No Place for Sheep or on Twitter @NoPlaceForSheep. This article was republished with permission.

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