By Mary W Maxwell, PhD, LLB
I belong to the Liberal Party in South Australia. You do not need to know where I stand on gay marriage for the purposes of this article, as the subject matter here is constitutionalism.
Wouldn’t it be nice to live in a country that had a Constitution? It is considered the normal, modern way for a society to establish authority and accountability, and to gives limits to legislation.
Well, for a hundred and fifteen years we’ve happily been in that situation. July 9, 1900 was the day these words rang out:
“Whereas the people of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Queensland, and Tasmania, humbly relying on the blessing of Almighty God, have agreed to unite in one indissoluble Federal Commonwealth….” Etc.
(Rang out in London, that is. The document was an act of British Parliament, called “the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act.”)
Have you ever wondered what the Con says about political parties — be it Labor, Lib, Dem, Nation, Greens, One Nation, etc? It says nada, cipher, and goose egg. Of course. There is no discussion of political parties whatsoever in the Con. A political party is a private affair.
Our Parliament, according to the Constitution, consists of a Queen (namely Victoria, at that moment in time), a House of Representatives with elected members, and a Senate with elected (or appointed) Senators. I’ll grant there is one provision in Part 2, Section 9 that utters the word “party”. It says:
“Where a vacancy has at any time occurred in the place of a senator …and, at the time when he was so chosen, he was publicly recognised by a particular political party as being an endorsed candidate, a person chosen or appointed under this section in consequence of that vacancy, …shall, unless there is no member of that party available … be a member of that party.”
So then, why on earth did I open the Adelaide Advertiser this morning and read that Tony Abbott is maneuvering the “vote” on whether or not the libs will be allowed to vote freely?
(I hear you ask “Why did she open the Advertiser at all?” – good question.)
I mean, where in the Con does it say that any elected rep or senator would have anything other than complete freedom to vote Yea or Nay? Have I missed something?
Right now there is a bill to change the Family Law Act of 1975 (specifically as to whether you can marry a person of the same sex as yourself). Naturally, citizens expect to be able to influence the decisions of the MP who holds the seat for their district.
They can walk into his office and plead with him to leave the Family Law Act unchanged (or plead with him to change it, as the case may be). They should not have to think that the most they can do is plead with him to plead with his party boss to direct the vote of all the party members a certain way! Goodness no.
According to the Tiser, Abbott – who prefers no change in the Family Law Act, says he will hold a party meeting to decide (by majority vote, I presume) whether Libs can “go conscience.”
(Note: since a political party is a private affair, a party – let’s say the Greens – could decide that votes in its party room are to be taken according to whether the person is sitting in a plastic chair or a wooden chair, or any criteria they wished. Who cares? It is not a governmental thing!)
Now enters Christopher Pyne, MP, to say that Abbott is unfairly planning to let National party members be counted in the proposed Lib meeting. In other words, all Coalition members will be together in one party room.
Pyne says t’ain’t cricket, as it will weight the numbers differently than if only the Libs were counted. (Nationals, being more conservative are more likely to say “Gay’s out!”)
So it isn’t that Pyne is pulling a Mary Maxwell; he’s pulling a Lib. In fact, he said the PM’s plan is tantamount to “branch stacking.” (Which is pretty funny, as Christopher is known in Adelaide as the veritable Pope of branch stacking.)
I say it’s time Australians stopped letting the Bog Bosses (and I mean the globaloneys who run this and every other country) control our minds by putting cute little confusions in the way. “Party discipline” is one such piece of distraction.
It’s like CNN saying that Rand Paul’s filibuster on attacking Syria was the event of that day. No, it wasn’t. The attack on Syria was the event. Stop concentrating on the thrilling little minutia of pollie-life!
If you care to see my harangue about that, please go to Mary W Maxwell’s Youtube channel and watch “Dear CNN.” I don’t want to clog up this Antipodean website with my Northerly stuff, so I won’t link the offending item here.
But if you need to see how I feel about gay people following the same marital routine as straights, here’s the link to my 2013 Gumshoe article, “An Australian Defense of Marriage” (which was actually about a High Court case).
— Mary Maxwell is co-author, with Dee McLachlan, of Truth in Journalism (2015). As a Lib member, Mary is not financial at the moment, but generally speaking she considers herself to be a ‘real deal’, dinkum di conservative. When she ran for Congress in the US in 2006, she did so as a New Hampshire Republican. Her main love is the law. She totally grooves on the Constitution, and starts hyperventilating when it is violated.