SSM: Turnbull got it done, and he should be given credit for that

Updated November 17, 2017 16:32:43

The party in Canberra’s Lonsdale street on Wednesday night was like nothing I’ve ever seen.

Pure, spontaneous, joyful celebration.

Thousands of people literally dancing in the street.

Young and old, gay and straight (mostly gay) revelling in the moment that people won over politics.

In a city infamous for a grim adherence to rules and order, police calmly watched on as party-goers passed around beers purchased from the local bottle shop.

The ACT’s Chief Minister even skolled a Corona on stage (with a slice of lemon in it, of course).

One smiling stranger hugged me and said, “Don’t ever change.” (My wife will be happy to hear I don’t plan on it).

This was a party to remember and it went well into the early hours.

A lot of people had complained about the Coalition’s plan for a plebiscite or postal vote to settle the issue of same-sex marriage.

But would a celebration like this have been possible without it?

I bumped into a gay (and happy) Federal MP, who’d hated the idea of a people’s vote.

“Was it all worth it for this moment?” I asked.

“Absolutely!” was the reply.

Big changes require big fights

The jubilation in Lonsdale Street was in massive contrast to the Prime Minister’s quiet celebration at home.

Dinner and a glass of champagne with Lucy. Then watching the Socceroos (at a somewhat awkward angle) from an armchair in his bedroom at The Lodge.

It was a relatively lonely image, especially of a man who revels amongst the crowds at Mardi Gras each year as it proudly stomps through his electorate.

Clearly, this is not a victory Malcolm Turnbull is willing or able to publicly own just yet, such are the divisions in the “broad church” called (ironically at times) The Coalition.

The tone at his press conference earlier in the day seemed defiant, almost angry. Certainly not jubilant.

It was left up to Labor and the Greens, who opposed the process, to dance in the streets.

The reality is, though, in the end it was Malcolm Turnbull who got this done. And he should be given credit for that.

It was a messy process. It was risky. It was hurtful for those whose private relationships were dragged through a national debate.

And, since the for and against numbers were roughly unchanged throughout the entire process, it was evidently unnecessary.

But the effect of the national vote, and the strength of the Yes case, has cemented this change so firmly that no politician in their right mind would attempt turn it around in a future election.

And few, if any, will stand in the way of it being legislated before Christmas.

Even the fiercest opponents, like Tony Abbott and Cory Bernardi, have indicated they’ll abstain, rather than vote no in Parliament.

Allowing same-sex marriage is a big change.

Big changes require big fights.

And big fights make the celebrations that much sweeter.

Topics: government-and-politics, federal-government, liberals, marriage, gays-and-lesbians, turnbull-malcolm, canberra-2600

First posted November 17, 2017 16:00:17