In the wake of Wednesday’s historical decision to legalise same-sex marriage in New Zealand there has been much jubilation and dancing in the streets and sharing of videos (including Maurice Williamson’s brilliant ‘Rainbows across my electorate’ speech).
It was a timely decision, and a moving occasion, and it felt unifying, and it felt right.
Since then the focus has inevitably turned, of course, to Australia’s current leaders and their thoughts on said historical decision.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard made her thoughts unequivocally clear:
‘Asked by a member of the public at a community cabinet in Melbourne on Wednesday night why Australia lagged behind New Zealand in legalising gay marriage, Ms Gillard said she would not be changing her mind on the issue.
‘'I doubt we’re going to end up agreeing,’‘ Ms Gillard said.’
Tony Abbott, naturally, was true to form, spinning out his broken record bleat that the vote was ‘'decisively rejected’‘ in 2012, repeat chorus, fade.
And it’s more than a shame. Because Julia Gillard was presented with the perfect opportunity to set herself apart from the rest of the pack – to set herself apart, indeed, from the relentless shadow of Kevin Rudd, a social conservative himself – and to state that yes, as an unmarried atheist she too could see that there was no longer such thing as ‘traditional’ partnership, and that speaking as the country’s first female Prime Minister with the first openly lesbian member of an Australian cabinet she could recognise that it was time to set the standard and take us into an inevitable future.
But she didn’t, and it’s too late now, and if she even dared attempt to change her mind 149 days out from the election she would be once again pounced on as a ditherer, a fibber, a leader who no longer understands their core beliefs, if of course they possessed them in the first place.
So this is how it will be.
Tony Abbott will be Prime Minster on September 14th (and it pains me to write it, it does, more than you could possibly know).
He will be in power for some time before his execrable personality finally wears his colleagues down, or Julie Bishop’s long-standing policy of standing nearby smiling with demonic ferocity eventually compels him to jump off a bridge. Two, three years. At least.
And in that time – in the latter part of that time – he will ‘graciously’ allow a conscience vote on same-sex marriage, and allow his colleagues to do the hard work, and it will pass.
Because it will be long overdue and the public will be so ready and ripe it would seem ridiculous to let it hover in limbo a moment longer. Because he has spent years ‘softening’ his stance on gay partnerships, through his media-savvy daughters, through his ‘supportive’ gay sister. Because it’s just going to happen, no matter who or what is in power, and Tony Abbott will simply be in the right place at the right time.
And he will be hailed as a hero, and Malcolm Turnbull will gnash his teeth over the unfairness of it all (if only they hadn’t forced him at gunpoint to defend that idiotic NBN, the unfairness of it!), and middle Australia will say they always saw it coming and wasn’t it a great pity that Julia Gillard – who had at one time seemed the obvious choice, the breath of fresh air, the one with an opportunity to make a clean break – hadn’t done it first.
But she didn’t. And it’s over for now, at least for her.
And while it will of course be a watershed moment, to celebrate what was always going to happen, whenever it occurs, however it occurs…isn’t it a pity that it couldn’t have been sooner?
And this is how it will be and it is devastating.