What's right (and wrong) with Turnbull's take on marriage

What’s wrong (and right) with Turnbull’s take on same-sex marriage

Freedom and children's rights were trashed in Turnbull’s quest to make history, not that he noticed.

Malcom Turnbull always cites changing the Marriage Act to allow same-sex couples to marry as one of his greatest achievements as Prime Minister.

He reiterates this in his memoir, A Bigger Picture, released today.

As the former managing director of the Australian Christian Lobby and a director and spokesman for the official No campaign, the Coalition for Marriage, I was eager to read what the former Prime Minister had to say about the historic 2017 plebiscite.

As I did, memories came flooding back. Turnbull’s account, as is the case when the victors inevitably write history, was a challenging read for me, the vanquished.

Chapter 39, ‘Same-sex marriage’, confirmed much of what we already knew but gives further insight into Turnbull’s tin ear on the threats to freedoms and the lack of willingness of so many senior conservatives in the Liberals to fight for their party’s core belief on marriage and family.

Despite sitting down around a table with him at the Commonwealth Parliamentary Office in Sydney in February 2016 and stepping him through the vulnerabilities to freedom of speech and religion, Turnbull dismisses these concerns in the book as simply the “religious right” wanting to “entrench discrimination against gays.”

Polite, respectful and with that legendary Turnbull charm at the time, the book reveals what he really thought of us.

We had personally briefed him and his staff and I had had two further telephone conversations with him where I raised concerns about freedom of speech but found myself being talked over.

Front and centre of our briefings was the case of the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Hobart, Julian Porteous, who at the urging of leaders of the same-sex marriage campaign had been dragged before the Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Commission for circulating Catholic teaching on marriage to Catholics.

Vexatious complaints like this have only escalated since, such as against former Army Major Bernard Gaynor, wedding photographer Jason Tey, Israel Folau, White Magazine and many others.

Turnbull can’t pretend he didn’t know.

Yet in the book he is disdainful of Victorian Senator James Paterson’s attempts to put up amendments which would have allowed Christians and Muslims the ability to speak and teach freely about their beliefs on marriage, protected religious schools’ ability to hire staff who shared their ethos and protected parents’ rights not to have their children indoctrinated in radical LGBTIQA+ sex and gender fluid ideology.

Turnbull wrongly claims some of the Paterson amendments passed the Parliament in December 2017.

The brutal reality is they all failed with the support of Liberals, including a provision to prevent another Porteous case.

Now many of these same freedom measures are being revisited as part of a process which Turnbull, ironically, set in motion when he commissioned the Ruddock Review to examine religious freedom in the wake of same-sex marriage.

Almost two-and-a-half years on, Attorney General Christian Porter’s Religious Discrimination Bill, which arose from the Ruddock Commission, is yet to be debated. Covid-19 means it probably will not be looked at until 2021.

In the meantime, a small Christian school, Ballarat Christian College, was sued by a teacher with the help of the same-sex marriage lobby and a big city law firm, Clayton Utz, because it wanted to hold to its policy on man-woman marriage.

So much for "no consequences" because "love is love".

Same-sex marriage activist Christine Forster, Tony Abbott’s sister, even told Sky News during the plebiscite campaign that Christian schools would not be affected by same-sex marriage.

Yet Turnbull in his book condemns Christian schools, like Ballarat Christian College, who wish to uphold parents’ wishes on what their kids are taught about marriage as “allowing religious schools to discriminate against gay teachers”.

In Turnbull’s “bigger picture” Australia, parents who believe marriage is a man-woman project are simply bigots who must allow their children to be educated by the state’s new rules.

This is more Stalin than Menzies.

LGBTIQA+ gender fluid indoctrination of children at school is now compulsory in most states, something the No campaign was ridiculed for for raising.

Despite our best efforts to help Turnbull and his colleagues understand what was at stake, Turnbull simply had rainbow stars in his eyes and was determined to make history.

Not even former Prime Minister John Howard and former Deputy Prime Minister John Anderson’s public pleadings could help the Turnbull Government see that they were creating vulnerabilities for the freedoms of the five million Australians who voted No.

One of the extraordinary aspects of the political machinations which Turnbull details is how licence was given to homosexual Liberal rebels, Tim Wilson, Trent Zimmerman and Trevor Evans who along with Warren Entsch wanted to hand over control of the Parliament to Opposition Leader Bill Shorten so they could pass a same-sex marriage bill.

According to Turnbull’s book, Mathias Corman called this the “controlled explosion” option.

Their extraordinary threat, which would have sparked a Constitutional crisis, was given tacit endorsement by the Government’s leadership group.

“There began to develop support for what Mathias described as a ‘controlled explosion’, where enough Liberals crossed the floor in (a deniably authorised) defiance of government policy to vote for and pass a marriage amendment bill," Turnbull writes.

"It would be an embarrassing defeat for the government but at least the issue would be resolved."

I naively assumed at the time that these men, whose actions did more than just about anything to force the postal plebiscite, were simply acting off the reservation.

Now I better understand why they were never sanctioned or punished. They had been quietly given the green light. Yet Turnbull, who loves to accuse others of “dripping with hypocrisy” continually refers to right wing “terrorists” and “thugs” in the Liberal Party.

The right have never acted with such treachery.

For grassroots Liberals and mainstream Australians wondering why Australians voted to redefine marriage, Turnbull sheds light on what for me was always the great disappointment of the campaign.

While boasting about the exploits of the “moderates” such as Christopher Pyne and others who acted publicly on behalf of the Yes campaign, Turnbull notes that senior conservatives such as Peter Dutton, Corman and Scott Morrison did not take up the cudgels.

Mainstream Australia had no high-profile champions from within the executive of what was supposed to be a conservative government. That sort of fire-power matters in campaigns, but we were let down.

Turnbull is right in his commentary about me. While most of the conservatives in the government thought a vote to preserve marriage would be lost (probably explaining why they didn’t fight), “religious right campaigners like Lyle Shelton from the ACL…believed Australians would vote ‘no’.”

ACL also knew it had to take the plebiscite option. The rebels would either cross the floor (with what we now know to be the leadership's support), or a future Labor government would legislate.

In the lead-up to the plebiscite I did indeed think we could win. Liberal American states like California and Maine had said no to same-sex marriage, something the media almost never spoke of.

In fact, almost every time the issue had been put to a popular vote anywhere in the world, it had gone down. It was never really a popular reform.

That changed after the Irish referendum in May 2015 and the US Supreme Court decree for all 50 states a month later.

Australian gay activists and media leveraged these wins, one democratic, one not, to maximum propaganda advantage, giving Australians an impression of inevitability. We were run over by the momentum.

I have three chapters in my book, to be released in June, giving my side of the marriage debate.

Meanwhile, Turnbull’s chapter is full of enough straw man arguments (we were not motivated by “hate” and never said anything “hateful”) to make a paddock full of hay bales.

But one thing he is right about is that it has been heterosexuals that have damaged marriage far more than gays.

“Let us be honest with each other," he writes.

"The threat to marriage is not the gays. It is a lack of loving commitment – whether it is found in the form of neglect, indifference, cruelty or adultery, to name just a few manifestations of the loveless desert in which too many marriages come to grief.”

No truer words were uttered from the Yes side during the campaign.

The only problem was we never said the threat to marriage was "the gays".

We said the threat of redefining marriage in law was the trashing of the freedoms of those who would always dissent. It would be the onslaught of gender fluid indoctrination of children and toxic identity politics.

We also said the injustice of “marriage equality” was the trashing of the rights of children to know the love of their mother and father, something same-sex marriage makes impossible.

The evil of legalised commercial surrogacy so two “married” men can rent women’s wombs and purchase babies is the next chapter to be written in the name of “gay rights”.

And Tim Wilson, who commissioned an Australian Human Rights Commission report in 2015 which advocated just that, is waiting in the wings to write that chapter.