The push for a “balanced debate” about whether all Australians should be equal before the law has begun.

In a heated Senate estimates hearing last night, conservative Senator Eric Abetz grilled ABC managing director Mark Scott about the public broadcaster’s stance on marriage equality, and asked why the ABC didn’t give equal airtime to both sides of the debate.

Abetz referred Scott to this Media Watch segment, which found that media coverage had skewed significantly in favour of legalising gay marriage:

“Two key spokespeople for marriage equality, Rodney Croome and Christine Forster, [scored] 32 interviews between them in the first 12 days of August. And by our count, two key speakers against — Sophie York and David van Gend — [scored] a grand total of only 12.”

In fact, this breakdown is not surprising, since it roughly lines up with the percentage of voters who oppose gay marriage. According to Essential’s latest polling on the issue, 30% of Australians are opposed to marriage equality. According to Media Watch, 27% of airtime was given to gay marriage opponents.


As Crikey has argued before, Parliament should spare us the gay marriage plebiscite — and the public debate that will necessarily come with that, about whether gay people are truly worthy of equality — and just legalise the damn thing.

But if there’s going to be a vote, and a debate that represents all Australians — especially on the public broadcaster — it should accurately represent voters’ views on the issue.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey