Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Why can't we all just get along?

I found this interesting piece from the Law Institute of Victoria. It’s a submission to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Committee’s inquiry into the provision of the Marriage Legislation Amendment Bill 2004.

I can’t add anything to it. It sets out comprehensive and thorough arguments against the Bill. It’s the type of stuff I wish I could reproduce in a calm and rational manner when talking on the subject, rather than getting all anxious and muddled as I do.

I know this doesn’t relate specifically to the election, and thus may fall outside of the paramters of the blog, but as the submission states, the haste with which this Bill was passed suggests the upcoming election was a consideration, for the Government and the Opposition. I’m speculating, but it seems likely that the ALP, in giving the Bill support, were keen to avoid being ‘wedged’ on this issue. I have no doubt the Coalition wouldn’t have minded having this issue running hot during an election campaign.

Navigate your browser here to see some other people’s ideas on the likely impact of the ALP’s support for the Bill.

Its heartening to hear the comments of the Family Court in Re Kevin (referenced on page 4 of the submission):

There should be no escape… that definitions ought to be updated …particularly when our outdated definitions bring suffering to some of our fellow human beings.

To me, this seems perfectly reasonable, and when presented this way, I can’t see how this would fail to convince others of the need to liberalise, rather than restrict, the definition of marriage. But then again, I guess its hard to present a message on this issue without the emotion of a debate on ‘morals’ taking over.

At first I wasn't sure why I foundnd the most depressing aspect of the submission to be the section on the question of whether or not the Bill breaches international human rights law. But i gave it a good, hard thinking, and this is what I've come up with.

I’m sure most people would associate ‘international human rights law’ with ‘fairness’ and ‘equality’, without having a firm idea of the precise content of those laws. Furthermore, I imagine that if you asked the 'ordinary person on the street' whether they thought Australia should be bound by these concepts, without knowing whether or not Australia was a party to the relevant treaties, few would answer in the negative. After all, how many times a year do we hear political figures making reference to the greatness of the Australian ‘fair go’ and egalitarian society. These are very useful conceptual tools for the public speaker in Australia.

But then, I wonder how many people would register concern that our Government has just passed a new law which it knows is in breach of Australia’s obligations under international human rights law. That is, its not just the case that we haven’t been bothered to clean up old laws which breach our obligations, we’re passing new ones which we know will entrench positive discrimination.

Lets face it though, its not really very surprising is it, given this Government’s attitude to asylum seekers, refugees and Cheryl Kernot. So its not like I’m depressed about it because I never thought it would happen.

I know from previous experience that successive Australian Governments don’t think the ICCPR’s prohibition of discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation applies to them (cf: Toonen's case, in which the UNHRC ruled that the prohibition against discrimination on the grounds of sex/gender contained in the Declaration on Human Rights can be read to include sexual orientation. This provided the constitutional grounds for the Australian Government of the time(ALP) to enact federal laws prohibiting discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation. The issue was also raised in the second term of this Government. Needless to say, Australia is still without such laws - Canada, New Zealand, Great Britain and South Africa manage to have them, and their societies haven't fallen to bits).

Anyway, I think it is this which has really kicked me in the guts:

The Law Institute of Victoria (LIV) suggests that the absence of any effective sanction against Australia for such a breach of international law does not constitute an excuse or justification for a deliberate breach, as proposed by the Bill. The essence of the rule of law is that the law is actively obeyed. An approach to the law, international or domestic, that ignores our obligations based on the premise that no sanctions apply is not one the LIV can possibly condone.
They’re going to get away with it, and they know it. They’re screwing me over and pretty much saying to me “there’s nothing you can do about it”. No wonder I feel so miserable.

Overall, I guess I’m really not surprised by how this all turned out. But this doesn’t stop me from feeling disenfranchised, despondent, marginalised and disenchanted (I obviously still feel well enough to shamelessly abuse my thesaurus).

I almost feel like I don’t care any more, but I know that I do, and I think my surface apathy on these issues may just be denial and perhaps a defence mechanism. The more I think about it, the more I realise how desperately I want things to be different.

Its not just the substantive and practical effect of this law which depresses me. I know the discursive power of laws and political agendas/statements.

I think they have a word for this combination of feelings: hopelessness.


At 7:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tinker Bell Checks


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