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.
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.
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.
Imperialism is an oppressive and exploitative form of government that seeks to enrich a select few at the expense of millions of others. Whether it is the example of Britain in India, the US in the Philippines, or Belgium in the Congo, colonial ‘adventures’ have been rightly characterised by violence against the native population by the occupying power and the ravaging of the host country’s natural resources for the benefit of the colonising nation.Yet despite these historical realities a recent YouGov poll showed that 44% of British people were “proud” of their nation’s colonial history whereas 21% regretted it took place and 23% were agnostic on the issue. The same poll also showed that 43% of British people’s view of the British Empire was positive whereas 19% viewed it negatively and 25% held no view. Not only is this attitude dangerous, as one of the key reasons people study history is not to repeat its mistakes, but these views have implications on modern policy.
On 15th September former Coalition leader and former Leader of the Opposition Malcolm Turnbull was sworn in as the Australian Prime Minister after successfully challenging Tony Abbott for the Coalition’s leadership. For many LGBT activists all over the world the news was welcomed as Australia will have a leader who, despite his own Catholic faith, supports same-sex marriage; although the are right not to mourn the departure of Tony Abbott I would say that there are a few things that should be acknowledged about the new Australian political reality.