Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Australian bigotry: Its the electoral system, stupid

Most Australians are now in favour of same-sex marriage, but both major Australian political parties oppose it. Why? Writing in the Sydney Morning Herald, Tim Dick points out the obvious: its the electoral system, stupid. Australia still uses an unfair electoral system in which the proportion of seats in the House does not match the votes cast, and elections are decided by a small number of voters in key marginal seats. Who lives in those marginal seats? Bigots. The result:

Marriage equality is not the victim of the tyranny of the majority.

It is a victim of the tyranny of a powerful minority living in important electorates, a tyranny assisted by the ambivalence of some who would benefit from it.

In a country with no bill of rights, the courts cannot uphold human dignity in the face of such prejudice.

If Australia wants equality, it needs to either change its electoral system, or get a bill of rights. Otherwise, its politics will continue to be dominated by the battle for conservative votes in marginal seats - a battle which undermines human dignity and distorts and corrupts progressive politics.