Labor's blatant lie about the Greens vote on marriage equality
On 18 March 2016, after a marathon 28 hours straight, the Australian Senate passed Commonwealth Electoral Amendment Bill 2016, otherwise known as the Senate voting reform after the Greens and independent Nick Xenophon voted with the Coalition. It's been a long time since a Bill had so much hype and caused so much division.
The Labor Party had argued that the Greens did a dirty back-room deal with the Coalition. Which is a tad ironic, because the state of the current Senate laws means that all parties are doing dirty back-room deals with each other over the allocation of preferences. The Greens have long held a policy to reform the Senate so they were doing no back-room deal. In fact, the argument could be made that it wasn't the Greens who sold out to a Coalition policy, but the Coalition who sold out to a Greens policy - which could be a tad upsetting for those voters who go into paroxysms of panic at the mere thought of the Greens 'agenda' getting a tick in parliament.
The Senate voting reform Bill aims to return some sense of democracy to the process by enabling voters to have more control over where their votes go rather than the Parties deciding for them. Yet, Labor and most of the cross-benchers have been running scare-campaigns that it will undermine democracy when it is the current laws that are undemocratic. It's understandable that the minor parties would oppose the reform because they are the ones who stand to lose seats under it. However, for voters to oppose the reform is a little strange because many of them were left shaking their heads after the 2013 election when Ricky Muir of the Motoring Enthusiasts Party (the what party?) gained a Senate seat with 0.5% of the vote(1). Half a percent of the vote. 1/2%. Yes, that is democracy in action under the current Senate laws. Someone gets a seat when 99.5% of the votes went elsewhere.
No wonder the reforms were needed.
The Bill was always going to pass. When the Senate convened on 15 March 2016, it was clear that the government had the numbers to pass the Bill. So why not take the vote and pass it?
The Bill was scheduled for debate on 17 March 2016. Instead of just having the vote and getting it over and done with, the Labor Party and some of the minor parties began delaying tactics and stunts.
One of those stunts was the tabling of the Marriage Equality Amendment Bill 2013 on Tuesday, 15 March 2016 by Liberal Democratic Party Senator Leyonhelm. It was tabled to embarrass The Greens who have been very vocal about marriage equality but who were siding with the Coalition, who have in general opposed marriage equality. Instead of voting against it to appease the Coalition, the Greens referred it to Thursday 17 March for debate. Come St Patrick's Day, the aptly-coloured Greens stopped the debate and brought on the vote. The Greens, and for that matter every other Senator, knew that the Marriage Equality Bill was there as a stalling tactic on the Senate Reform Bill, so why waste time.
The Greens called the ALP's bluff and requested a vote. The Division Bell rang and the Senate was forced to vote on whether they should vote on the Bill. The nine Greens senators vote 'yes', along with Independent Glenn Lazarus, Liberal Democrat Leyonhelm and Motoring Enthusiast Ricky Muir.
The ALP, fresh from vilifying the Greens for siding with the Coalition, then sided with the Coalition to vote 'no'.
Then in an extremely bizarre move, the ALP's Leader of the Senate, Penny Wong, herself a staunch supporter of marriage equality but who had just voted to block the Marriage Equality Bill, accused the Greens of blocking the Marriage Equality Bill.
This was Penny Wong's Facebook page moments after the Senate vote on the Marriage Equality Amendment Bill on 17 March 2016:
Not to be outdone, Bill Shorten, the ALP Leader, then shared one as well:
In case you are not clear on Penny Wong's post, she posted a second one later that afternoon:
Cute memes. Complete rubbish.
This is how the votes fell according to the Senate Hansard report(2):
The Greens clearly voted for the bill. It would seem that for Wong and Shorten, 'Yes' means 'No' and 'No' means 'Yes'.
Both Wong and Shorten lied about how the votes fell.
Clearly they have an agenda to undermine the Greens and discredit them for siding with the Coalition over the senate reform bill. Clearly the Marriage Equality Bill stunt was pure filibustering by Labor and the minor parties to avoid the vote on the Senate reform Bill.
With the Marriage Equality Bill shut down by Labor jumping into bed with the Coalition (even though they have previously stated their support it), the Senate got down to the real business of voting on the Senate voting reform bill.
And that's when the real fun started.
The Senate degenerated into farce.
The Coalition stated that the Senate would sit until the Bill was passed - a bullying tactic itself, but as the passage of the bill was a fait accompli, it could have been all over very quickly. Instead, Labor began filibustering of epic proportions. As the day dragged into the night with no end in sight, independent Nick Xenophon entered the chamber in pyjamas and Labor Senator Doug Cameron channelled Monty Python by proclaiming, 'I fart in your general direction'.
Perhaps Labor simply wanted a sleep-over with their parliamentary playmates, all of whom were acting like kids pulling an all-nighter without parental supervision.
28 hours after debate started, the vote was finally held and as predicted days earlier, the Bill passed 36-24 with the Greens and the coalition voting in favour.
Shorten and Wong accused the Greens of being in bed with the Liberal-National Coalition, yet the Greens had held this view on Senate voting reform for almost 20 years. It would have been a sell-out for them to now oppose the Bill ... somewhat like Labor selling out their own position on the marriage equality bill.
So who's in bed with who? The Greens sided with the Coalition twice between July 2014 and March 2015 compared with Labor voting with the Coalition 35 times:
It's a bit rich for the ALP to vilify the Greens over the Senate voting reform Bill when the ALP has capitulated to much of the fear-mongering of the Coalition in relation to asylum seekers. Going way back to Kim Beazley in the 2001 election when he caved into Prime Minister John Howard's opportunistic use of the Tampa crisis to bolster his flagging popularity and the implementation of the draconian and brutal Pacific Solution. And then along came Labor Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, promising a more compassionate approach to asylum seekers. This lasted until the first of the Coalition billboards listing the numbers of asylum seekers arriving by boat. Rudd capitulated and re-introduced the Pacific Solution. Labor is yet to distance itself from the Coalition's xenophobic human rights abuses against asylum seekers.
The Labor Party was once the voice of the people. Its grass roots were workers and unions, but over time they drifted further and further to the right.
There has been speculation that the Greens should form a coalition with Labor because of their ideological similarities, just as the Liberal and National parties joined forces. But Labor's blatant lying, scare-mongering and willingness to sell-out its commitment to its policies shows its behaviour and ideology is more aligned to the Liberal Party.
It's not the Greens who will drop into political irrelevance, but Labor who has left behind their left-wing roots in order to harvest the vote of the right-wing.
Wong sarcastically stated that the Greens were no longer the party of Bob Brown. Perhaps she should look at her own party. The Australian Labor Party is no longer the party of Gough Whitlam. If Labor wants to remain relevant it needs to re-establish itself as a party of the people, with social reforms of the magnitude that Whitlam put forward. They need to distance themselves from the lying, scare-mongering, xenophobia and bigotry of the Liberal Party, otherwise what is the point of having two major parties whose ideology can only be separated by a fine-tooth comb.
1. ABC Elections, Anthony Green's Election Blog, 'The Preference Deals behind the Strange Election of Ricky Muir and Wayne Dropulich', 13 September 2013, http://blogs.abc.net.au/antonygreen/2013/09/the-preference-deals-behind-the-strange-election-of-ricky-muir-and-wayne-dropulich-.html. Accessed 18 March 2016.
2. Parliament of Australia, Senate, Bills: Marriage EqualityAmendment Bill 2013, Second Reading, Division 2016, http://parlinfo.aph.gov.au/parlInfo/search/display/display.w3p;query=Id%3A%22chamber%2Fhansards%2F1ea904ea-ae93-4f0c-bb20-3d8c33e83f81%2F0032%22. Accessed 18 March 2016.