Peter O’Brien: PvO on Same Sex Marriage

Peter Van Onselen has a, presumably well paid, gig writing opinion pieces for The Australian.  But are they getting value for money?

Here he is in this Weekend Australian developing his theme, expressed earlier in the week, that Liberal conservative members are not really conservative at all.

His basic premise is contained in the following two excerpts

For a representative democracy such as ours to experiment in unnecessary direct democracy is a radical step, make no mistake. Which is why it’s so ironic that conservatives are pushing for the precedent-setting plebiscite on the issue of same-sex marriage.

Ordinarily, it’s conservatives who warn about the “slippery slope” when considering shifts from the norm. Or, as Sir Humphrey of Yes, Minister fame ­described it, a “Bennite solution” (named after Tony Benn, a radical left-wing British politician who died in 2014). Yet here they are risking the start of a slippery slope.

In other words, true conservatives are not risk takers.  That may be true in terms of policy but is it true in terms of politics?  As just one example, Malcolm Fraser, in his earlier years before he wandered off the reservation, could justly be called conservative.  But his actions in blocking supply to the Whitlam government might just conceivably fall under the heading of ‘risk taking’, wouldn’t you think, Peter?

PvO goes on to postulate that:

Advocacy for direct democracy on gay marriage could lead to the same for euthanasia, the death penalty, abortion, legalising drugs or other conscience considerations.

In general, when it comes to social or moral issues, would that be such a bad thing?  To paraphrase Kerry Packer, governments of both persuasions don’t seem to be doing a very good job of their core business, such as financial management, energy security, law and order and so on.  Why should we entrust them to make good decisions on such subjective issues as same-sex marriage?

As an aside, when conservatives use the ‘slippery slope’ argument against gay marriage, they are castigated.  Yet this claim has as much, possibly more,  justification as Van Onselen’s  ‘slippery slope’ argument against the use of a plebiscite to resolve what has now become a poisonous issue.  He falls into the same trap later in the piece by rubbishing the latest Newspoll which, ‘purports’ to show that a majority now support the plebiscite.  In his words:

… rarely have I seen such a distorted Newspoll published on these pages.

His objection is that the Newspoll in question failed to point out that the plebiscite was non-binding.  He may be right about that.   But almost all polls are questionable by the fact that they attempt to address complex issues in simplistic terms.  If a poll is not to be trusted in this case, why should it be trusted to tell us that a majority of voters want same-sex marriage?

With regard to this particular plebiscite, what needs to be remembered is that it was a concession on the part of Tony Abbott – a strong opponent of same-sex marriage but no homophobe – to progress the issue with the least amount of political pain for him and his conservative colleagues.

Some context is necessary here.  As recently as  2010, Labor’s official policy was to support the traditional definition of marriage.  In fact Labor’s most influential gay MP, Penny Wong, supported this policy saying there was a “cultural, religious and historical view of marriage being between a man and a woman“.

Let’s take Wong at her word, that in 2010 she genuinely held that belief.  Sometime in the last six years she has apparently come to accept that times have changed and she is happy to move on from that earlier ‘unenlightened’ view.  But more than that, having seen the light herself, she is now determined that anyone rather more tardy than her in coming to this view is a hateful bigot.  But is it unreasonable to expect others (by which I mean those of no particular religious conviction but with a conservative view of marriage), with whom Wong apparently agreed less than six years ago, to be less inclined to throw off their long held belief in the importance of the traditional view of marriage?

Now let’s assume the more likely interpretation – that Wong did not really believe her own words but was merely playing the political game.  That she was prepared to sacrifice same-sex marriage on the altar of her career.  In this case, isn’t it hypocrisy on steroids for Wong and her fellow travellers to expect others (by which I mean those whose opposition to same-sex marriage is based on firm religious or secular conviction, for example Tony Abbott or Cory Bernardi) to abandon their beliefs just because it now suits Wong’s political and personal convenience to belatedly acknowledge her own?

Van Onselen goes on to say:

…. in Ireland, where a constitutional amendment was necessary to allow same-sex ­unions, thereby requiring a vote on gay rights (as wrong as that seems — just like popular votes on giving blacks or women increased rights sickens me), those involved in the campaign have been quick to point out how ugly the debate got at times, and how hurtful it was for the LGBTI community.

Let’s have a look at the Irish referendum.  It now seems an article of faith among the more incoherent SSM advocates that this was a divisive event.

Interestingly, back in September 2016 we had two of the convenors of the Irish ‘Yes’ campaign in Australia.

Tiernan Brady, who was the political director for the Irish “yes” campaign, quoted in The Australian,  said:

… the lead up to the vote was mentally taxing for LGBT people but the vote itself was ultimately a “unifying moment for our country …

and

 “ugly conversations were not the result of the process itself”

On the other hand, SMH reported Grainne Healy, co-director of the Yes Equality campaign, as saying

… Irish volunteers needed counselling after abuse and hate speech from reform opponents …

If hatred and vilification was a significant aspect of the Irish referendum it was not widely, if at all, reported in the media.  An extensive Google search failed to find any evidence of this.  What mostly appears to be the case is that activists label elements of the ‘No’ case as homophobic.  For example, the argument that ‘children do better in a family with a mother and a father’, whatever its merits, is simply dismissed as disguised homophobia that is hurtful or insulting to gay people.  That is a great example of having your cake and eating it too.  Reduced to its basic, absurd, level the logic seems to be ‘we can’t have a meaningful debate about same-sex marriage because all your arguments are hurtful’.  Here is the 18C mindset writ large.

Even if the debate in Ireland were divisive, why would that necessarily translate to Australia?  Ireland has a completely different social, religious and demographic tradition to Australia.

Van Onselen’s has a warning for conservatives:

If the main right-of-centre party deals itself out of this debate by opposing a free parliamentary vote, it won’t have a serious seat at the table when discussing the terms of enacting same-sex marriage. Remember when some conservatives refused to endorse Kevin Rudd’s apology to the Stolen Generations? How has history treated that stubbornness? Have the conservative fears of a plethora of litigation following the apology materialised?

Setting aside the fact, as pointed out very comprehensively by Keith Windschuttle in his excellent book The Break Up of Australia, that the stolen generations is largely a myth, there may not have been a rash of litigation following the apology but neither did it do a damn thing of any substance for indigenous Australians as witnessed by the fact that there has been no  let up in the strident demands for compensation in one form or another.   And neither will there be following whatever form of recognition may make it past a referendum.  But that’s another story.

Same-sex marriage is now widely touted as a human rights issue.  And that is why the LBGTQI lobby so vociferously oppose the plebiscite.  They do not want same-sex marriage to be bestowed upon them as a concession from the community.  They want it acknowledged by Parliament as a pre-existing right, unjustifiably denied to them.

Same-sex marriage as a human rights issue is a very long bow.  I am not a philosopher but it seems to me that if the term ‘human rights’ is to have any real meaning it must be limited to a few fundamental and instinctual concepts.   If they are fundamental and unarguable, they must transcend human institutions.  They cannot be conjured out of the latest fashion or fad.  In the case of same-sex marriage, what is the ‘right’ they are seeking?   Apart from a few obscure exceptions that could be easily rectified, same-sex couples have all the property rights that married couples have.  All they lack is the ‘right’ to say they are married.  As far as human rights go, this one’s a long way down the ‘nice-to-have’ column.

As for Peter Van Onselen, he is a political commentator whose focus is always on politics rather than policy.  In other words it is the mechanisms rather than the outcomes that fascinate him.  If it were otherwise, he would be reproaching Labor and the LGBTQI lobby for their opportunistic tactics absent which same-sex marriage might well be in place today.  Given that voters now seem to be increasingly disenchanted with the antics of politicking, surely his trademark commentary is fast reaching its use- by date at The Australian.   Particularly, as he has a perfect doppelganger in the form of Niki Savva.   Do we need both or even either?

Finally, as far as this conservative (who was once unperturbed by the idea of same-sex marriage) is concerned, the LGBTQI lobby were offered an olive branch by Tony Abbott in the form of the plebiscite and they threw it back in his face.  It was taken, as a firm promise, to an election and thwarted by an opportunistic Labor Party urged on by the LGBTQI lobby.  Had it been implemented, SSM would probably be in place now.    SSM is now an ideological battlefield, not a human rights issue, and conservatives would be foolish in the extreme to knuckle under now.  It would demonstrate that any bastardry will eventually be rewarded if you persist long enough and if you cloak your aspiration with the sacred mantle of ‘human rights’.

Update:  I noted above that Peter Van Onselen had rubbished the latest Newspoll showing majority support for the same-sex marriage plebiscite.  His beef was that the question did not clarify that a plebiscite is non-binding.  Here are his words:

The question on how to resolve same-sex marriage did not point out that the plebiscite was non-binding, which is an important missing piece of informa­tion — so much so that when past polls included that peccadillo, the numbers savagely shifted to majority opposition to the plebiscite.

Presumably we would have preferred the question to be phrased something along the lines “Do you support a plebiscite on same-sex marriage knowing that it is non-binding on MPs?”

But then it would have been necessary to add a further clarification to the effect that the non-binding nature of the plebiscite is totally irrelevant because the commitment of Abbott was that, in the event of majority support, he would allow a conscience vote in Parliament.  And that is what LGBTQI lobby have been clamouring for all along.  And, by all accounts, the numbers are there for a Parliamentary vote to succeed.  Cynics and Abbott haters may claim that Abbott might renege on his promise but they can hardly make that claim about Turnbull.

Which brings me to another point.  The same-sex lobbyists have demanded that the Coalition allow a conscience vote on this issue.  The plebiscite was a means of Abbott allowing this to happen without totally alienating his conservative base.  But when some conservatives announce that they will vote with their conscience against the result of the plebiscite that is used, quite shamelessly, by journalists such as Van Onselen, to re-inforce the ‘non-binding’ red herring and imply that the plebiscite would not deliver same-sex marriage.

I have wondered before in this forum whether the sub-editors at The Australian do any serious work when it comes to the opinionistas in their pages.  Illogicalities abound.  But you would think that, when one of their columnists uses such specious, one might almost say deceptive, reasoning to disparage their own Newspoll, some editorial intervention might be called for.  Columnists are there to shape public opinion and, therefore, they should not be allowed free reign by the editorial staff.

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40 Responses to Peter O’Brien: PvO on Same Sex Marriage

  1. WolfmanOz

    Outstanding article !

  2. jupes

    SSM is now an ideological battlefield, not a human rights issue, and conservatives would be foolish in the extreme to knuckle under now.

    Yes indeed.

  3. [email protected]

    It’s called “equal” because it isn’t. If it was equal there would be no need to name it as that.
    .
    Biology roooools.
    .
    I Ching Hexagram 37 – The Family
    “THE FAMILY shows the laws operative within the household that, transferred to outside life, keep the state and the world in order.”

  4. H B Bear

    Van Wrongselen is now such a dripping wet every column he writes sounds like an a plaintive cry for NSW preselection.

  5. Haidee

    The debate divisive in Ireland? even if . . nothing to do with us here. That’s true.
    As if the urgers here aren’t bad enough. Don’t want to hear about the Irish.

    Yes, very foolish to knuckle under now.

  6. Leo G

    Do we need both or even either?

    Never even either. Ever neither.

  7. They do not want same-sex marriage to be bestowed upon them as a concession from the community. They want it acknowledged by Parliament as a pre-existing right, unjustifiably denied to them.

    Same-sex marriage as a human rights issue is a very long bow. I am not a philosopher but it seems to me that if the term ‘human rights’ is to have any real meaning it must be limited to a few fundamental and instinctual concepts. If they are fundamental and unarguable, they must transcend human institutions. They cannot be conjured out of the latest fashion or fad. In the case of same-sex marriage, what is the ‘right’ they are seeking? Apart from a few obscure exceptions that could be easily rectified, same-sex couples have all the property rights that married couples have.

    In other words, they are seeking recognition by requiring the redefinition of marriage. This has nothing to do with rights. There is nothing that now stops them from living together.

  8. For example, the argument that ‘children do better in a family with a mother and a father’, whatever its merits, is simply dismissed as disguised homophobia that is hurtful or insulting to gay people.

    It’s worse than that, the best family type for children is being raised by their biological mother and father who are married.

  9. Let’s take Wong at her word, that in 2010 she genuinely held that belief. Sometime in the last six years she has apparently come to accept that times have changed and she is happy to move on from that earlier ‘unenlightened’ view. But more than that, having seen the light herself, she is now determined that anyone rather more tardy than her in coming to this view is a hateful bigot. But is it unreasonable to expect others (by which I mean those of no particular religious conviction but with a conservative view of marriage), with whom Wong apparently agreed less than six years ago, to be less inclined to throw off their long held belief in the importance of the traditional view of marriage?

    If we are going to use the qualifier ‘traditional’ to describe marriage as it has always been understood, maybe we should refer to Wong’s current view as the revisionist view of marriage.
    It is not as if the ‘traditional’ view of marriage being a relationship between the sexes has ebbed and flowed over millennia.

  10. GD

    Magnificent article from Peter O’Brien; he sliced, diced and shredded PVO’s argument.
    A great takeaway point:

    Peter Van Onselen … whose focus is always on politics rather than policy.

    This is also true of many other Labor stalwarts. Graham Richardson and Nicholas Reece on Sky seem to regard political commentary as a game between the blue and the red. The end result for them is who played the best politics on the day, not whether the policy benefits the nation. That is considered irrelevant.

  11. In general, when it comes to social or moral issues, would that be such a bad thing? To paraphrase Kerry Packer, governments of both persuasions don’t seem to be doing a very good job of their core business, such as financial management, energy security, law and order and so on. Why should we entrust them to make good decisions on such subjective issues as same-sex marriage?

    Firstly, what is ‘subjective’ about the issue of euthanasia or same-sex marriage? The only reason that people are likely to say such a thing is because the issue is difficult to resolve, but there is no reason to think that there is no right answer to the question or set of questions if properly posed, or that it is any less difficult then the so-called ‘core business’ areas. Secondly, were a decision to be made, it would be better to see this made by popular decision, rather than by the Parliament, at the end of a public discussion in which all aspects of the question or set of questions are discussed because it involves considerations fundamental to the common good. In fact, there is a good reason to have a constitutional convention given that marriage is mentioned in the Constitution.

  12. Gbees

    One of your better ones Peter. PoV is a twat for whom I have no time. I avoid him on Sky/Fox.

  13. True Aussie

    Conservatives have cucked on islam, multiculturalism, guns and every other issue they have faced. Do you honestly believe fag marriage is where they will draw the line?

  14. Nov

    Too generous by far on the issue of a plebescite. Far from a compromise, a public vote was exactly what the lobby demanded for many years. True, they would have rathered a vote in parliament that they knew they were going to win. But they knew (based on stated Labor policy at the time) that this was a non-starter and therefore were bally-ho for the people to have their say.

    Activists didn’t just throw Abbott’s compromise in his face, they threw him doing what they themselves had been asking for a decade or more back in his face.

  15. With regard to this particular plebiscite, what needs to be remembered is that it was a concession on the part of Tony Abbott – a strong opponent of same-sex marriage but no homophobe – to progress the issue with the least amount of political pain for him and his conservative colleagues.

    And therein lies the problem.

    Not only did Abbott choose a political solution against his own moral position, he chose the wrong one.

    He should have come out and said “Labor refused for six years in office to support SSM because they didn’t want to take the hit to their working class supporter base”.

    Argue that, Labor blockheads. Their hypocrisy could have been laid bare right then and there. A 6.00pm press conference to announce that would have nurtured Labor right at the start and put the ball firmly in Labor’s court.

    Labor would have had to take it to an election to get SSM. Abbott’s political judgement is only marginally better than cloth eared Turnbull.

    Do I have to do all the thinking around here?

  16. Neutered, not nurtured. Cockheads, not blockheads. Damon annoying the Spellwrecker doesn’t contain any swear words.

  17. True Aussie

    Wrong. A plebiscite is a good idea. We should have a plebiscite on all major issues. Immigration, guns, islam, free trade etc. Let the Australian people practice true democracy and then see which politicians do what the public wants and which are there to serve other masters or line their own pockets.

  18. The end result for them is who played the best politics on the day, not whether the policy benefits the nation. That is considered irrelevant.

    True, but you can’t do policy if you totally screw up the politics. Policy is the battlefield, but politics determines where the battle takes place. Sun Tzu 101.

  19. Sorry, forgot to add. Labor chose a Liberal government as the battlefield and the Libs foolishly complied. A Labor government battlefield would make them take the political hit.

  20. Ian

    I get tired of the lefty PVO and Paul Kelly. Kelly is worse, as he considers himself to be in the “sensible centre”, (move over MT), preaching global warming and all of the other nonsense.

  21. Herodotus

    All the plaintive carry-on about SSM is dishonest. We’ve had decriminalisation, we’ve had civil unions (including the vital aspect of who gets the inheritance when one partner dies), we’ve got a fair bit of acceptance by the general community – up to a point – but that’s not good enough for the gay lobby.

    The agitation will not stop until the bedrock of society has been further weakened, and the scorecard has been notated with another political win over the hated conservatives, religious or secular.

    The dishonesty continues into the realm of denial. Denial that one religious group actually condemns homosexuality while it constantly achieves favoured status in the victimhood poker game played by the media. We’ve noticed that while everyone else is asked by media types to support SSM, they don’t put the hard word on those characters.
    Denial of the health issues inherent in homosexual behaviours – and in fact inherent in promiscuity generally. It’s not all about HIV-AIDS, either. There are plenty of other viral and bacterial hazards, not least of which is drug resistant gonorrhea.

  22. Elizabeth (Lizzie) Beare

    It’s worse than that, the best family type for children is being raised by their biological mother and father who are married.

    It is indeed. There is plenty of hard evidence for that, as well as anecdotal evidence. Men and women are different from each other, biologically and socially different. That will not ever change in spite of the best efforts of political LGBTI activists to promote risible levels of social and biological gender engineering. Children soon pick up on the fact that they are missing one real parent. So why put up a societal model of ‘same sex’ parenting as no different from being raised by two biological parents? It is very different, second best at most, damaging at worst. Children missing a biological parent can very soon feel cheated in life. Sometimes the loss is a sad fact of life, as for orphans, but why on earth pretend that is not the case, and then encourage more of it, lots more of it, by insisting on a false identity of genders? That particular Emperor is patently unclad.

    This is the difference: there is always a third person (the other sex parent) in any ‘gay family’ and a great deal of confused gender modelling for any child living under those arrangements. Gay marriage would truly breed a genuine and what is more legally-approved ‘stolen’ generation, where the current suitability controls on gay adoption would likely be abandoned as ‘unfair’ and ‘unequal’.

    ‘Equal love’ – certainly, have that, the fancy dress and the cake. ‘Equal parenting’? – it is not. Human rights are definitely involved. The human rights of the child, totally ignored in all of this.

    I do not think it is homophobic to raise this. Some thoughtful gay people also raise it as a concern.

  23. Pingback: Peter O’Brien: PvO on Same Sex Marriage | Catallaxy Files | Cranky Old Crow

  24. Baldrick

    The gay marriage debate has more to do with craving social acceptance of homosexuality than anything remotely connected to marriage equality, which is why the gay lobby and their supporters are so scared of a vote by the people.

    But a vote by the political elites will not give them true acceptance, which can only be attained by the support and ownership of the decision, by the people.

    The gay lobby are the ones who need to convince the people it’s the right decision instead of calling anyone who opposes their position a homophobic bigot.

  25. Tel

    Wrong. A plebiscite is a good idea. We should have a plebiscite on all major issues. Immigration, guns, islam, free trade etc. Let the Australian people practice true democracy and then see which politicians do what the public wants and which are there to serve other masters or line their own pockets.

    Totally agree. Money well spent in comparison with NBN or overpriced school halls or getting people killed in a roof.

    We could very easily make the SSM plebiscite one extra paper at the next election. That way everyone is coming out to vote already, minimal extra expense, people can hand out their “how to vote” pamphlets just like always.

  26. Elizabeth (Lizzie) Beare

    As an addendum to what I say above: I am not at all religious, although I have a tremendous respect for the civilization of the West, which has emerged in large part from the Christian principles that were formalized in the late Roman Empire and also from the secularism of later ages. These days I call myself a conservative, for I think we have much to lose if we don’t recognize that which is good in what we already have and resist attempts to redefine our major social institutions, most especially, marriage.

  27. Elizabeth (Lizzie) Beare

    We could very easily make the SSM plebiscite one extra paper at the next election

    Great idea. Way to go. More plebiscites, rather than fewer. Start with the one already promised.

  28. Crossie

    The gay lobby are the ones who need to convince the people it’s the right decision instead of calling anyone who opposes their position a homophobic bigot.

    I think the reason there is such hostility to a plebiscite is that they know the result will be a resounding NO but they cannot come out and say so.

    At one stage the majority of the population may have been in favour of SSM but the unrelenting onslaught on any opposition has pissed off reasonable people.

    The other dirty little secret that dare not speak its name is Muslim voters. While all the bile is directed at Christians it is the growing numbers of Muslim voters who are the real threat to SSM plebiscite.

  29. john

    Van Onselen wrote a hysterical rant against Trump, a few days after the US Election. I haven’t read a word he’s written or watched him on Sky, ever since. Why bother with him?

  30. Haidee

    Denial of health issues/homosexual behaviour is already there in nursing courses. Matters not to be discussed; judgmental issues. Unlike cigarette-smoking.

  31. candy

    It’s just a smokescreen that PvO talks about “risk” and “conservatives”. The real risk for PvO is that his idol Malcolm Turnbull won’t be the one to bask in the glory of a government passing SSM.
    Like Niki Savva, he’s an emotional journalist and want’s his fellow to succeed and thinks MT should override the conservatives right now and get that SSM bill passed, Newspoll will go up, and the Turnbull Party will be victorious.

    It’s not about SSM and the social consequences especially to children procured by homosexual couples who knows how and from where, weird family setups made socially acceptable, poor kids with no rights but treated as commodities. I doubt that registers with progressives anyways.

  32. H B Bear

    Good to see Hendo take a swipe at van Wrongselen over his ahistorical re-imaginings of Menzies and the Waffleworth Coalition Team this weekend too. He really is hopeless.

  33. alexnoaholdmate

    This anti-plebiscite nonsense is easily taken care of.

    “You keep saying that it’s an issue for our elected representatives, and that Parliament is the place for the people’s democratic wishes to be put into action. Okay, let’s play by your rules.”

    “There have been two elections where gay marriage has been a key policy issue. On each occasion, the voters rejected such a policy and elected the party whose default position is that there should be no change.”

    “Therefore, Australians have decisively rejected gay marriage on the two occasions it was presented to them. I trust that ends the matter.”

    “What’s that? You say you’re now in favour of a plebiscite after all?”

  34. Mic

    If PVO thinks the latest Newspoll on the SSM plebiscite is rubbish, he better not check the very left Essential Poll published 4 July 2017.

  35. alexnoaholdmate

    “THE FAMILY shows the laws operative within the household that, transferred to outside life, keep the state and the world in order.”

    Yes, well… I’m not sure we’re going to win the battle of arguments by quoting the I Ching as an authority.

  36. mh

    Peter Van Insolent fears the LGBT community.

  37. alexnoaholdmate

    Van Wrongselen is now such a dripping wet every column he writes sounds like an a plaintive cry for NSW preselection.

    Honestly… are there any issues of importance where Van Onselen – apparently a member of the Liberal Party – would disagree with the Labor point of view or policy?

    No wait, scratch that… because are there any issues where the Liberal Party would disagree with the Labor point of view or policy?

  38. jupes

    Van Onselen wrote a hysterical rant against Trump, a few days after the US Election. I haven’t read a word he’s written or watched him on Sky, ever since. Why bother with him?

    It’s always good when someone gives sanctimonious gits like PVO a good slap.

    Well done Peter O’Brien.

  39. Fulcrum

    PVO gives the impressionthat he is besotted by UN and the masters of the universe.

    Maybe, he is looking for a job with CNN.

    Lets wish him the best.

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