The marriage equality debate has surely reached a new level of farce.
Once again, moves to have the national Parliament make marriage equality law have been thwarted by fairly transparent delaying tactics by the Federal Government.
And much of the manoeuvring has been cynical. It has not been been about whether it is right or wrong. It has been about Coalition politics, internal political warfare in the Liberal Party and ultimately saving the job of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
On Monday, Liberal MPs met to deal with a push by some in their ranks to introduce a Bill approving equality and to have a free vote by MPs.
The delaying counter-move – mainly from the party’s rightwing – was to have a postal plebiscite. The idea has been widely ridiculed and criticised. It will cost about $120 million and voters are not compelled to participate in any case.
At the meeting, the Liberals decided to disinter the Coalition’s original idea of a national plebiscite – a more real (or surreal) vote. That $170 million idea, really a delaying tactic, was originally a Coalition pledge in the 2016 election. It was knocked back in the Senate last year.
It was presented to the Senate and knocked back again on Wednesday. Even its proponents knew that would happen.
Plebiscites are not binding on the government or MPs. The marriage equality lobby believes campaigns on the issue will be harmful to its community and to wider society. The lobby is against plebiscites – seen as just another (hugely expensive) opinion poll. Such polls have already shown most Australians do not oppose same-sex marriages.
The lobby and its supporters want MPs to vote on equality in Parliament – not an unreasonable expectation in a democracy.
But, Coalition hardliners will employ any tactics they can to avoid that.
The reason. They know, as do most Australians, that equality is inevitable and such a law would most likely be passed now. They have dissembled, obfuscated, ducked and dived. The problem. The issue is not going to go away.
There were even threats last week that a wrong step by Mr Turnbull could see him dumped.
So now we will have a postal plebiscite. Non-binding, expensive, potentially divisive and no more than another cynical tactic.
All to delay the inevitable.