Clarifier on plebiscite

Niall Clugston writes: Re. “Why is Abbott pushing for a referendum or plebiscite? And what’s the difference?” (yesterday). Crikey‘s clarifier on same-sex marriage needs some clarification. For one thing, I don’t think is true to say: “Because of this double majority requirement, it is much harder for a referendum to succeed than for a plebiscite to do so.” As the article itself states, only five of 44 referendums have failed because they failed to win a majority of states as well as a national majority. And it is not as if there is a long history of successful national plebiscites.

Secondly, I don’t think it would be sufficient to amend Section 51 (xxi) of the Constitution “to restrict the laws Parliament could pass in relation to marriage, e.g. adding the phrase ‘provided that all laws apply equally to same-sex and opposite-sex marriages’ or similar.” This would not affect the common law position on marriage (as was the law before 2004), or the ability of the States to legislate against same-sex marriage or refuse to register it. And pedantically speaking, laws in general do apply to everyone equally. If you wanted the referendum to decide the issue, you would need a positive statement.

No, don’t ease up on Heydon

Dave Moore writes: Re. “Ease up on Heydon” (yesterday).Yesterday, Julie Bamberger wrote: “Labor dredged up a 30-year-old connection between …”  and “It’s time Labor stops living in the past, digging dirt … ” The TURC saw fit to grill Gillard about the actions of her boyfriend in 1993. (22 years OK. 30 years not OK?) The HIRC saw fit to grill Kevin Rudd about the lawful actions his government. Both Commissions have a clear purpose to smear the ALP, rather than efficiently dispense justice. We won’t get $100 million worth of justice from these abortions. An AFP taskforce could have done the same job for $5 million. An unbiased jurist would not have accepted the commission of either, so any suggestion of Heydon’s impartiality croaked when the letters patent were accepted. As an Australian taxpayer who has paid for this unacceptable farce, I will only be happy when Abbott has been thoroughly rebuked by the electorate. When Abbott is gone (probably back home to the UK), that will be the time for a return to civility in politics. Until then, dig and fling away.

Andrew Jagels writes: Judy Bamberger seeks to dismiss the Rhodes Scholarship connection between Dyson Heydon and Tony Abbott. I don’t anyone suggests that this, in itself, demonstrates any impropriety on Justice Heydon’s part — hardly a 30-year conspiracy. But it does show a longstanding link between the two which might have been instrumental in the “Captain’s Pick”. I don’t think it much matters whether Heydon stays or goes; the credibility of the Commission is completely shot, which is no less than Tony Abbott deserves.

Oh, Abbott

Peter Matters writes: Re. “No rights for trees: how Abbott will gut environmental protection” (yesterday). Does an old hand like Bernard Keane really need to prove the incompetence of this government? To write a long article proving their incompetence which everybody is aware of anyway, will only invite more of their considerable aggro. Tony Abbott thrives on aggro, but he cannot take ridicule and it is ridicule he deserves.
If you want to call the government anything, it is simply poor English to call them conservatives — they are reactionaries. So next time they come up with another brain storm — probably tomorrow — don’t try to prove them wrong. Point out that history is beginning to call Abbott a buffoon and Julia a competent Prime Minister considering the tsunami of sheer malice she had to face. If you like a suitable hyperbole, you can call the government a mob of 19th century “Sleeping Beauties”, rudely woken up in the 21st.

On marriage equality

Jim Catt writes: Re. “Don’t make gay people beg for equal rights” (yesterday). Amy Coopes has nailed it when she writes “don’t make gay people beg for equal rights”. Marriage equality is not a matter of morality about which reasonable people might disagree, it’s plainly and simply a question of equal rights. Opponents can gloss it up in any way they want and drag out all those tired old discredited arguments against reform, but  they’re nothing more than a thin veneer painted over the true reason they oppose reform — homophobic bigotry. In the end it comes down to this. All that is being asked for is that two people who love each other should be allowed to get married. And, to paraphrase the conservative NZ politician whose speech on this subject went viral a couple of years ago, I can’t for the life of me see what’s wrong with that (and I don’t see why we need a plebiscite to achieve it).

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Peter Fray
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