They pose as tribunes of a silent majority of Australians, plucky insurgents against an officially sanctioned culture of Political Correctness, warriors for the common sense of ordinary Australians against a rainbow coalition hellbent on imposing an anti-religion, anti-heterosexual, anti-family agenda. But on closer examination, there’s one thing that No advocates have in common: they’re elites.
They’re not merely elites in the obvious sense that they are mostly old white males, the most privileged section of Western society. They are, literally, part of a sub-section of Australian society that virtually none of us will ever have access to.
- Tony Abbott: salary, $200,000 a year, with expectations of a multimillion-dollar superannuation when he leaves politics; educated at Riverview, St John’s College at the University of Sydney and Oxford. A political staffer and politician since the early 1990s.
- Barnaby Joyce: Joyce, too, was educated at the exclusive Riverview, has been a politician since 2004 and enjoys a $400,000-a-year salary.
- John Howard: long-serving former PM, now enjoying retirement on a massive parliamentary superannuation.
- Lyle Shelton: former Queensland Nationals politician, now professional Canberra lobbyist, often to be found lunching at the National Press Club, heads the taxpayer-subsidised Australian Christian lobby.
- Mark Latham: a political staffer in the 1980s, local councillor and then politician including former party leader, author of tomes such as Civilising Global Capital, since 2004 living off taxpayer largesse via parliamentary superannuation, columnist and commentator for News Corp and other outlets (including, at various times, Crikey);
- Paul Kelly: News Corp eminence grise, “editor at large” for The Australian with a platform on Sky News, serial author.
- Eric Abetz: multi-decade Senator, former Senate government leader and Howard/Abbott government minister, one-time student politician.
- Cory Bernardi: educated at Adelaide Establishment school Prince Alfred, former elite rower, now into his second decade as a politician.
- Kevin Andrews: a former barrister and associate for Sir James Gobbo, educated at Newman College, University of Melbourne, MP since 1991.
Top-flight private schools, sandstone universities and colleges, long careers inside the Canberra bubble funded by taxpayers, high-profile media platforms on which to opine about public affairs, wealth, privilege and opportunity that few Australians will ever enjoy: the most prominent No advocates are characterised by exactly the qualities that used to be damned by the right as the hallmarks of an out-of-touch elite. Non-political figures like Kelly, Shelton and Latham are literally members of the much-derided “chattering classes” (a phrase stolen from that ultimate elitist snob, Auberon Waugh), once, and occasionally still, targeted by the News Corp commentariat.
The Yes campaign, which features the Prime Minister, senior ministers, the opposition, prominent corporations and sports and a number of media figures, is hardly non-elite. But only the No campaign’s figures routinely attack the “elites” among their opponents; only the likes of Abbott, Latham, Shelton and Kelly frame the debate as about some rebellion of humble, sensible working folk against out-of-touch elites trying to impose homosexuality on them. High time the elite nature of the anti-elitists was pointed out to them.