A new agenda item has been added to this weekend’s Labor Party National Conference at late notice.

It is proposed that the 1961 federal Marriage Act and its 2004 amendments — essentially, one bloke, one sheila; nil poofters who have said “I do” overseas — be scrapped and all marriages in Australia be henceforth annulled.

In the interests of egalitarianism, marriage certificates will be compulsorily burned beneath a ghost gum tree, under the light on the hill, in line with democratic socialist principles and, furthermore, it will be gazetted that all engagement and wedding presents be immediately returned to the givers.

All children blessed by the legitimacy of marriage will, at an unspecified date, lose their status as the spawn of holy matrimony. Instant little bastards, every last one of them, but one day they will understand it is all in the interests of the mythical fair go.

Sorry, in this news just to hand, that proposal from the Left has been scrapped and the level playing field will now be pursued with a conscience vote on same-sex marriage, courtesy the generous Right benefactors of the national executive, billboards of said faces to be mounted in their honour and statues erected in town squares across the country.

The tone makes the music, however, and Il Duce Gillard has whistled a pre-emptive theme: there will be no legislation on the issue during her reign, now looking entrenched for an entire term since Peter Slipper stepped into the speaker’s shoes and his predecessor Harry Jenkins danced to the boot in his behind back to the voting ranks of Labor. Free will — there’s so much of it about.

For those backbenchers trying to decipher Chairman Gillard’s message, it is this: trot out your conscience and your bleeding heart on this matter this weekend if you so wish, but your vote will come to nought. As Jiminy Cricket said, let your conscience be your guide, but in your parliamentary career there are consciences and there are consciences; get my drift, comrades?

As one half of the first unmarried couple to occupy the Lodge, Reich Chancellor Gillard curiously stated recently that she had a “strong conviction” about the continuance of marriage as a closed club as per its present form. For those wondering how personal diffidence or indifference or, quite possibly, belligerent opposition to an institution morphed into a steely resolve for its conservative preservation, it transpires the Great Conducator is but a puppet.

Pulling the string of the funny orange muppet is a dyke-hating Dutchman called Joe de Bruyn, the national secretary and treasurer of the nation’s biggest union, the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association, and not coincidentally a member of the ALP national executive, who has somehow gerrymandered his grip on the union gig for a quarter of a century and who earlier this year warned a “policy of homosexual marriage” (this is possibly a reference to same sex-attracted hire suits and lesbian décolletage) would cost Labor 10 to 15 seats, particularly in Queensland, and lose federal Labor the next election.

This is, of course, propaganda of the highest order, or, to employ a technical phrase, bollocks. A Galaxy poll a month earlier showed 75 percent of Australians believe same-sex marriage to be inevitable, with national polls consistently showing 60 percent support and above. Galaxy polling in Queensland in 2009 showed 54 percent support for gay marriage and 60 percent support for same-sex civil unions. Meanwhile, all of Joe’s shopkeepers, hairdressers and beauticians have never been surveyed on the issue, and if asked, they might say: are you high on nail polish? We want our wedding day!

To attribute fairly, it was Gough Whitlam who first famously quipped that de Bruyn was a “Dutchman who hates dykes” when the union boss, unattractively straddling his ALP role, opposed lesbians getting access to fertility treatment. The shoppies’ boss takes his policy positions from a higher force: a God, as measured in Catholic cups, unelected but omnipotent.

But there is hope for all countries ruled by benevolent dictators. It just takes an overthrow in the first instance — someone willing to lead and not merely for the sake of power at all costs.

Consider the latest of 10 countries to offer marriage to same-sex couples: Portugal. Just like two earlier adopters of the liberalisation of marriage entry rules, Spain and Argentina. Three former dictatorships, all heavily Catholic. Not the sort of outcome Sydney Archbishop George Pell must have been expecting when he huddled around that conclave in 2005, robed up as Cardinal-Priest of Santa Maria Domenica Mazzarello, selecting Pope Benedict XVI. What went wrong there, George?

Civil unions or registered partnerships are available nationally in more than 20 countries. But not here — yes, there are register schemes in NSW, Victoria, Tasmania and the ACT, with no federal impact and a lack of interstate portability. Those are not even second-class schemes — they’re cattle class.

Perhaps that’s what you get in a political system that sings the tune of democracy but delivers its commandments before the players get their vote. In Australia in 2011, surely you’d dismiss that scenario as an improbable political fiction?

INFO: Steve Dow is a freelance journalist and author whose works have appeared in The Sydney Morning Herald, The Sun-Herald, the(sydney)magazine, The Age and The Sunday Age. In 2011, he released his first novel, All Sorts, and has just released a 10th anniversary edition of his collection of essays titled Gay, available via Amazon Kindle and iBooks/iTunes. For more, visit www.stevedow.com.au or
http://www.amazon.com/Gay-tenth-anniversary-collection-ebook/dp/B006E4K0T2

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