Malcolm Turnbull gay marriage

I wrote it. I finally wrote it. “Shame, Shame, Shame.” And I wasn’t channelling Steve Vizard as Hunch.

After the Liberal lower house rebels folded (except for that Queensland croc Warren Entsch) under threat of having their next preselection pulled, and the Libs decided to trundle out their discredited plebiscite again, I did tweet:

“Shame, shame, shame. New Zealand, Ireland, Germany, Taiwan. All legalised same-sex marriage. Human decency. This Government disgusts me.”

Maybe “disappoints me” would have been more couthful (as they say) but I did feel disgusted after Malcolm Turnbull and his party room robbed our Parliament of our right to vote on legislation.

As I asked of Attorney-General Senator George Brandis, as the PM’s man in the Senate, in question time — in my rare entitlement to even ask a question as a crossbencher:

“Former Liberal Prime Ministers John Howard and even Tony Abbott have said in the past that changes to the Marriage Act should be made by the elected representatives of the country. Even Prime Minister Menzies once promised discrimination would not be written into Australian marriage law.  Why won’t your government let us do our job?”

Speaking of Menzies: it’s hard to believe, as the Turnbull government again blocks a free vote on marital matters, that Ming, the so-called Liberal Moses, did just the opposite.

In the “no fault” divorce debate in 1958, Menzies allowed a conscience vote and justified it by saying “… as the question of divorce closely touches the individual conscience of members, we propose that, though it will be a government measure, it shall not be treated as a party measure. Therefore, honourable members will be in a position to discuss it according to their own lights and views.”

Wouldn’t it have been wonderful to hear our self-styled “strong leader”, Malcolm Turnbull, borrow those words this week?

***

Has Pauline Hanson seen the empirical evidence proving that Senator Malcolm Roberts did not hold dual citizenship at the time he nominated for One Nation last year?

She says she has, but at a train wreck media conference this week, she called the situation “complicated” and “a little bit more, can I say — it’s not straightforward”.

Then the Hanson announced she was moving a motion to have Roberts referred to the High Court as the Court of Disputed Returns. A tactic that follows an old Hinch dictum: “When you’re being run out of town, pretend it’s a parade and you’re leading it.”

(PHON tried to make it sound a noble cause by their “transparent” referral but it should have been done the day before when senators Canavan, Waters and Ludlum’s names were sent up.)

Along the way, Senator Hanson mangled Senator Dastyari’s name and Senator (?) Roberts butchered that of former senator Larissa Waters.

Before the Senate endorsed the Roberts’ referral, I explained that I’d tried a different tack the day before.

I met with a number of my crossbench colleagues and with Greens leader Richard Di Natale. I also had a sit-down with Roberts. He told me that a statutory declaration was provided to Senate President Stephen Parry addressing the question of his eligibility under section 44. He even read me parts of that stat dec.

Roberts personally assured me that the claim he had travelled on a British passport was wrong. That he had travelled on his mother’s Australian passport.

He said he was confident he had taken “all reasonable steps” to confirm his sole Australian citizenship and that he had a QC’s advice it would pass scrutiny in the High Court.

Following further information I received in the next 24 hours, I said: “Well, I won’t say the Senator lied to me, I’ll just say he was very economical with the truth.”

***

The major parties didn’t exactly cover themselves with glory in all this. In our chat, Roberts said he would support a Greens motion to have all senators’ credentials (his included) referred to an independent auditor under the auspices of the Legal & Constitutional Affairs committee.

By the time it got to the vote it had the support of The Greens, One Nation, the Xenophon Team, Hinch, Leyonhjelm and Gichuhi. The Libs, the Nats and the ALP all voted against it.

This was after the Attorney-General had given an almost forelock-tugging (if he had one) defence of Roberts and warning us it was a grave thing to do and don’t make a habit of it.

He was seen to shake Roberts’ hand as he left the chamber.

***

I’m on a Senate committee that is looking at long overdue reforms to Senate procedures. Several of us want to cut speaking times from 20 minutes to 15 minutes — like the limit in “the other place”.

I’m also keen to get rid of the two supplementary follow-up questions in question time. Especially those excruciating Dorothy Dixers from government backbenchers.

So, when questioning the Attorney-General about the refusal to allow a marriage equality vote, I framed my third question thus: “Mr. President, unlike in the other place, we get these time-wasting supplementary questions, especially Dorothy Dixers, I’ll forfeit that time.”

***

And the best Freudian slip of the year. Malcolm Roberts: “I’ve always thought that I was British … that I was Australian.”

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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