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October 14th 2011 print

Philippa Martyr

By the minority, for the minority

This week, a mere 60 ordinary Australians paid a protest visit to Canberra and secured the undivided attention of no less than 40 MPs. They had come to ask for gay marriage legislation.

In August this year, thousands of people drove thousands of kilometers to meet in Canberra, to demonstrate against the carbon tax and poor government. Barely a handful of MPs were on hand to greet them (one of whom was Tony Abbott). 

And yet this week, a mere 60 ordinary Australians paid a protest visit to Canberra and secured the undivided attention of no less than 40 MPs. They had come to ask for gay marriage legislation. 

Before I go on, I do have to thank the gay marriage lobby for giving Australian men the best ever excuse for dodging the ol’ noose: ‘Wallaby player and committed Christian’ David Pocock has told a breathless world that he will not marry his girlfriend until their gay friends also have the right to marry. I can hear the tapping of iPads all over the country as thousands write that one down for future reference. 

But it was when I read this story that I finally realized: we have a genuine minority government. The more marginal, colourful and cuddly your personal grievance, and the fewer people affected by it, the more likely you are to secure the ear of a passing politician. 

The importance of an issue appears to be inversely related to the amount of people who are affected by it. The smaller the population of tree frogs, the more fuss about their preservation. The longer the niqab, the louder the shrieking about police brutality. The bigger the iceberg, the more desperation to rearrange the deck chairs. 

If you are one teenage boy under voting age in Bali who gets into strife, you can expect a personal phone call from the Prime Minister. If you are thousands of people driving trucks for days to protest against a tax which will seriously affect your livelihood, you will be lucky if the Prime Minister is even in the same city as you when you arrive. 

I’m not even going to begin to get into the rights and wrongs of the whole gay marriage business. What concerns me is that such a very, very small group of people were given such a very large political audience to listen to their grievances. 

I know that for those involved in the debate, gay marriage probably seems like a very cutting-edge and critical issue, but I have some bad news for them: the gay population of Australia is tiny, and the percentage of that population who want to get married is even tinier. 

But those of us who pay tax are many, and we are about to become a great deal unhappier.