Tag Archives: Australia

The Will Of The People

Today, the 15th November 2017, the results of the (non-binding) Australian Marriage Law Postal Survey were revealed. Voters were asked the question, “Should the law be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry?” They had two options – ‘Yes’ or ‘No.’ The result was a 61.6% vote in favour of ‘Yes.’ The turnout (defined here as legally cast votes) was 79.3%.

On the 23rd June, 2016, the United Kingdom held a (advisory) referendum to decide whether or not it should remain a part of the European Union. Voters were asked the question, “Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?” They had two options – ‘Remain a member of the European Union’ or ‘Leave the European Union.’ The result was a 51.9% vote in favour of ‘Leave.’ The turnout (defined here as legally cast votes) was 72.2%.

On the surface, these two scenarios and outcomes may appear very similar. They are not. Unfortunately, we now need to talk about statistics. The data is everything, because it tells us what is really happening. Please bear with me. I will be as terse as I can.

In the Australian Marriage Equality Survey, 7,817,247 voted ‘Yes.’ Frustratingly (if, like me, you are a supporter of marriage equality), this equates to 48.8% of the total electorate (16,006,180), thus falling just short of an overall majority. So, not then ‘the will of the people.’ Or is it? To achieve more than 50% of the total electorate, 8,003,091 votes were required. The ‘Yes’ vote was only 185,844 short of this target – or 5.6% of those who did not vote. Is it reasonable to assume they would obtain these votes were it possible to ask the non-voters? Yes of course it is. In fact, it’s practically guaranteed that they would. Therefore, the result of this survey can and should be considered the will of the people, and the Australian government should move to legalise same-sex marriage immediately. Happily, their Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, has already indicated that he wishes to change the law by Christmas.

In the UK’s EU Referendum, 17,410,742 voted ‘Leave.’ This equates to 37.4% of the total electorate (46,500,001), well short of an overall majority. The ‘Leave’ vote required 5,839,259 more votes to achieve over 50% of the electorate – that’s 45.1% of those who did not vote. Is it reasonable to assume they would obtain these votes were it possible to ask the non-voters? No. The data suggests strongly that the total electorate is in favour of remaining in the European Union. 62.5% of people under the age of 50 voted ‘Remain’ and we know that the over 65s were twice as likely to have voted as people under 25. Clearly then, leaving the European Union cannot and should not be considered the will of the people.

The key factors in all of this are the margin of victory and the voter turnout. ‘Yes’ won by 23.2% in Australia, with a 79.3% turnout – a clear and resounding victory. By contrast, ‘Leave’ in the UK won by just 3.8%, with a 72.2% turnout – ambiguous to say the least. Thus, while Australia unites and rejoices, the UK becomes ever more divided as it stumbles towards the EU exit door with no apparent plan in place and a government that looks distinctly out of its depth.

There was of course a very easy way to avoid this situation. When devising the grounds upon which they would agree to act in response to the results of the referendum, the UK government should have required certain criteria to have been met. A minimum 75% voter turnout and a 5% margin of victory seem to be the obvious choices. It is unconscionable that the Tories were so irresponsible as to not put these safeguards in place.

It would be remiss of me also not to point out that, while marriage equality is something one could expect the public to fully understand and make an informed decision on, the consequences of leaving the EU are not (especially when so much misinformation was spread during the campaigns). Therefore, the UK’s EU referendum should never have taken place to begin with.

Alas, the EU referendum was only advisory and Article 50 can be revoked. It is now the duty of the UK government to acknowledge that not only did ‘Leave’ fail to win an overall majority of the total electorate, but that it never could have. It should then cancel the process of leaving the European Union and focus its energy instead on effecting change from within. One might almost say it should, ahem, take back control.

2014 – Another Year In Denial

ISIS

So it’s been another big year for religion.  As such, it’s almost impossible to list all of its ‘achievements’ but below are some ‘highlights’:

In terms of wars, we’ve seen the growth of ISIS as they conquered large areas of Syria and Iraq, murdering, enslaving and raping tens of thousands of people in the process, and beheading four western journalists and an aid worker. We’ve witnessed yet another outbreak of violence between Israel and Palestine, resulting in the deaths of approximately 2,200 people, many of whom were innocent non-combatants. There has been a continuation of the bloodletting in the Central African Republic between Christians and Muslims, causing an unknown number of civilian casualties – but 5,000 is considered a very conservative estimate. Boko Haram, the Nigerian Islamic group, have moved on from hit and run attacks to holding territory in the North East of the country, displacing over half a million people while doing so, and murdering at least 2,000 just between January and June of this year (a total number for the whole year is unknown), to say nothing of their habit of kidnapping and raping pre-pubescent girls by the truckload. Finally, the fight against the Taliban in both Pakistan and Afghanistan continues to rage, with atrocities a regular occurrence, the worst of which we learned about only 2 weeks ago when 132 school children were shot and killed with automatic weapons at a school in Peshawar (9 teachers were also killed). Of course, though I will not make the case here, one could also argue that the conflict between Russia and Ukraine is in part religiously motivated. Certainly much of Putin’s disdain for the West is linked to our increasingly secular, humanist and moral outlook that flies in the face of his professed and apparently sincere Orthodoxy.

With regards to religiously inspired terrorist attacks on Western soil, in the last few weeks alone there have been deadly strikes in Ottawa, Canada, in Nantes, France and in Sydney, Australia.

One thing that should instantly leap out at you from the above information is that this is truly a global struggle, with every continent regularly falling victim to attacks by individuals or armies high on religion. Last year of course, we had to endure the assault on the oilfield in In Amenas, Algeria, the Boston Marathon bombing in the US and the vicious murder of Lee Rigby on the streets of London, England, to name but three corners of the globe forced to mourn the loss of innocents.

In a sane universe, something like the following would make sense:

In response to the threat of religiously motivated violence, the world’s 2 billion atheists, along with the moderate faithful and the many leaders across the West in particular, are decrying these outrages against humanity in no uncertain terms. They are highlighting the obvious link between some religious texts and the actions of certain groups and individuals and demanding that these scriptural passages are universally rejected as simply wrong and pronounced as incompatible with a desire for a peaceful, moral and tolerant world. They are not only insisting that all religious leaders drive through reform from within their communities but furthermore are doing all that they can to intercept the passing on of terrible ideas to the next generation by attempting to ensure that every child receives a modern, secular education, free from religious dogma. Finally and more generally, the separation of church and state is being steadfastly defended and reinforced.

Unfortunately however, we appear not to live in this sane universe, but one parallel to it, where truth and logic are strangers. Here is David Cameron’s response to the massacre of 132 children in Peshawar:

“There is not a belief system in the world that can justify this sort of appalling act. I think what this shows is the worldwide threat that is posed by this poisonous ideology of extremist Islamist terrorism. It is nothing to do with one of the world’s great religions – Islam, which is a religion of peace.”

Here is US president, Barack Obama, on ISIS:

“ISIS is not Islamic because Islam is a religion of peace.”

After the self-appointed Iranian Muslim cleric Man Haron Monis, a man previously known for his habit of writing crude letters to the families of Australian soldiers killed in Afghanistan, walked into the Lindt Café in Sydney (incidentally, an establishment I have visited myself) with a shotgun and a black flag with the Shahada (the Islamic declaration of faith) written on it, and murdered two innocent people and shot a policeman in the face, Tony Abbott, the Australian Prime Minister, spoke these words:

“(Man Haron Monis) is a deeply unstable person with a long history of violence and mental illness… I guess one of the encouraging things is there are less and less of people trying to explain and justify terrorism in the name of religion.”

This mindless currying of favour with the public, rather than making nuanced arguments, is not only popular with politicians; some celebrities are also big fans, as was demonstrated recently by ‘Affleck-gate’. In the video below, mediocre American actor Ben Affleck loses both his marbles and his manners when he calls comedian Bill Maher, and author and neuroscientist Sam Harris “gross” and “racist” merely for articulating some of the undeniable intolerance and inequality that exists in parts of the Muslim world toward women, free-thinkers and homosexuals:

Video Link

At this moment in time, there appears to be no discernible plan at all by Western politicians to find a way out of the circle of violence.  I’m sorry to have to sign off the year on such a low.

 

“Islamophobia; a word created by fascists, and used by cowards, to manipulate morons.”

– Someone on Twitter