When even the ABC’s Media Watch acknowledges the huge bias in the reporting related to changing the meaning of marriage, you can be absolutely sure it is happening. Despite this finding, which should have served as a behaviour modifier, the bias continues unabated.
This bias is no better highlighted than the reporting around my comments on the plebiscite over whether we should change the long understood meaning of marriage. To demand all members of Parliament vote to implement the result of a plebiscite is both ham-fisted and anti-democratic. This is especially the case when we
- don’t know what the question will be – will it be loaded?
- don’t know how the plebiscite will be run – will it be fair?
- don’t know if media outlets will allow all sides of the debate to advertise (some have refused the most innocuous of advertisements); and
- we don’t know if Archbishop Porteous will be allowed to speak out, given the complaint pending before the Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Commission. Will there be freedom of speech?
And so the list of open questions goes on.
And what of this insisting the local MP follow the electorate’s wishes? If Australia votes ‘No’ to changing the definition of marriage, will that mean the Greens and Labor will accept that decison and forever-and-a-day vote against change? Will the ALP change its platform?
What if Australia votes ‘No’ but Tasmania votes ‘Yes’? Or indeed, the other way around. Does one follow the national vote, your State’s vote, or your electorate’s vote (if you are in the House of Representatives?). And anticipating that the vote will not be 100% one way or the other, is it not appropriate that the minority’s voice be given expression in the Parliament?
What if there are members of Parliament who simply cannot vote to change the definition of marriage, our bedrock societal institution? If a plebiscite supported the re-introduction of the death penalty, in all conscience I could not and would not support it. Should I be forced to do so? The electorate may well say, ‘We disagree with you on this, but we will continue to support you.’
The plebiscite on the republic proposal is a classic case in point. Ironically, Labor’s then-leader, Kim Beazley saw his electorate vote against a republic and Liberal leader John Howard’s voted in favour. Beazley continued to espouse the Republican cause and Howard the Constitutional Monarchist cause in ‘defiance’ of their electorates. Both were re-elected. If a plebiscite should resolve an issue forever for every MP one assumes we should not have heard anymore Republican belly-aching. (We wish).
Having pointed out all of the above I did nevertheless indicate that one could safely assume that the plebiscite result would be of a strong persuasive influence of which the Parliament as a whole would take note. So, all things being equal, I have no doubt that the will of the Australian people will be faithfully implemented by the Parliament.
But to try to lock in every MP on only one side of the debate before we even know the question whilst not requiring the same standard from the other side highlights yet again the regrettable bias which even the ABC has acknowledged.
This latest episode of mis-reporting and misrepresentation does not suggest the Australian people will be given a fair and balanced representation of the issues. No surprise there. They didn’t on the republic either.
Eric Abetz is a Liberal Senator for Tasmania