Let's thank Turnbull for cancelling a week of parliament

Remember just a few short weeks ago when everyone was outraged the government cancelled a parliamentary sitting week? Were we all drunk?

Sure, the cancellation was for transparently political reasons – with two MPs knocked out due to citizenship dramas, the government couldn't control all votes in the House of Representatives.

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Katter's unique argument

Hear the interesting reason why Bob Katter won't be spending any time worrying about the passage of marriage equality through the parliament.

It cancelled parliament because it wanted to avoid public embarrassment. But at least the decision saved us another week of mutually destructive tit-for-tat on citizenship matters, and even more debate on same-sex marriage, an issue which the Australian public decided on some time ago, but which the collective political super-ego has felt necessary to draw out long past the time sensible people lost patience with it.

The legalisation of same-sex marriage was a vibrant, joyous and historic moment, but as a progressive cause, it owed much more to the activists dancing on the front lawn outside Parliament House, than to anyone congratulating themselves inside it.

Even though the people had well and truly decided the issue with a resounding postal survey result, the politicians had to have their two bobs' worth on the same-sex marriage vote.

That included MPs like the Member for Kennedy Bob Katter, whose speech to the house on Wednesday night was bonkers even by the standards of his usual crocodile-and-ethanol-infused oratory.


Just a few weeks ago Katter stated, on the matter of same-sex marriage, that "I won't be spendin' any more time on it" because his focus was the more substantial issue of crocodile attacks in Queensland.

One person is taken by a croc every three months, he asserted, less-than-factually, in a press conference that went viral globally because it was so delightfully Australian, which is to say, it showed us to be rednecks.

Katter's speech on Wednesday night was certainly homophobic, but it was more than that too. It was homophobia as expressed by someone who has taken mescaline and the hallucinations are just starting to hit.

He said that 72 children were "injected with AIDS" because the ban on gay men giving blood was lifted (not entirely true – gay men are still banned from giving blood if they've had homosexual sex in the last 12 months).

He said that all Australia's AIDS patients were either intravenous drug users or "people participating in that sort of behaviour" – like many homophobes, Katter seems simultaneously obsessed with gay sex and reliant on euphemism to describe it.

Not content to just bring up AIDS – a disease which, thankfully, has largely been eradicated in Australia – Katter then seemed to call gay people murderers.

I'm not making this up. It's all there in Hansard: "I watched on television last night a murder case involving two people of that persuasion. When I came to the office today my chief of staff, who, I might add, voted yes, said, 'You'd better write' – so and so – 'a card or something'. I said, 'What's that all about?' 'Oh,' she said, 'the son got murdered. He was in a homosexual relationship.' We all know about the Versace case. This was another case. There's no doubt there is a DNA thing there, and some people can handle it but a lot of people can't. And there is a very, very ugly side to this, where the curtain comes down and we're not allowed to talk about it."

A little reminder here that Katter is drawing a salary of $200,000 a year, paid for by the taxpayer, before we scroll forward to the beltingly insane conclusion to his speech, in which he seemed to argue that gay marriage would lead to a decline in the population and possibly the ultimate extinction of "the race".

Which race? Mercifully, Katter did not specify.

Manager of government business Christopher Pyne spoke for Australia when he interjected and said, "Bobby, this is rubbish", and soon after, Katter's time ran out.

But next day he was at it again, cranking up the demented pinball machine of his consciousness to speak on amendments to the same-sex marriage legislation (none of which were passed).

This time Katter recycled old material about how gay people have stolen the word "gay", which used to just mean light of heart.

"They took the word gay off us now they're taking the word marriage off us," he said.

The man who brought us the "plebiscite" idea, former Prime Minister Tony Abbott, and said he would respect the result, left the chamber for the vote. It was a non-decision which could not have reflected more poorly on him – particularly as 75 per cent of his electorate voted "yes".

The only other topic of the week was the ongoing citizenship quagmire, an issue of which the average voter surely lost track some time ago, but which has probably done more to erode faith in the parliament than anything else this year.

On citizenship, politicians were exposed as unable to comply with the sorts of basic obligations all job applicants, or applicants for government benefits, are required to comply with routinely.

On same-sex marriage, politicians were unable to take a decision themselves, and then, once the people had spoken, seemed to re-discover their voices and find the will to again brandish their opinions, at great length.

Parliament has risen for 2017. The joy in the chamber as the marriage result carried was a rare transcendent moment, and an example of the power of bipartisanship. If we could carry that spirit through to 2018, and leave much of the rest behind, the country would be better for it.

Twitter @JacquelineMaley

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