Monday, 17 October 2016

Well that was no surprise! Now wait for the muddling before we have equal marriage

What was surprising was not that the ALP in effect killed off the plebiscite, but that the ALP caucus, which was always geared to have a conscience vote on gay marriage, at least until 2019, voted unanimously against the plebiscite.

This gives a strong message. The ALP is headed in one direction- no plebiscite, but a free vote.

While we have not yet had the vote in the Senate yet, the outcome is certain. Politics is after all a numbers game, and the numbers are against the Government in the Senate.

It is extraordinary that due to the opposition of Tony Abbott, some conservative Liberals like Cory Bernardi and Eric Abetz, and the Nationals that we are now in this mess- where increasingly the public just want the Government to solve the porblem, and the longer it goes on, the weaker the Government looks. No matter that the Prime Minister will feel that he cannot move- because to do otherwise will lead to his downfall.

The Prime Minister is clear: anytime soon no plebiscite, no change. Or at least, that is what some backbenchers and some Nationals members have said. There has even been talk that if the Government drops the plebiscite idea, and seeks a free vote it will be a breach of the coalition agreement.

In the midst of all of this, the man charged with getting the change through, Attorney-General George Brandis, was dragged into a Senate inquiry on Friday, following public differences between him and Solicitor-General Justin Gleeson. This is a major fight. Academics have weighed in, as has famed former Solicitor- General, who seemed to win every High Court case on behalf of the Commonwealth in his term, Dr Gavan Griffiths.

As of this morning, there were media reports that the plan was to move George Brandis sideways, either to replace Alexander Downer as Australian High Commissioner in London (who was opposed to THAT move) , or to fill the next High Court vacancy. But Brandis is going nowhere- at least for now.

Be that as it may, it is a huge distraction for Brandis to somehow craft a deal to get same sex marriage through, or to persuade others to accept his views, when on top of his onerous duties he also has the stoush with the Senate and the Solicitor-General.

A side distraction for the Government (if there weren't enough already) has been the immediate resignation of Family First's Senator Bob Day (SA), following the collapse of his Huxley Homes. The resignation will trigger the likely appointment of another Family First Senator from South Australia. Who it will be is not known, but it is extremely unlikely that their view will be anything but opposed to same sex marriage.

So we shall probably have to wait- and wait some more, until we eventually, in the words of Michael Kirby, muddle through and then enact equal marriage.

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