One of the issues currently dominating the political discourse of Australia is whether or not the country should legalise same-sex marriage. The actual substance behind this discussion is not the question in most people’s minds, as poll after poll has shown a healthy majority of Australians in support of marriage equality. Indeed, in recent weeks the case has become even more overwhelming as, although opponents of equality often cite their sincerely held religious beliefs, a poll by Galaxy Research found that a majority of Christians in Australia supported equal marriage. Rather than policy substance, the debate has shifted to how equality is introduced. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has said that there will be a non-binding postal vote plebiscite on the issue and some have since argued that such a vote should be boycotted. I would strongly recommend not to do that.
Last week I covered a news story about how Britain had recently passed a law that would retroactively pardon thousands of gay and bisexual men who had been prosecuted for ‘indecent acts’, also known as homosexual sex. At the time of writing I said: “work on this issue still needs to be done”. Admittedly I was referring to Northern Ireland and Scotland, but the same is true around the world; men convicted of the crime of having sex with other men should have those convictions overturned. For a number of years activists in New Zealand had been lobbying the government to get exactly that, and on Thursday the government agreed.
Malcolm Turnbull has been dealt a political blow this week after the Nick Xenophon Team (NXT) withdrew its support for a plebiscite on same-sex marriage. The NXT join the Greens and Labor, which all support marriage equality but oppose Turnbull’s desire for a plebiscite. Normally I would be criticising these political parties for getting in the way of a democratic vote on this issue but because of the structure of the Australian political system, the opposition parties are right to be unforgiving.
After days of counts and recounts, the results of the Australian general election are just about in. In the limited coverage I given to this election, although I believed that Bill Shorten’s brand of leftism was not radical enough, I argued that in the two horse race between soft-leftism and hard-right conservatism, my preference is obvious. Unfortunately the result was not as we on the Left would have wanted. Whilst there are a couple of results still yet to be decided, the Coalition have won the required 76 seats to form a majority government.
The conventional wisdom surrounding elections in liberal democracies is that elections are mostly decided by economic issues. Indeed when this is not the case and issues like immigration or foreign policy dominate an election cycle, this is largely reported as news. To be perfectly honest many of these other issues are related to how it will influence the economy. When talking about immigration, for example, unless it is obvious that the person talking is outwardly racist, concerns are based on how public services will cope and any potential job losses; in other words the concerns are couched in economics. However a new study has shown that young people in Australia are less concerned with the economy than their elders.
Since 2008 New Zealand has been ruled by the centre-right National Party and its leader John Key has successfully guided the party to three general election victories. In 2017 there shall be another election and the New Zealand Left is uniting in order to overcome the National Party. Based on current polling it looks unlikely that the National Party will lose in 2017 however the move is still the right one and work should begin to carve out an energised and united left-wing movement.
Australia has taken a bold step forward and illustrated that the push-back against marijuana prohibition is not simply restricted to the United States. Although not embracing cannabis in the same way as alcohol, the use of medicinal marijuana in Australia will make it more socially acceptable to be a weed smoker and will enable more scientific testing to take place. This step will enable further research information about the nature of cannabis to be generated and thus the prohibition of the substance will be lifted.