Culture

Alleged Gay Icon Tony Abbott Is Now Trying To Claim Credit For Marriage Equality

Say it with me: Fuuuuuuuuck yooouuu.

Tony Abbott, extremely awkward

When the history of Australia’s long journey towards marriage equality is written, there will be many heroes to thank. We’ll thank the politicians who pushed for change, the community leaders who poured their hearts and souls into the campaign, and the everyday people who marched, knocked on doors, and voted. One person we absolutely will not thank is Tony Abbott.

But now, here, in the Year Of Our Lord 2019, Tony Abbott is actually trying to claim credit for marriage equality in Australia.

The former PM made the outrageous claim in a wide-ranging interview with the Nine newspapers over the weekend. The interview appeared to be an attempt by Abbott to re-set his public persona ahead of this year’s federal election, where he will face a strong challenge from independent candidate Zali Steggall.

Instead of Abbott’s usual fiery rhetoric, we got a softer Abbott, talking about local issues (like toilets), and his volunteer work. He criticised his opponents as wealthy elites who are too negative — which is a bit rich from the guy who built his entire political career on kicking heads and tearing people down.

Then, at the end of the interview, came the pièce de résistance: Abbott tried to claim credit for marriage equality.

“When all is said and done, I helped to make the thing happen,” he told Nine. “I set up the process which opened up the possibility and even the likelihood of change. Now that it has happened, I absolutely accept the outcome. It’s the law of the land and that’s the way it is.”

So now it’s time for a brief history lesson.

What Tony Abbott Actually Did For Marriage Equality

Cast your mind back to August 2015. Ireland had voted for same-sex marriage a few months earlier, and there seemed to be an unstoppable momentum behind the marriage equality campaign.

Moderate Liberal MP Warren Entsch had a private members bill, and there was a push from fellow moderates to allow a conscience vote on the issue. The moderate Liberals, combined with Labor and the Greens, would have been enough to pass the reform. It felt like only a matter of time.

So in stepped Tony Abbott.

The then-PM pulled a swifty on his own colleagues calling a joint partyroom meeting (meaning the conservative Nationals were in the room, not just the more moderate Liberals), and suggested a national vote on marriage equality, to be held some time down the track, after the 2016 election.

Despite what Tony Abbott says now, the move had nothing to do with facilitating same-sex marriage. It was all about delaying the inevitable.

If you want proof of that, just look at the reactions from the two sides. Australian Marriage Equality was furious, while the Australian Christian Lobby was delighted.

“We’re pleased that there’s some time now to continue to make the case,” ACL Managing Director Lyle Shelton said at the time. “I think now, just to be able to press pause and to put this to a people’s vote is really important because it is such a big change. I think it’s only right and proper that people be allowed to be presented with the arguments and to have a say.”

“I say to you if you don’t like same-sex marriage, vote no.” – Tony Abbott, 2017.

Abbott’s trick was one of the final straws for Malcolm Turnbull, who launched his successful challenge for the leadership a month later. But one of the conditions placed on Turnbull by conservatives when he took over was that he would still have to back a plebiscite, even though the Parliament could easily have voted for the change.

After an election, defeat in the Parliament and several legal challenges, the postal survey on marriage equality was born in 2017. And who was there to lead the charge? Why it was Tony Abbott.

“I say to you if you don’t like same-sex marriage, vote no. If you’re worried about religious freedom and freedom of speech, vote no, and if you don’t like political correctness, vote no because voting no will help to stop political correctness in its tracks,” he said on day one of the campaign.

As we all know, no one gives a shit what Tony Abbott thinks any more. The Yes side won easily, and Abbott’s own electorate voted 75% in favour of marriage equality.

And then, Abbott launched one final insult. After years of claiming the people should have their say, Abbott was too cowardly to even vote on the final bill. Instead, he fled the chamber.

So no, Tony Abbott, you’re not responsible for marriage equality. You blocked it for years, but we won anyway.


Rob Stott is Junkee Media’s Managing Editor, and is very gay. He’s on Twitter @Rob_Stott