The same sex couples gleefully lined up at the front of marriage register offices across Australia, awaiting the chance to marry legally, might have lamented the half empty chamber to which opportunistic leader of the (so-called) opposition delivered his speech bringing in the (delightfully titled) “private members” bill for changing the Marriage Act 1961. This would, of course, if passed, have given same sex couples access to the same ritual and institution, and, some would say, the same lifelong trial, enjoyed by heterosexual couples for as long as the Commonwealth has endured.
Apparently same sex items have been seeking this very right for decades, despite no one noticing until a few years ago when campus loonies seemed to have run out of things to protest about and someone came up with a chant that even rhymed – “straight or gay, black or white, marriage is a civil right.” The misfortune of the same sex couples hoping for Bill’s bill to pass was not so much that the numbers were lacking – they might have been a bit shaky on the floor of parliament, but they are probably there in the wider community – it was more that it was Bill who was pressing his lips together and passing this particular motion. No wonder the chamber was half empty, apart from the few miserable looking Coalition members on roster duty to populate the green leather, together with the vast majority of Bill’s erstwhile comrades who had to be there.
It was said to be one of Bill’s “shorter speeches,” but that was a small mercy. His short answer on Q&A is sufficient to render at least one of the invited panellists incapable of uttering a single word on the hour length program. Rarely does a middle aged human being look as patently insincere, scripted, and absurd, as Bill giving a self important speech, on an important matter. This is the man who was, in a charitable, and on the whole warm, piece recently in The Age newspaper (hardly a bastion of right wing propaganda) described as coming across to the public as “wooden and lacking in charisma… rather like a mindless puppet.”
Watching Bill drone out the monotone in the Chamber of Horrors this morning, and one can see why. It took only minutes for the casual observer to begin wondering where the hand manipulating him was, or to marvel at how the fishing line working his limbs and facial expressions seemed to be so well obscured from view. It was rather like the marionette scene in the Sound of Music, but much less fun.
Whilst the Coalition members lamented their luck, closed their eyes, and thought of England, even the most ardent of atheists on the packed Labor benches mounted a tentative prayer in mournful supplication that it night end soon. It is the “marriage equality” campaigners’ great misfortune that the bill dressed up as their great hope was being introduced by a monotonous, and somewhat moronic, robot, presently masquerading as the man who used to be Bill Shorten, union leader, and occasional breakfast television personality. By the end of the Shorten “short speech” the scene in the chamber of horrors was less breakfast television bonhomie, and more Weekend at Bernies.