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Tony Abbott’s cowardly act

Former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott leaves after speaking during debate of the Marriage Amendment Bill in the House of Representatives at Parliament House in Canberra, Thursday, December 7, 2017.
Former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott leaves after speaking during debate of the Marriage Amendment Bill in the House of Representatives at Parliament House in Canberra, Thursday, December 7, 2017. AAP Image - Lukas Coch

OPINION

TONY Abbott proved last night a public vote for same-sex marriage was a farce from the beginning.

If ever a point didn't need hammering home, this was it. But hey, this was the guy who on three separate occasions bit into a whole, raw, unpeeled onion in public when we were all sufficiently weirded out by it the first time.

He likes to make his point.

The former prime minister was the architect of the idea of a plebiscite for same-sex marriage, proposing it back in 2015 rather than a parliamentary vote.

While we all suspected the reason behind his enthusiasm was to shirk parliamentary responsibility and delay the inevitable and just outsource the decision, he insisted it was about democracy.

"This government wants the people to decide," he told the parliament he then led.

"We want the people's choice, and what could be fairer than leaving this to the people of Australia?"

Mr Abbott insisted it was all about being fair, practising democracy, and respecting the view of the people, but still, accusations that a delaying tactic was at play swamped the then leader and his party.

And yesterday those suspicions were confirmed.

Mr Abbott didn't give a damn what the people wanted - he just didn't want his fingerprints on that policy.

It's telling that the politician who proposed a public vote didn't even turn up to acknowledge it and push his constituents' wishes through parliament.

He showed the reason behind shoving the vote onto the public was because he didn't want to have anything to do with it.

The people of Warringah, whom Mr Abbott has represented for the past 23 years, delivered one of the most emphatic displays of support for allowing gay couples to marry when they returned their postal votes. An overwhelming 75 per cent of voters in the electorate cast their ballots in favour of same-sex marriage.

They sent an unmistakeable message to their MP, who had promised to communicate that to the parliament when it came time to make law.

When it came time for MPs to have the final say on same-sex marriage becoming law, it was almost a full house.

All members present but four physically sided with equality, gathering on the Speaker's right to indicate their support for the bill that will today become law and allow all Australians to marry the person they love as of next month.

As has been pointed out multiple times since this moment, thanks to the helpful visual, those who voted yes will be remembered by most as being on the right side of history.

The lonely four who voted no, the wrong side.

But even more disappointing than those are the few who decided not to participate in this historic moment, and attempted to extract themselves from it.

Tony Abbott was one of those. He had spent all day in the chamber arguing passionately about why he wasn't satisfied with the bill as it stood.

But when it came time to vote - and he could have voted against it - he made a gutless lurch for the door.

Mr Abbott's weak act didn't have anything to do with democracy, it was a protest against it. And history won't forget that.

elizabeth.burke@news.com.au | @lizeburke

Topics:  coward editors picks history opinion same-sex marriage ssm tony abbott


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