Marriage Alliance Binary Australia
Sophie York, Marriage Alliance spokeswoman (Image: AAP/Dan Himbrechts)

Marriage Alliance spokesperson Sophie York

Time again to invoke the name of that crazy, wild-haired professor, Julius Sumner Miller. As he used to intone on the telly: “Why is this so?”

I want to apply it to the $122 million “secret” postal survey being conducted for the federal government (with the imprimatur of the High Court) to see if Australians like the idea of people of the same sex being permitted to legally marry — as now exists in more than 20 other countries.

I have put the word “secret” in quotes even though last week I spent two hours being lectured about ballot secrecy by staff from the Australian Bureau of Statistics at the massive Fuji Xerox data-management and mail-sorting plant at an industrial complex in Moorebank near Liverpool.

We were told how even though Fuji got the bar-coded ballot papers, they were never linked to the electoral roll and the same applied in reverse to the ABS.

The only way anybody could know how somebody voted was if they had scrawled their name on the form. And, anyway, the observers sign confidentiality agreements.

Under escort, I visited the initial processing room for the millions of envelopes. It was like something out of a Kubrick movie: about 40 people were sitting at desks wearing protective gowns, goggles and breathing masks. All precautions, in case somebody added powder (or worse) to their contribution to democracy.

One group slit open the envelopes. Others extracted and smoothed the forms — for electronic or manual counting — and separated any extraneous material. All under the eyes of security guards. Tedious but important work.

Cue Sumner Miller: “Why is this so?” Or, how come this is so, if the ballot it so secret?

A dear friend, Lynda Stoner, posted her ballot paper on a recent Sunday and the following Friday received an email from Sarah Midgley at Vote Yes for Equality thanking her for her “yes” vote.

The email from [email protected]  said:

“Lynda —
 Thank you so much for posting your YES vote! You and so many other Australians are helping to achieve marriage equality. This campaign has momentum — we’re getting a really positive response all across the country.

“We can’t rest on our laurels though. If we’re going to win we need to turn every YES supporter into a YES voter. It’s now about getting making sure our friends and family have posted their YES votes.

“There are still millions of survey forms waiting to be returned. That’s why we’ve created a new tool to help you encourage your friends to post their YES votes. Click here to email 5 friends and remind them to post their YES votes.We know that people are far more likely to post their votes if a friend or family member reminds them. That’s why it’s far more effective if you email — we’ve just made it easy.”

Now, Stoner is CEO of  Animal Liberation in Sydney and the email went to [email protected] She has been a passionate supporter of just causes for decades and did vote yes on this one.

But how did the Yes campaign know that she had just voted and how she had voted? Julius, I’m keen to know?

Maybe it comes under the category “assumptive junk mail”.

***

And now let’s hear from the other side. Apart from my senatorial dot com email address, I have a “Hillary Clinton account” at [email protected] .

I get mail there addressed to “hinch” and “Darren” and “Bleepwit” and some youngsters even send mail to “Dezza”. But, after a year as “Senator Hinch” I resent getting emails addressed to “Dear Media Deryn” or “Media Dery”.

Sophie York, the spokeswoman for Marriage Alliance, has been bombarding me. (And isn’t Marriage Alliance’ such a non-threatening, non-confronting name. Alliance with whom?)

She’s told me about inspiring speeches from Senator Cory Bernardi and about the mystery benefactor who has offered $200,000 and if people like me would donate another $200,000.

And hammering the red herring that “the implications of a ‘yes’ vote on freedom of speech and belief would be huge, and all Australians will be affected!” Doesn’t seem to be affecting hers or Cory’s or Tony Abbott’s.

Haven’t had the heart to email back and tell Sophie I’ve already voted yes, that I’m on the Senate Yes vote observation team and have done a personal cover version of Kermit singing The Rainbow Connection on the Justice Party’s Facebook page.

***

The Las Vegas massacre brought back awful memories of Port Arthur. I flew into Hobart only a few hours after that slaughter. To my surprise, the roulette tables and the pokies were all in full swing at Wrest Point Casino. I snapped at some revellers in the hotel lobby when they asked “Hey, Hinchy, you here on holidays?”.

In the lift, I met a man who said quietly “They got my Gwen”. His name was Ron Neander. His wife, Gwen, was killed by Martin Bryant in the Broad ARROW Cafe, that April Sunday back in 1996.

***

I’ve been “Adlerised”. Last week, Louise Adler, of MUP fame, announced their next political book will be Hinch vs Canberra: behind the human headline. It will include my first 50 Senate Diary essays plus rating the movers and (non) shakers in my first year in the Senate.

Peter Fray

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