Aug. 12, 2013 ( – In recent years gay “marriage” has had no realistic chance of being legislated or recognised at a federal level in Australia as both ex-Prime Minister Julia Gillard and opposition leader Tony Abbott were staunchly opposed.  However, on Sunday night during an election debate with second-time Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, everything changed and “marriage equality” is now a high profile election issue.

Sunday evening saw the first of the three televised debates between Prime Minister Kevin Rudd MP and Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott MP, in the lead-up to the national elections on the 7th of September.

The debate was driven by questions being fired from a panel of Australian political journalists on issues such as the economy, health, aged care, education and border protection.


At the last, and before the leaders gave their summary addresses, the moderator, Skynews journalist David Speers, fired off his own question on same-sex “marriage.”  Given the timing of this question and the prime minister's response, it’s difficult not to see this as a staged question.  In fact, the Herald Sun newspaper posted an article predicting the question an hour or so before the debate began.

Rudd’s well-rehearsed response: “My commitment to you…within a hundred days of a re-elected government a bill would come forth…to legalise marriage equality…folk out there want this to happen.” Rudd added: “as a mark of decency to same-sex couples across the country who wish the same loving, caring relationship that, for example, I have had with Therese my wife now for the last 32 years, and for that to be formalised”.

As Australian Family Association commentator Josh Alstin wrote accurately: same sex marriage is now an election promise. Alstin went on to explain:

If readers needed any further assurance of a Rudd government’s backing of the same sex agenda, consider that at 7:34pm, shortly after the debate finished, the official Labor Party twitter account posted the following: “Join @KruddMP and Labor in supporting marriage equality”.

@ItsTimeAus is the twitter feed of the Australian Labor Party’s “Rainbow Labor” group and is an email harvesting exercise on behalf of the Labor Party. Its website, says:

Never before in Australian history has a Prime Minister stood for marriage equality for all Australians.

It’s time.

If re-elected, the Prime Minister will support a bill for equal marriage legislation within the first 100 days.

Rudd is something of a chameleon on this issue. In his rise to power in 2006, he styled himself as a ‘Christian Democrat’ claiming Deitrich Bonhoffer as his hero and espousing support for traditional marriage. This all changed as he prepared to retake his former job as Prime Minister, as Alstin explains:

A few years ago Rudd campaigned as a relatively conservative church-going Christian. It was only after his years in the wilderness of the Gillard government that he supposedly had a change of heart. Potentially to undermine then Prime Minister Gillard, Rudd appeared to the media claiming that he now personally supported same sex marriage whilst avowing not to campaign on the issue. (from his blog: “For the record, I will not be taking any leadership role on this issue nationally.”)  Fast forward to Rudd neck-and-neck with Abbott in the polls and same sex marriage is now an election promise.

That same day was, by coincidence, National Marriage Day – an annual event nationwide in support of Marriage and the family. August 13th is the anniversary of the successful amendment to the National marriage Act to define marriage as “the union of one man and one woman.” As it happens, this year's event focused on a protest outside Kevin Rudd’s Electoral Office with placards displaying an unambiguous message:

“…because Australia deserves a PM who supports natural marriage…Put Rudd Last” and “…Children deserve a mother and a father.”

The genesis of the push for same-sex marriage in recent months has come by way of legislative change in New Zealand and the UK. Bills to change the traditional definition have been debated in the Australian Federal Parliament as well as South Australia and Tasmania – all failed.

In June, as newly reinstalled PM, Rudd flew a political kite by suggesting that the marriage issue should be dealt with by a referendum, held in concert with the coming election.  

Rudd was quickly howled down; first by his own Senator Wong – a lesbian MP from South Australia – and also by the national convenor of Australian Marriage Equality, Rodney Croome. Both claimed that the issue was too divisive to send to the Australian people; Croome putting it this way: “It could potentially be deeply polarising, becoming a platform for fear-mongering against the gay and lesbian community, and we think that our politicians are elected to make these kinds of decisions, rather than hand-balling them back to the voters.”

The reality, however, is something entirely different. The Australian’s commentator, Angela Shanahan belled the cat a few months back when she observed: “(t)he gay marriage lobby doesn't want that (a referendum) because it knows it will lose — as it did in all but three states of the US where it has been put to a plebiscite.” Rudd seems not to realize that, in raising this issue as an election platform, he risks upsetting the majority of Australians.

Recognising the potency of public sentiment on the issue, Democratic Labor Party Senator, John Madigan, today restated his call for a national referendum, flagging his intention to table a bill when parliament resumes.

“People I speak to on this issue are sick and tired of being told to feel guilt and shame for continuing to uphold their belief that marriage is a union between one man and one woman, to the exclusion of all others,” said Senator Madigan. “The bill I intend to introduce will finally give the Australian people the right to decide how our society is formed, which is what democracy is fundamentally about.” 

The AFA’s Josh Alstin summed up the election situation for his readers: 

Supporters of traditional marriage will justifiably now find it difficult to support Labor candidates who personally uphold the traditional view. Yes they will have a conscience vote and yes it’s always best that the majority of MPs (regardless of which party) oppose same sex marriage. But what Rudd has done now makes it a priority for a government he leads which means that support, even for a traditionally minded Labor candidate, may help Rudd form government.

A tweet from the Victorian branch of the Labor Party makes the choice clear:  “The choice is the Liberal Party who think it’s a “distraction” and @KRuddMP who believes it’s time.

Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott MP, does see this issue as a distraction. His party, the same party that moved the 2004 amendment to the Marriage Act (mentioned above), holds a party line against same-sex “marriage.”  Even absent a party line, it is doubtful that any bill would pass.

In the 2007 election with Rudd as Labor Leader (and subsequently, Prime Minister) and running under the slogan ‘Kevin07’, he successfully garnered the notional support of Christian Churches and the endorsement of the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL). ACL’s press release this morning calls Rudd’s backflip “a big blow and a betrayal of the constituency.” 

This is a winner-take-all gambit by Rudd that risks serious damage to those within the Labor ranks who still hold to the traditional definition of marriage. Rudd has declared of war on the family. It’s time alright: time for those who believe in traditional marriage to stand and be counted.

Opposition leader Tony Abbott continues to lead the polling after this first week of the election campaign.  As national newspaper The Australian has revealed, “voters seem strongly committed to the voting intention they have flagged in the Newspoll survey and believe the Coalition is going to win.”  The primary vote for Labor did rise after the ousting of Julia Gillard, but this improvement has since evaporated.