The thin end of the wedge on anti-discrimination law?

The latest attempt to derail equal marriage was a proposal by a group of conservatives to remove anti-discrimination provision to allow a wide range of discrimination against same-sex married couples. The leading proponent of the proposal was James Paterson who, like so many Liberal MPs, is a former staffer at the Institute of Public Affairs.

Press coverage duly noted that Paterson had answered “Yes” in the postal survey and described him as a supporter of individual liberty, but didn’t as far as I can tell ask the obvious question: is Paterson’s position on discrimination specific to this issue, or does he support a general right to discriminate on racial, religious and other grounds?

The public record isn’t very clear on this. Insofar as he’s said anything about anti-discrimination law, Paterson has been opposed. This is consistent with the orthodox propertarian position that employers, business and landlords should be free from any interference from government. However, so far, he has only made this point explicit in relation to equal marriage and racist speech (Section 18C). So, it would be good to have a clear statement as to whether the current bill is intended as the thin end of the wedge, or whether he sees equal marriage as a special case.

39 thoughts on “The thin end of the wedge on anti-discrimination law?

  1. BuzzFeed asked him about the narrower question of general discrimination with respect to marriages. The natural reading of his answer is that he’d propose allowing more discrimination if there was popular support for it:

    Some, including Labor MP Tim Watts, have criticised Paterson for targeting gay couples, pointing out the inconsistency of granting exemptions for same-sex weddings, but not other marriages people may dislike for religious or secular reasons – for instance interracial or interfaith marriages, or divorcees re-marrying.

    Paterson said it was simply a “practical or pragmatic” decision.

    “The only significant issue in which a large proportion of the community are calling for these sorts of protections is on the issue of same-sex marriage,” he told BuzzFeed News. “I’ve never heard anyone call for exemptions other than these.”

  2. The IPA are big on the position that the government preventing non-government tyranny (although they would not describe it as tyranny but a type of freedom), other than tyranny against the rich by the poor, is government tyranny.

  3. Paterson appears to be able to count and realising his bill has no chance of passing has withdrawn it. So it is like Monty Python’s parrot: dead, even if some might have you believe it is resting.

  4. @Smith
    The parrot might just be resting.

    Despite the euphoria from the “Yes” camp, the 60:40 result isn’t really that great an outcome – if 10% of the “yes” shifted to “no”, you’re 50:50, something I’m sure the “no” advocates in the L/NP will be making everyone well aware – and using to push their agendas. Given how weak Turnbull is, those thinking they’ve won the battle and it’s all over are in for some pain I suspect.

  5. @bjb

    Nah, 62% is can’t-argue-with-the-result territory. This was a big win. Even the human cane toad’s electorate voted yes decisively. There will be a few revanchists (there always are) but the bill will pass smoothly with probably very little in the way of concessions. There is no political need to give them a goddamn thing.

  6. i thought if you are getting married in a church or temple or such you have to belong to that religion.

    if you are rc you can’t get married in any church but an rc church.

    the same if you are anglican or presbyterian or jehovah witness.
    same for muslim or buddhist or hindu etc.

    if you are atheist or not a member of a particular way,

    you can’t just rock up to a denominational marriage celebrant and demand to get hitched.

    there are rules.

    always have been.

    a non denominational marriage celebrant doesn’t have to accept the job either as far as i know.

    where are the threats to religion?

  7. @bjb
    In politics I have noticed that there is a kind of ”rule of thirds”: In a binary election, a third will always support an issue or one of two likely parties, a third will always oppose, and a third can be persuaded to go either way. You almost never see all of the middle third go one way or the other. This is a vey rough and ready rule of thumb and a “third”, in extreme cases shrink to a quarter or swell to nearly a half. But this isn’t an extreme case, there is no huge crisis, war, recession, etc and its not about now entrenched universal values, women’s vote, aboriginal citizenship etc, so by this reckoning the Yes campaign has managed to snare about 80% of the ‘swing’ vote. A major victory for the yes campaign I would say.

  8. bjb,

    If they are so inclined they won’t even need to push that line.

    Turnout was 79.5%
    “Yes” was 61.6% of the turnout

    .616 x 79.5 = 48.972%

    Therefore, “less than half of the electorate voted for SSM” is already factually correct.

    If ALP and Greens hadn’t blocked the plebiscite the result would have been more like 60%.

    If your ultra-conservatives get their way and stymy SSM in the short term using that argument, it will largely be Labor’s fault for playing games with an issue they say is genuinely important.

  9. Please excuse this levity, if you will. Is James Paterson the love child of Sir Les Patterson?

  10. James Paterson is a great proposer of ideas he knows won’t get up. It is a form of public ritual purification and renewal for the IPA brethren.. Remember his calls for the sale of Blue Poles in order to reduce the “budget deficit”.

  11. I wonder if Paterson is a supporter of secondary boycotts. Logic says he should be, but somehow I doubt it…

  12. “i thought if you are getting married in a church or temple or such you have to belong to that religion.”

    That’s not the case. What is done is, you find the church you want to get married in, then you join that religion, then you pay the administration fee, the booking fee, the confetti bond, the fee for a man in a frock who knows what god likes, and then you get married, and then it’s, “Yeah, bye.”

    Generally people have no more “joined the religion” when they get married in a nice looking god house than you have read the terms and conditions when you tick the box at the bottom of a software agreement. Like you and the software, couples getting married usually just want what they’ve paid for.

    The religious corporations are fine with it. Some of these worship halls are on prime real estate and they’ve got to make a return on that capital somehow.

  13. how can any legislation change sane sex marriage ( no it isn’t equal )?

    any proposed legislation looks at areas other then ‘marriage’ as it must when you completely change an institution.

    I’m afraid john as usual has gone overboard. homosexuals ( both male and female) constitute around 1-2% of the population. As it is very few of them want to get ‘married’ Moreover the proportion of the population who would be both in commerce and feel they could not produce said commerce to a homosexual marriage would be equally small.
    Given Roman times were at least as bad as now in terms of paganism and there is noting in the New Testament about about not selling goods to pagans for pagan purposes the problem seems to me to be moot.

    It seems to me if you do not want to sell you goods or services to some-one you do not want for whatever reason you merely price way too high.
    Problem solved!

  14. I can’t see what problems the religions have.
    80% or so of all marriages in Australia are performed by Civil Celebrants.
    That is only 20% of Oz marriages are performed by official Religious Officers.

    Its reasonable to assume that an easy 5% of those religious official have no problem performing SSM.

    Upper estimates of LGQBTI etc are around 10% – 15% of population.
    Its probably fair to say that less than 50% of those wish to get married.
    Even less wish to get married in a Catholic or Muslim church.
    Even less wish to get married in a fundamentalist Christian Church like Exclusive Brethren or a Happy Clappy cult like Catch The Fire Ministries.

    Whichever way you cut the figures its likely that SSM will effect about 2/45th of SFA of religions.

  15. Might be a bit off-topic here, but the survey result brings in to question what it means to be a representative democracy. The likes of Cory Bernardi bang on that they’re ‘listening to their constituents’ and expressing a view consistent with what they claim the people he represents feel.

    I wonder where that leaves the Labor politicians in western Sydney, and the Liberals who are opposed to SSM, but the people in their electorate they ostensibly represent are in favour of SSM ? Does this means politicians can no longer bang on that they’re listening to their constituents ? What does it mean if I vote for a party that generally is in line with my view of the world, but if it’s clear a majority have a view different to the party platform, or the individual politician’s view, who’s view should prevail ?

  16. @bjb
    It’s a really good point. That’s why I believe the more independents in parliament, the stronger and more representative the democracy. When you listen to a minister of one of the major parties offer a view on an issue, you have no idea what’s influencing that view – their constituency, the national view, their personal opinion, towing party lines decided by most powerful faction, towing party lines decided via major party donors, towing factional lines via their preselectors etc. So many thumbs on the pulse.

  17. Troy Prideaux :
    It’s a really good point. That’s why I believe the more independents in parliament, the stronger and more representative the democracy. When you listen to a minister of one of the major parties offer a view on an issue, you have no idea what’s influencing that view – their constituency, the national view, their personal opinion, towing party lines decided by most powerful faction, towing party lines decided via major party donors, towing factional lines via their preselectors etc. So many thumbs on the pulse.


    this brings us to the change to the right to stand for election (brought about with the help of the greens) in the wake of the recent election that had heaps of people standing.

    oh they were miffed.

    what i couldn’t understand is why they thought the electoral people running the show were unable to do their job because it was a bit bigger than usual.

    the principle of having and MP who passes all elimination preferences gives us representatives that represent as many people in their electorate as possible.

    as opposed to the first passed the post system where the ones who did not choose that representative can be safely ignored.

  18. @Troy Prideaux

    It’s the capitalists and corporatists who tell government ministers and shadow ministers what to say and do on all issues except so-called “matters of conscience”. This essentially means they tell them what to say and do on all matters of political economy. Only a real fear of democratic backlash sometimes holds our bought politicians (bought by campaign donations) back from always doing what big money tells them. We need to change this or democracy will always be fragile and often ineffective. The laws which privilege the rich and corporations need to be rejected by the populace and repealed in total. It’s the only way.

  19. The proportion of intersex people may be as high as 4% but is probably about 2%. The LGBTI total must be well north of 10%, especially if you count bi-sexuals who wouldn’t say so out loud, let alone in their own head. What proportion of straight identifying people could easily have been otherwise in a different life ? I would guess 50 to 100 % (relying on theory alone might suggest 100%).The self appointed ‘normals’ are in a smaller majority than they think, hence the fear. In any case the corpratocracy can easily incorporate the gay marriage or LGBTI rights social shift like it has so many others. It will be subsumed on acceptable terms .It’s marriage after all, not a revolution ;- remember that originally rock music made them tremble.

  20. I wouldn’t call it a victory for democracy, Ikono, but Turnbull’s interfering with the gas industry in an attempt to lower electricity prices and help some industries is a clearly going against the interests of Santos, and, most astoundingly for the coalition, coal, as coal generators been raking in the money since Australia’s natural gas prices approached international levels.

    While the CEO of Santos has far more influence over government policy than you are me or possibly even both of us put together, it seems that even being a giant fossil fuel extraction industry won’t allow them to potentially octuple Australia’s natural gas prices in peace if a sitting PM thinks it will cost him the next election.

  21. @Ronald B

    The capitalists are not all-powerful. They are still far too powerful. I think Australia’s democracy is somewhat more effective than the USA’s.

  22. “It seems to me if you do not want to sell you goods or services to some-one you do not want for whatever reason you merely price way too high.
    Problem solved!”

    Yes there is really no problem for a small business that does not want to do work for any particular customer; there are many ways to deter customers that one does not want.

    The right wing so-called Christians who are making such a big deal about this are virtue signalling or something.


    “Does this means politicians can no longer bang on that they’re listening to their constituents ?”

    Listening to the majority of the constituents in my electorate – Groom – would make anyone despair about the future of the human species but since the incumbent is just as lacking in ability to think about anything except a narrow shallow view of what life is all about, it is not a problem for him.

    “who’s view should prevail”

    How about the notion of the common good as a concept that we could develop and use as a guide?

    “When citizens face various questions about legislation, public policy or social responsibility, they resolve these questions by appeal to a conception of the relevant facilities and the relevant interests. That is, they argue about what facilities have a special claim on their attention, how they should expand, contract or maintain existing facilities, and what facilities they should design and build in the future.”

  23. I’m sure that Paterson’s bill was a stalking horse for a more general dilution or eradication of all anti discrimination law. He indicated his thinking in his maiden speech where he professed his love (“close to my heart”) of freedom of speech quoting anti slaver Frederick Douglass “To suppress free speech is a double wrong. It violates the rights of the hearer as well as those of the speaker.”

    By coming out in support of the Yes vote Paterson tried to sneak his freedom to discriminate under the guise of freedom of religion.

    The Law Council President rightly identified Paterson’s bill as an attack on existing anti discrimination rights saying “The right to freedom of religion also appears in international law. While the freedom to have religious beliefs is also protected unconditionally, the manifestation or expression of those beliefs or religion may be subject to limitation where it impacts upon other fundamental rights.”

    Paterson needs to better understand that the rights of the hearer cannot be traded for other rights.

  24. may :
    where are the threats to religion?

    Every time the hierarchy is successfully defied, it encourages people to think that the hierarchy can be successfully defied.

  25. @D

    And, by your reasoning the percentage of the Australian population who voted NO is

    .384*79.5 = 30.528%

    The ratio of YES/No vote remains constant at 1.604.

    Now, where does this leave your ‘fact’?

    A response rate for a postal survey of 79.5% is impressively high and so is the ratio of 1.6 in favour of YES.

  26. Ernestine,

    It’s not MY reasoning, it’s mathematical fact. Just as your calculation is.

    The difference is that only you are supposing it to encompass that ‘percentage of the Australian population’.

    So, that leaves my ‘fact’… factual.

    Unless you are trying to argue that more than 50% of the electorate voted ‘Yes’, what’s your point?

    Maybe you want to suggest that ALP blocking the compulsory plebiscite was a good idea. I don’t think it was, I think it was cruelly playing pointless partisan games of the most despicable kind – typical of Shorten’s extreme-right ALP.

  27. D,

    The mathematical fact of relevance in your argument is that if the value of the denominator in a simple division is changed then the result changes. You apply this mathematical fact in a biased manner:

    Survey result:
    1. Y/S = x1
    2. N/S = x2
    3. x1+x2 = 1

    Your argument:
    1. Y/E = y1 S

    You are wrong in asserting that my calculation is the same as yours because I checked that y1+y2= 1 (implied in the stated ratio).

    I want to suggest nothing more than your initial post irritated me enough to reply. To be frank, I didn’t expect a reply.

  28. D,

    Some notation doesn’t seem to work. I try again, using letters.

    Your argument:
    1. Y/E = y1 LT x1 where E GT S.

    LT denotes “less than” and GT denotes “greater than”.

  29. @D

    Everybody who has followed this issue knows that the opposition of Labor and the Greens to a public vote reflected the position of same sex marriage advocates, so why are you bothering to do this? Who do you think you are fooling?

    If you want to attack Labor on this issue, why don’t you do so in a sensible manner? There’s plenty of blame to go around, starting with the Latham opposition’s support for Howard’s amendments to the Marriage Act.

  30. To unpack/expand: support for a vote is support for the notion that baseline rights are subject to vote and approval. And thus vote and disapproval: if you wouldn’t support a referendum to see whether equal-marriage rights should be removed, then you can’t support a referendum to see that they should be recognised.

    [and in any case, there’s nothing you can do to argue with bigots, definitionally, so structuring your process to provide rhetorical tools against bigots is… misguided.]

  31. @Julie Thomas
    “How about the notion of the common good as a concept that we could develop and use as a guide? ”
    Good luck with that, when most people seem to be at least two of greedy, selfish and stupid.

    The LNP’s basic manifesto is to preference personal profit over common good.

    When you have the war mongering lying rodent up here campaigning for the LNP, and claiming the Greens are the most dangerous party there is, well, you know there’s just about no hope.

  32. everybody has moments of being greedy,selfish and stupid.

    the same as everybody can elicit individual traits included in the condition psychopathy.

    we all live with that but not that many have all those traits all the time and are in positions of influence and/or authority.

    their was a lib MP who said in parliament that his “religion was a refuge not a platform”.

    while not impressed with ideologists as a tribe (as such),

    i can live with that

  33. @bjb

    yeah we will need some good luck but I’m of the opinion, despite living among the barbarians in regional Qld and even having a neighbour who has put up a vote for One Nation election sign that the greedy selfish and stupid human tendencies that are so apparent are not a necessary feature of human nature.

    At some stage surely it has to become apparent to enough people that there is such a thing as society and that the vast majority of individuals benefit more from living in a non-discriminatory society that aims for equality of opportunity for all than they do from living in an individualist competitive non society in which only those able to take advantage of less able individuals prosper.

    Of course such an ideal society is a ‘horizon value’ but as in the quest for individual enlightenment, the pathway toward this state is as important as the destination.

    The common good is recognised by Catholics if not all ‘true’ Christians as a concept and has been part of the philosophy of western civilisation for a long time and there are a lot of ideas about what it is or could be. Perhaps it is only libertarian philosophy that denies that there is a society and a common good?

    So it shouldn’t be impossible to create a conversation in which enough people are introduced to the concept and recognise it as an idea that we have ignored for too long.

    Also, human nature is capable of both right wing tendencies – that is people can turn out to be greedy, selfish and stupid – or they can be left wing – we can grow to be generous to our fellow humans, see the benefits for ourselves in acting fairly and having self-insight and as May points out most of us are both at times.

    What is it that makes it more likely that people will become right wing than left wing? Right wing ism isn’t genetic so there must be a way to create people who are capable of understanding the rationality of collectivism over individualism and behaving sanely rather than being psychopaths or sociopaths.

  34. Conservatives were not concerned about religious freedoms whilst Muslim bashing for votes. I think it was J Lambie who wanted CCTV in all mosques. Also a 51% win in an election is often said to be a mandate ,now they are suddenly worried about the losers feelings?

    Fear of others seems easier to generate than trust ,especially when our society has been one of winners and losers for so long now . There are several generations with experience of nothing but greed is good society .The Left and Right face the same enemy -grotesque inequality. Rightists have just been fooled into blaming foreigners for it. Still, I am optimistic -hoping for a youthquake.

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