Tag Archives: marriage equality

Taskforce Integrity. Let’s start with politicians, shall we?

27 Sep

 

You may or may not be aware that in November 2015, the Turnbull government announced the formation of “Taskforce Integrity,” a unit set up specifically to address welfare fraud in the form of undeclared income and non-compliance.

WA Turnbull government MP Steve Irons tweeted his support of the innovation.

Yesterday we learned that Mr Irons charged taxpayers for flights from Perth to Melbourne for his wedding, and he also charged us for flights from Melbourne back to Perth for himself and his new wife, Cheryle.

Treasurer Scott Morrison also charged taxpayers for the cost of his flight to the Irons’ wedding. Both men have since repaid those monies.

Returning money you’ve stolen doesn’t mean you didn’t steal it in the first place. I am reasonably confident that neither thief would have repaid the money had their thieving activities not been exposed, or in danger of exposure.

Irons also charged the taxpayer for a trip he made to the Gold Coast to attend a golf tournament.

I have no problem with addressing welfare fraud. I do have a very big problem with politicians stealing taxpayer money to fund their personal lives, and can’t quite see why they are any different from those who seek to illegally and immorally benefit from the welfare system.

Even with my new glasses, I’m unable to see why those who defraud the welfare system should be charged and perhaps incarcerated, whilst those who defraud the taxpayer are given the opportunity to return the money, face no charges, and no jail time.

Integrity, much?

Yesterday I watched in weary disbelief as Attorney-General George Brandis claimed that his government is holding a plebiscite on marriage equality because the Australian people want a plebiscite, and we made this clear when we re-elected the Turnbull government, thus giving it a mandate.

The Turnbull government has a majority of one seat in the House of Representatives. This is hardly a mandate in anyone’s language.

Let’s quickly revisit the origins of this plebiscite. The notion was introduced by failed prime minister Tony Abbott to placate the rabid right-wing of his party who are incapable of rational thought on the topic of same-sex marriage, and appear to view it as a catastrophic threat to their own heterosexual identities and unions.

Abbott was also inspired by the Irish referendum. He disregarded the fact that Ireland was obliged to alter its constitution to accommodate marriage equality, while we are not. In Australia, it is a matter of a simple amendment to the Marriage Act, changed to discriminate against same-sex marriage in 2004 by the LNP prime minister who lost his seat after taking us into the Iraq invasion on entirely spurious grounds, and without any plebiscite, John Howard. But that’s another sickening story of lies, manipulation, immorality, death, despair and destruction.

Brandis concluded his litany of folded lies with the assertion that unless the opposition agree to a plebiscite, marriage equality will be delayed until the mid 2020’s, assuming the LNP wins the next election.

The Turnbull government is using the LGBTQI community for its own political purposes: delaying marriage equality as long as possible to placate the right-wing homophobes who permit Turnbull to play at being Prime Minister, and to wedge the ALP.

All that is required is an amendment to the Marriage Act, and Brandis made it clear yesterday that will never happen as long as the LNP are in power. This is not because we the people demand a plebiscite, and it is not because of any reasonable argument against marriage equality. It is because the likes of Cory Bernardi and George Christensen are terrified of the gays and lesbians and bisexuals and queers and transgender and intersex peoples. We are going through all this expense and all this angst because some seriously unhinged men, obsessed with the sexuality of others, cannot cope with the idea of difference.

Personally, I think the Marriage Act ought to be abolished. There’s no place for the state in intimate relationships. However, as long as it exists, and as long as it remains the powerful cultural marker that it is, nobody should be forbidden access to its legal and societal privileges.

And on the grounds that some ignorant, terrified, dysfunctional men don’t like what other people do in bed?

Integrity, much?

 

 

The Year that Made Me

15 Sep

malcolm-turnbull-leader

 

As I listened to Attorney-General George Brandis today unconvincingly bellow (shout loud: argument weak, as the father of my children used to say) that Malcolm Turnbull will be remembered by history as one of our great prime ministers, I reflected that while it’s sadly apparent Brandis is a fool, what is most unsettling is that he apparently believes the rest of us to be even bigger fools.

Malcolm Turnbull will be remembered by history as one of the weakest men ever to hold the nation’s highest office: I’m damned if I can think of many who’ve been more ineffective, more blustering, more incompetent and more so obviously at a total loss as to what to do next. No amount of Brandis’s maniacal talking up is going to change that situation, as we saw with failed and sacked prime minister Tony Abbott, also marketed as great and in the process of leaving a powerful legacy, as his popularity hurtled off a cliff like Sidney Nolan’s upside down horse, his death cult followers clinging to the saddle, three-word slogan at the ready: Nothing to see! Nothing to see!

There’s a pattern here. Talked up one day, compost the next.

No one can make a silk purse out of a pig’s ear, least of all the meta data-challenged Attorney-General who will himself be remembered largely for his technological ignorance, his ludicrously expensive bookshelves, and his elitist notion of what constitutes art.

Turnbull’s deplorable decision to carry on with predecessor Tony Abbott’s (the one who will be remembered for giving Prince Philip a knighthood, just one of a vast array of incomprehensible acts of wilfully destructive stupidity) ill-willed and non-binding plebiscite on marriage equality demonstrates yet again that the Prime Minister is haemorrhaging principles from every orifice, in a kind of spiritual Ebola that has afflicted him since he took office.

I am unable to think of one reason why the Australian public has a “right” to vote on the right of citizens to marry or not. This is not a question of protecting the Australian public’s rights: no member of the Australian public will suffer during the enactment of same-sex marriage. Marriage equality is a human rights issue, and it is an outstanding example of heterosexual arrogance to reframe it as an issue on which “the people” are entitled to have their say. Why are they entitled to have their say? Give me one good reason.

If “the people” are “entitled” to “have their say” in plebiscites on all matters regarded by politicians as “too important” for them to simply do their jobs, why bother having a parliament at all? We’ll use their salaries and perks to fund opinion polls instead, then all they’ll need to do is pass the legislation.

The High Court ruled that parliament already has the authority it needs to simply amend the Marriage Act to include same-sex marriage, without consulting anybody. Why are we paying the idle swine to hand the job back to us?

Trust me, said George Brandis when asked if his party would honour a *yes* vote, and that’s where I fell off my chair and rolled on the floor laughing my arse off.

It used to be that when Abbott said anything good about someone we knew they’d be in the dumpster fairly soon. It’s very hard to believe that Brandis is serious about Turnbull’s strength as a leader. I don’t think he is. He’s shouting loud because his argument is, like its subject, weak. His exaggerated praise of Turnbull is turning the corner into mockery. Brandis knows what’s coming.

Some of you may be familiar with the segment on ABC broadcaster Jonathan Green’s Sunday Extra, The Year that Made Me. A guest who has achieved chooses a year from her or his life which to them was highly formative. Malcolm Turnbull could do this gig.  He could call it The Year that Made Me lose every principle I’d ever held, and left me a dusty, creaking husk of a man, and taught mean the true meaning of the phrase, laughing-stock.

Excoriate! Excoriate!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The profound nastiness of the Turnbull government

29 Aug

pyne box

 

It was inevitable that any opposition by the ALP or Greens to Abbott’s reeking legacy, the proposed plebiscite on marriage equality, would provide the Turnbull government with the ammunition to  claim (with confected indignation) that both parties are creating an obstacle that thwarts an opportunity for same-sex marriage.

There are bound to be those who accept this warped inversion, however they are likely to be the same groups and individuals that reject marriage equality anyway.

What this situation reveals yet again is the profound nastiness of the LNP. This nastiness (there really isn’t a better word for it, their attitude towards their fellow humans is as base as that) has been evidenced in Treasurer Scott Morrison’s decision to deprive the unemployed and pensioners in order to fix his budget, and the vengeful exercise of raw power as illustrated by Peter Dutton’s ongoing implacability over asylum seekers and refugees. It’s reflected in the image that heads this post: even the dead are perceived as new sources of revenue for the LNP.

I don’t need to go on, the evidence of their nastiness is everywhere we look, and it multiplies as we sleep.

Nastiness is the Turnbull government’s default position. From the apparent banality of nastiness all manner of evils flourish, and if you ever doubted that it is being enacted daily, for you to witness, in our parliament.

Though the Northern Territory can’t be ever be taken as typical, the carnage wrought on the CLP this weekend gives me small hope. Citizens can become sickened by nastiness, and they can wreak havoc on the party of nasty when they’ve had enough.

There is not one rational reason to deny marriage equality. We are a secular state: religious arguments ought not to influence our decisions. The unholy alliance of religion and nastiness currently hold sway.

It’s my hope that the ALP hold out against a plebiscite. No Liberal MP has any obligation to honour a yes result. Those who touchingly believe a plebiscite =marriage equality need to disabuse themselves of that belief, because it does not. We could well go through the torturous process and still have necessary amendments to the Marriage Act blocked by MPs who are not bound to accept a yes vote.

At the heart of the demand for a plebiscite is nastiness, and a poisonous hatred for anyone who doesn’t fit a narrow definition of “normal.” The influence of pure nastiness has been overlooked in our arguments yet it is a powerful driver of irrational behaviour and you’d have to go a long way to find behaviour more irrational than that of Turnbull’s government in just about any area you can name.

There are rumours again that Abbott is preparing himself to challenge Turnbull’s leadership. Not only are they nasty to citizens, they are exceptionally nasty to one another. I would take great pleasure in watching the LNP continue to cannibalise itself. I doubt it would affect our governance to any great degree: they aren’t doing much of that anyway.

It’s my hope that the fate of the NT CLP is the Turnbull government’s future. Barely enough seats left to form a party? I’d go for that.

 

 

 

The Marriage Act: what is it good for?

30 Jun

vintage_cat_bride_and_groom_wedding_poster-rb775e43b418c4418bb91943fdadaf714_wvg_8byvr_324

 

In 2004, the Howard LNP government amended the Marriage Act of 1961 to read as follows:

Marriage means the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life.
Certain unions are not marriages. A union solemnised in a foreign country between: (a) a man and another man; or (b) a woman and another woman; must not be recognised as a marriage in Australia.

Then federal Attorney-General Philip Ruddock introduced the amendment in order to prevent any legal challenges to the concept of marriage as a solely heterosexual institution.

It would be useful if religious organisations opposing marriage equality took note of the origins of this amendment. It did not come from god. It was authored by Philip Ruddock and John Howard.

Then Greens leader Bob Brown described the amendment as “the straight Australia policy.”

There was no plebiscite held on the amendment, and no referendum.

I have yet to be convinced that the state has any role at all to play in the voluntary unions of its citizens, and would prefer to get rid of the Marriage Act altogether rather than just the 2004 amendment.

As it stands, the Act is discriminatory and has no place in a just society. It privileges traditional heterosexual marriage, an institution that functions more in its idealisation than its reality, and whose many and massive failings remain largely unexamined.

We do not need the state to define and control our expressions of love. Of all the situations in which we ought to be able to act with agency and autonomy, this must surely be the most fundamental. All citizens are entitled to enjoy this agency and autonomy, regardless of whom we love.

The fight for marriage equality is also the fight for everyone’s freedom, and our right to live without state intrusion, definition  and control of the most deeply intimate aspects of human life.

Do you really want politicians deciding what marriage is?

 

 

Christian Lobby claims it needs hate speech to argue against ssm

16 Feb

ssm

 

In a new and bitter twist in the ongoing debate about the plebiscite we’re having because politicians lack the courage to do the job they were elected to do and just change the damn marriage laws, Lyle Shelton, managing director of the right-wing fundamentalist Australian Christian Lobby, has now called for anti discrimination laws forbidding hate speech against LGBTQI people to be relaxed, so that his tribe can argue the “no” side in the same-sex marriage plebiscite without fear of legal action being taken against them.

It’s difficult to know where to start deconstructing the bigotry of this: a Christian lobby group is demanding the right to use, with impunity, what the law defines as hate speech to argue its case against same-sex marriage.

If any group needs access to hate speech in order to argue its case about anything, it obviously has no case. The very request for impunity from the law is all the evidence needed to demonstrate that its case is already illegal, before any argument is embarked upon. However, Shelton argues that anti-discrimination laws have “such a low threshold,” anything the no side argues will make them vulnerable to the constant threat of legal action.

Shelton intends to use what he describes as “the millennia-old argument” that marriage should only be between a man and a woman. Millennia-old arguments are not the best place to start when debating a point of view: they can be refuted in seconds, and besides, before proceeding with such an argument the proponent must demonstrate why longevity is an argument for anything.

I’m not a fan of marriage, however, it is currently a powerful institution and every man and woman who wants to live in that institution has the right to do so, regardless of sexual orientation. Shelton, et al, are arguing for their religious ideology. They have now admitted that they can’t make that argument without employing bullying, and discrimination. This, to me, says their religious ideology is tyrannical, as is their determination to inflict their views on those of us who do not wish to be subjected to them.

I don’t think Shelton has a hope of having anti-discrimination laws relaxed to enable him to use whatever speech he likes to argue against marriage equality.  However, the upside of this unforeseen aspect of the debate about how we should run the plebiscite debate before we actually get to debating the plebiscite, let alone voting on the most unnecessary plebiscite EVAH, is that it demonstrates as nothing else can, the bigotry and tyranny of the no faction.

It also demonstrates the level of stupidity with which we are dealing, and it isn’t all on the ACL side.

Marriage equality: what is it good for?

8 Dec

Marriage Equality

I realised during an enthusiastic debate on Twitter yesterday with @amicus_AU and @chronicfemme on the question of marriage equality, that apparently both ends of the continuum fear that same-sex marriage will result in an apocalypse for their cause. Marriage conservatives fear equality will bring about the death of marriage in an inexplicable metaphysical erosion of heterosexual values, while some in the queer community fear it will bring about the death of queer, as queer couples reject the radical demand to abolish state-sanctioned commitments altogether, and instead seek acceptance within the heteronormative paradigm of marriage.

The marriage equality debate inevitably becomes conflated with the debate about the institution of marriage, which is unfortunate, to my mind. They are two separate and equally important issues, and neither is done justice when they are intertwined.

Nobody wants the state in their bedroom. It is not the state’s business whom one chooses to marry, or live in a de facto relationship with. At the same time, when such arrangements break down, there must be protections in place for the wellbeing of vulnerable parties, usually women and children under current arrangements, who are likely to come off second best in serious matters such as property settlements, child support, access to a parent and all the other miserable detritus that commonly litters the personal landscape when things go wrong.

Humans being what we are, and being even more what we are in times of relationship breakdown, many of us cannot be trusted to behave reasonably when we are in the grip of extreme emotion provoked by the collapse of hope and future and the losses involved. We need laws at these times, and state-sanctioned relationships provide us with these laws.

If the argument is for no state involvement at all then we cannot argue for recognised de facto relationships either, as these are also governed by the state at times of breakdown, though not in precisely the same way as is marriage.

If it is heteronormative for queer couples to marry, is it also heteronormative for them to be covered by the protections offered to de factos?

Are queers arguing against marriage equality actually arguing that creating a couple is heteronormative? This is to my mind an interesting argument, and one that takes us into the fascinating territory of theories of constructed desires, et al, however, in practice as a society we have to contend with coupledom and its consequences for the vulnerable being currently rather more in our faces than theories of desire, and requiring our urgent practical attention.

Which is not to say people shouldn’t think about these things if that is our inclination, and radically interrogate entrenched norms.

I’m at a loss to imagine a system of relationship in which the state is not involved. It cannot be left up to individuals to fairly sort out the messes that occur when intimate relationships break down. Therefore, it is absolutely unjust for that protection to be denied to couples other than the heterosexual. There is simply no valid argument to deny marriage equality: every human being is entitled to the same protections, regardless of sexual orientation.

If you don’t “believe” in the state having anything to do with your relationship, don’t call upon its laws to protect you if your relationship breaks down. Find a radical new paradigm, rather than simply calling for our current arrangements to be abolished. I haven’t heard or read any discussion of viable alternatives that can achieve what state intervention achieves when marriages and de facto relationships collapse, and people have to salvage what they can of their lives and the lives of any children involved.

As for the supernaturally destructive powers invested in marriage equality by opponents of all kinds: if your ideology is so fragile that people loving each other in the manner they choose is going to destroy it, maybe it’s time to find a new ideology?

Marriage, equality, and the sentimental

20 Apr

DO YOU KNOW WHAT I HATE MORE THAN RAINBOWS IT IS PICTURES OF TWO WHITE PLASTIC MEN ON TOP OF A FUCKING CAKE. Helen Razer, April 19 2013.

Gay wedding cake

Razer’s tweet caused me to reflect on sentimentality, what it is, and just how much it has to do with our society’s attachment to getting married. It seems to me that rainbows, and cakes such as the above, symbolise easily accessible emotions and contribute to a wider cultural inclination to substitute such emotions for critical thinking and reason. This isn’t peculiar to same-sex weddings: there seems to me to be a strong element of the sentimental in the very nature of weddings, no matter how “tasteful.” Which, of course, can be half the fun, but just how much does that aspect blind us to the faults of the institution?

“Sentimental” is in current usage a pejorative term, though it was not always thus. The sentimental is considered shallow, excessive, spurious, dishonest, false, and mawkish. It is emotion devoid of reason and critical judgement, indeed the sentimental stands accused of privileging diluted and short-lived emotional experience over logic to such a degree, that ethical and intellectual judgements that ought to be applied to a situation are abandoned in favour of the thrill of a temporarily heightened state.

In a sense, the sentimental has served to obfuscate the debate we have to have, which is about the institution of marriage itself, and redirected our attention and energies to the question of marriage equality. I don’t think anyone can deny the presence of the sentimental in this dispute, and perhaps the wonderfully excessive Maori wedding song sung by that joyous group in the New Zealand parliament the other day is an indicator of the rush of heightened emotion associated with all weddings, but especially so when those weddings have been forbidden and are now sanctioned. We don’t think about the failings of the institution, and how it functions in society, so carried away are we by the uncomplicated thrillingness of the romance of it.

I have to say here that as long as we have marriage in our culture and remain in its thrall, there is no question but that it ought to be available to everyone who desires it and is of an age to consent. Forbidding a group of people what they very much want to have  while it is freely available to everyone else, simply on the grounds that they have the same genitalia, is absolutely wrong, and counter productive. The marriage equality debate brilliantly demonstrates how we are distracted from arguing the deeper considerations of the ethics of the institution itself.

No one who wants to marry and is prevented by our laws from doing so, is going to want to start questioning the institution from which they are unfairly excluded, because the exclusion and the desire to be admitted will take precedence. I don’t believe we will be in any position to seriously challenge marriage until it is available to everyone, and the dust of the fight for equality has settled.

Rainbows, hearts, and plastic gay or heterosexual couples on excessive confectionery, can be read as symbols of the sentimental, signifying  a dominant aesthetic of sentimentality that obscures the deeper questions and feelings, and quite rightly thoroughly aggravates observers such as Razer who rail against our collective willingness to settle for the sentimental, and allow it to dull our judgement and reason. Judgement and reason ought to cause us to first think critically about this institution we are celebrating: sentimentality seduces us into settling for the heightened emotion that inevitably surrounds the desire of two people to commit themselves to lifelong state-sanctioned monogamy. Sentimentality is strongly present in that desire: the desire is, I would argue, not born of logic and reason, and it is perhaps not particularly ethical either, unless qualified as an intention, rather than a vow.

I recall a wedding a few years ago, non-religious, colourful and casual, pretty much your north coast upmarket hippy event, and a lot of fun. After the couple exchanged their vows, a friend standing next to me said in a voice that was much louder than she’d intended, owing to a sudden lull in the celebrations, “Well, it’s all down hill from here.” The bride and groom looked aghast. I dug her hard in the ribs with my elbow. “Well, it’s true,” she hissed at me defensively. “I know, but you don’t have to bloody well say it,” I hissed back.

All the weddings I’ve attended have been joyful, including both of my own. But there has been a great deal of sentimentality associated with them and more, with the idea of them. Personally I’m very taken with the love and hope that cause two people to throw their lot in together for life. I suppose that’s why I’ve done it twice and would probably do it again, because third time lucky and anyway I’m closer to death than I was the first two times.

The impulse to fidelity and mutual trust seems to me a worthy one, however I think I would add “To the best of my ability” or “I’ll do my very best” next time, because one never knows what’s ahead, and reason and logic suggest vows are sentimental in their very nature, and therefore untrustworthy.

Then there is the question of the regulation of the expression of emotion. It makes people very happy to marry one another at the time, and on the whole. It usually, one hopes, makes their friends and relations happy as well. Who has any right to deny others this happiness, even if the aesthetics and politics of it are not to one’s taste?

Yes, the institution may be a flawed foundation stone of a conservative agenda. Yes, conservatives love marriage because they love what they consider family. There is actually nothing in the least bit wrong with loving family, it is the traditional conservative notion of what a family consists of that is at fault here.

That the state has no business deciding who may or may not marry is a given. The fact that our Prime Minister does not approve of marriage equality ought to be of no consequence to anyone other than Ms Gillard herself. Nobody will make her marry another girl. It is remarkable to me that Ms Gillard, herself living in a de facto relationship, continues to take this obstructionist stand against marriage equality. Apparently marriage is not an institution she values for herself, yet she is perfectly willing to deny it to others on the spurious grounds that it is supposed to take place only between a man and a woman.

It is not so very long ago that Ms Gillard’s de facto relationship would have made her  occupation of the Lodge an impossibility. The Prime Minister has much to be grateful for. Society’s changes have worked to her great advantage. Why then, does Ms Gillard persist in denying these same advantages to others? I’m certain her stand has little or nothing to do with the sentimental.

rainbowA very sentimental rainbow but at least there is no unicorn

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