Thu, Oct 05, 2017 - Page 5 News List

Marriage survey worst decision: ex-Australian PM

The Guardian

Former Australian prime minister Bob Hawke speaks at the National Press Club in Canberra yesterday.

Photo: EPA

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s A$122 million (US$95.8 million) postal survey on same-sex marriage is “the worst economic decision made by any Australian prime minister since federation,” former Australian prime minister Bob Hawke said yesterday.

Hawke made the comment at the National Press Club, joining former Australian minister of foreign affairs Gareth Evans in attacking the survey during the question-and-answer session of Evans’s speech about his book Incorrigible Optimist.

However, his intervention was blasted by another former prime minister, Tony Abbott, later yesterday, who accused Hawke of suffering from memory loss and recalled Hawke’s previous characterization of a pensioner who was critical of him as “a silly old bugger.”

Abbott, who is pushing for a no vote in the postal survey, told radio station 2GB that Hawke now needed to look in the mirror.

“You know I have a lot of respect for Bob Hawke as prime minister,” Abbott said. “He was a good prime minister by Labor standards, but some years ago he called a pensioner who gave him a hard time in a shopping center, I think the phrase he used was a silly old bugger.”

“I think it’s time Bob looked in the mirror, frankly,” he said.

Abbott said Hawke was suffering a memory lapse about wasteful Labor expenditure.

“Let’s face it, it was the former [Australian prime minister Julia] Gillard Labor government which spent A$16 billion on school halls — grotesquely overpriced school halls — including on schools which already had them,” Abbott said.

The stimulus package, including the school refurbishment program, was actually legislated while Kevin Rudd was prime minister, not during Gillard’s tenure.

During his appearance at the National Press Club, Hawke said that the postal survey “cannot produce a decision” because a bill to legislate marriage equality “still requires a vote of the parliament.”

“Whatever the result of the vote is, it costs 122 million bloody dollars,” he said. “Can you imagine a prime minister would make a decision in these stringent times, spending A$122 million on a process that can’t produce the result when you could do so much to reduce the gaps [in Aboriginal health and education]?

“Without any question, it’s the worst economic decision made by any Australian prime minister,” he said.

Evans said that, while Turnbull’s instincts were “decent and civilized,” he had “sold himself completely to the trogs [troglodytes] in his party” on both marriage and energy policy.

He said it was “screamingly obvious” the Australian community wanted same-sex marriage legalized.

“That is where the politicians should be prepared to go without resorting to the various divisive and indirect means of demonstrating that,” he said.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics on Tuesday reported that an estimated 57.5 percent of enrolled Australians have already cast their votes in the postal survey, with a month still to go.

Turnbull yesterday told the ABC’s AM program that the 57.5 percent turnout was a “great outcome.”

“What that tells you is that Australians wanted to have their say,” Turnbull said, accusing Labor of “playing politics with the issue.”

“I think it is a ringing endorsement of the government’s decision to give every Australian their say on this issue,” he said.

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