Politics of distraction

LAST weekend I went along to watch my two youngest daughters play soccer with the Roos Goondiwindi Junior Soccer Club. My participation is not remarkable, but the success of the club is.

About 300 kids play soccer with the club every Saturday of the season. It is a terrific local institution maintained by a small and dedicated team.

Of course with 300 kids it is also an important social institution for parents and grandparents too. Personally, I find the soccer a terrific opportunity to get away from my own perspective and listen to what others are feeling and saying.

I was speaking with a couple of mates who are also members of the soccer committee and after the usual pleasantries and banter they asked how the politics was going. My general response is that it is a slow process, but the current circus is a constant motivator to keep at it. I was surprised by the next comment.

One of these blokes, whose opinion I respect immensely, through gritted teeth declared how angry he was with the marriage equality debate. He caught my own sentiment perfectly as he elaborated. From his perspective the whole issue is a political beat up to avoid having to deal with the real issues. He concluded his sentiment by saying he just wished a politician would answer the question of their view on marriage equality by saying, “I just can’t see how it will affect climate change.”

From my own perspective I entirely agree as I watch the political games being played around an issue that is being tortured, but ultimately is nothing more than a massive distraction. It is being used, poorly, as a political wedge to polarise the electorate. To suggest marriage equality should be the key issue of an election is akin to rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

Wedge Politics is a process whereby political opportunists seize on an issue that is polarising. Usually it is highly emotive and associated with some sort of moral base. The idea is to try and differentiate yourself in the voter’s eyes on an issue that might transcend party ideology and ultimately crack voters from their ideological allegiances.

Joh Bjelke-Petersen used this tactic very effectively to win his last term of government in 1986. Early polling indicated the National Party could not win in its own right. Joh went very hard on the Nationals stance on abortion and successfully collected the conservative right vote to win an unwinnable election. It was a disgraceful exploitation in hindsight.

For my part I am happy to support marriage equality. If gay marriage bothers you, don’t get gay married. While I am married and identify strongly with the institution to provide stability and safety for my children, to suggest that this is only achieved by heterosexual couples is absurd. Indeed, I have seen many conventional marriages that are disastrous environments for kids and their parents.

The even simpler argument is that the activists who are pushing so effectively for marriage equality simply won’t stop. The country has more important issues to deal with and if this provides clearer air then get on with it and let parliament decide.

There is no need for a plebiscite, politicians need to man up and stop hiding behind party solidarity, use their conscience and vote. The problem is that too many party hacks are afraid to say what they really think and be accountable unless they are in unloseable seats.

The truth is that this country is out of touch with what is really important. I have referred to Mazlo’s Hierarchy of Needs before, but it is relevant here.

People in Australia are easily distracted by higher order issues, taking for granted the basic physiological constraints. Marriage equality fits into the self-esteem section of the hierarchy in my view.

Let me be very clear here now. Marriage equality as the issue is argued is not the same as sexual acceptance. There are homosexual people who do not support marriage equality.

I am particularly concerned for young people in regional Australia who may feel emotionally isolated and are not well supported. They are put at risk in the marriage equality debate as homophobic rhetoric is whipped up in self-serving political posturing by both sides of the debate.

The physical and emotional isolation for young people in regional Australia, as opposed to urban Australia, means the overt politicisation of this issue presents a tangible threat to their safety.

While the activists argue for marriage equality based on emotional needs of a few, they are inadvertently creating very real safety concerns particularly to young people dealing with their sexuality in an unnecessarily politicised environs.

Politicians are elected in the electorate to act on our behalf. We do not elect them to act on behalf of a Party. They have taken on public office and it comes with responsibilities including having to show your hand on tough, uncomfortable and confronting issues. They should have the courage to live up to their social responsibilities as elected.

It is disgusting that the leaders of our two major political parties and in particular the Prime Minister are seeking to employ self-serving wedge politic tactics to win short-term political points at the expense of some of the most vulnerable people in our society and in regional communities.

Marriage equality is not the most important thing this country needs to address, but it can and should be resolved quickly and respectfully without great cost or disruption. Then we should get on with the fundamentally important business of government like mitigating the risk associated with our increasingly variable and changing climate.

Everyone seems to have forgotten that we are enduring an extreme and debilitating drought at the moment and it is presenting for more immediate threats to security, property and life. I think this map is far more alarming and should be dominating our political conversations far more than marriage equality at this point in time.

Sourced from the Queensland Department of Agriculture

For my money the drought depicted in this map, and others like it, affect economic performance of the nation, threaten entire communities and social fabric of regional Australia and threaten environment and ecologies far more than marriage inequality. The only thing this drought does less than marriage inequality is discriminate who it affects.

I simply can’t see how marriage equality is going to mitigate climate change or climate variability to fix this in any measurable way.


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