Gay Marriage

An Open Letter to Tony Abbott’s Daughters

Dear Louise, Bridget & Frances,

Hi girls. You don’t know me but I know you. Only from TV of course, but I still feel an affinity with you. I hope you don’t mind me contacting you. I guess it’s pretty hard to stay anonymous when your dad’s running for Prime Minister, hey? It’s just that I’ve been watching these past few months as you’ve stood loyally beside him, and I really feel the need to reach out to you and say you’re not alone – I too have an embarrassing dad.

I know all too well what it’s like to have a loose cannon for a father, although I admit from the outset you girls have it way worse than I do. My dad isn’t in the public eye. No one other than my mother and brother generally hear the daft things he comes out with, unless he’s saying it on facebook. Oh god, there’s a thought. Your father doesn’t have an account does he? I can just imagine what he’d be like commenting on your photos:

 “Hey Lou, what boat did that Asian mate of yours come in on? Must‘ve been on Julia’s watch. LOL!”

“Bridget, is that your boyfriend in the pink shirt? LMAO, poofy much?!”

“Franny, is that guy wearing a Jesus Is My Homeboy t-shirt? OMG! WHERE CAN I GET ONE???”

No, you need to keep him well away from facebook. Social media and embarrassing dads go together about as well as teenage girls and Bacardi Breezers. They get silly and uncontrollable. I learned that the hard way, trust me. My father now has his own fan base amongst my facebook friends because he’s always divulging personal information about my formative years. They think its endearing; I think its grounds for patricide. I should probably block him altogether now I think about it. But I digress.

My point is I know what it’s like to cringe in anticipation every time your dad opens his mouth in public. I know what it’s like to tense up when an obviously gay waiter serves him in a restaurant, or when the bank teller is Asian and asking too many questions. I know that overweight people are like a red rag to a bull, and women in burkas are…ugh, let’s not go there. Having an unpredictable maniac for a father can be so damn mortifying, can’t it? I know there’s an unwritten rule that dads are supposed to embarrass their daughters any chance they get, but some put more effort in than others. I’ve wanted the ground to swallow me up on more than one occasion. The day dad told a ‘woolly woofer’ joke to two blokes not realising they were actually a couple was a highlight, as was the time he mistook a man’s wife for his mother and made some comment along the lines of “what time do you have to have her back at the home?” Groan. The man needs a muzzle.

It’d be easy to write them off as old farts from another generation, but your dad’s 20 years younger than mine. I guess that actually makes my dad pretty groovy by comparison, seeing as he supports marriage equality and believes women are capable of making informed decisions about their reproductive systems without state or religious intervention. Maybe a life of ardent Catholicism has aged your dad prematurely. All that altar wine can’t be good for you. Thankfully my dad has never actually described my virginity as “a precious gift”, although he has jokingly offered cash incentives to any bloke who can successfully put a stop to my lesbianism. At least I think it was a joke. Who can tell? Dad jokes are seldom actually funny. And I don’t think he’d even know there’s a vaccine available for cervical cancer, let alone actively seek to discourage me from getting it (just on the virginity thing – did your dad even know the status of your virginity at the time? I mean, I tell my dad virtually everything, but we’ve never had that conversation).

Look, I know your dad’s not all bad; I’m sure neither of our fathers actively set out to offend. But the difference is mine does occasionally give the impression of not wanting to insult people. I’m not sure ol’ Tony’s ever bothered to concern himself with what’s considered offensive. I mean that thing he said the other day about marriage equality being “radical change based on the fashion of the moment” as opposed to a matter of human rights was a real doozy. Guess that’ll make for a pretty interesting Christmas lunch if your aunt’s there this year, huh? Even worse than the Christmas my dad told a ‘curry muncher’ joke in front of my brother’s Sri Lankan girlfriend. Oh, the memories… 

And then there’s that thing about turning back the boats, despite the majority of Australians wanting to see a refugee solution that’s far more humane. We all know he must have been joking when he said it because no one in their right mind would think that was smart policy, but it made him sound like he’d just flown in from 1954. Surely he’s not that out of touch with the rest of the country?

Even the day my dad inexplicably gave the finger to a couple I’d waved at seconds prior because he assumed they were friends (they were actually clients, but even so, who spontaneously gives the finger to strangers?!) pales in comparison to Tony’s sex appeal comment. Good thing Mark Latham waded in to the fracas with an even bigger clanger. Lucky that dude only has sons!

You have got one up on me though. You’ve managed to convince your dad not to wear the budgie smugglers in public, whereas I’ve never been able to convince dad his Speedos aren’t a good look. God knows what it will take to get my father out of them. Scissors, probably.


My father. Like I said, I feel your pain.

Anyway girls, my advice is to try not to let it get the better of you. A lot of us have complete nutters for fathers, minus the ever present media attention of course. Which I guess actually points to the fact that none of us really have any idea what it’s like to be you. Except perhaps Jessica Rudd. You  wouldn’t believe the crap her dad puts on twitter…

Best of luck reining the old boy in between now and September 7,


Marriage Equality, Let’s Get On With It.

Fifteen years ago I was on a Qantas flight approaching Auckland when the pilot came over the loud speaker to give his final address before landing. As he signed off, he came out with

“Ladies and gentlemen, local time is 3pm. Don’t forget to set your watches forward three hours, and your calendars back 30 years.”

New Zealand jokes, I’ve heard a few. I was a Kiwi joke myself for a while. Despite emigrating to Australia when I was only a few months old, I spoke like quite the little New Zealunder by the time I reached primary school – and my classmates showed no mercy. I was constantly teased for the way I said pool, or dancing, and just generally considered a bit ‘thuck.’ I still get ribbed when people find out I was born in Gisborne. Extracting the urine from Kiwis is a national pastime in Australia, even I do it, but it’s getting increasingly difficult to make those jokes without sounding like a massive one yourself. The haberdasher’s on the main street of Oamaru may still have the same fabric in the window that they did in 1961 (true story, ask my mother) but New Zealand is a lot further ahead than Australia in other areas.

Despite a persistent reputation as the world’s wallflower, New Zealand has been quietly proving itself as the thinking person’s nation. They were the first country to give all women the vote, and the first country to elect an openly transsexual politician to office. They declared themselves nuclear free before any other nation, and they had a female prime minister thirteen years before Australia got there. Last week’s vote to allow amendments to the marriage act, thereby making them the first country in the Asia Pacific region to achieve marriage equality, is only the most recent of a long history of socially progressive decisions. Yet Australia still thinks of New Zealand as a naïve little cousin.

A friend pointed out this week that Australia has appropriated so many of New Zealand’s best exports – Kimbra, Crowded House, Phar Lap, pavlova – but seems unable to adopt even a little of their social awareness. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’d happily return Russell Crowe and Rebecca Gibney for just a slice of New Zealand’s commitment to social inclusion.

We’re pretty proud of our laconic, larrikin reputation, but it doesn’t get much done, does it? The footage of New Zealand parliament’s overwhelming vote in favour of marriage equality has been broadcast all over the world, despite it being a week that included the Boston Marathon bombing, and ongoing tensions in Iraq leaving 119 civilians dead. Julia Gillard said she was “unmoved” by New Zealand’s ruling, but she must have been the only one who was. Juxtaposed against the footage of people running injured in Boston or lying on makeshift hospital beds in Iraq, the five minutes of footage of New Zealand politicians embracing openly lesbian MP Louisa Hall as the public gallery broke spontaneously into a version of Poekarekare Ana seemed to transfix the world.  To me, that shows the planet is desperate for more acts of love, respect and inclusion and less focus on what divides us all.

If ever we needed proof that our national predilection for apathy is no longer working for us, this is it. We’re busy taking the piss out of Julia Gillard’s jackets, but not her stubborn inability to learn and adapt to the changing world around her. What’s New Zealand doing? Oh, they’re just making genuine changes that improve the lives of their less equal citizens.

It’s time we got serious and started to demand more than wardrobe changes from our politicians. As a nation, we’re in danger of looking like a social backwater. Nothing highlights this better than our current stance on marriage equality. The latest data shows 64% of Australians believe marriage equality should happen; it is ONLY the politicians standing in the way. If we really wanted to do something about it, we could. We actually could. Those of us who believe in equality are no longer the minority, but we’re allowing ourselves to be represented that way.  With the exception of a very small group of highly motivated activists, our commitment to changing the existing marriage laws goes as far as clicking yes or no in an online survey, but armchair protesting can only take an issue so far. If we’re not willing to get off our arses and really force the issue en masse it won’t happen.

The overwhelming reaction to marriage equality is that most people are sick of talking about. I’m sick of talking about it too. We need to stop acting like a mother nagging her kid to clean their room, and simply put our collective feet down. Enough is enough. Everyone needs to get involved in this, not just the GLBTIQ community. We need our families and our friends, and the wider community, to step up and show their support. Basically we need that 64% to become highly, and undeniably, visible.

We also need to stop clutching at economic straws, such as what gay marriage and the pink dollar will do for the economy, because it’s detracting from the real wrongdoing. Equality should not be reduced to financial reasons. I should be allowed to marry a woman because I love her, not because a politician can see financial gain in it. For someone to tell me I’ve been granted a basic human right solely on the basis of economy doesn’t make me respected. It makes me a commodity. The “Gay Bridal Registry” may well end up a lucrative by-product of marriage equality, but it shouldn’t be a main reason for doing it. That’s like only getting married for the presents, not the lover.

If we can do that, then as far as I can see there’s nothing stopping us from joining New Zealand. Well, except one. We need something to sing in parliament too, a song that’s Australia’s answer to Poekarekare Ana, because I’m pretty sure the old “Aussie Aussie Aussie, Oi Oi Oi” thing just isn’t going to cut it.

by Caz.