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I have a soft spot in my heart for Australia, and I have spent a lot of time there over the years.

Usually I was visiting to check on my mining investments. I got into uranium on the ground floor after a particularly drunken weekend with the Roosevelts in early 1939. Once Eleanor had a couple of my special gimlets under her belt, you could get anything out of her (and I mean anything). It was a very lucrative couple of days.

I've also visited in a more professional capacity. After I had assisted in resettling Harold Holt into his new life as a Thai ladyboy, I got a bit of a reputation in the service for being able to speak Australian, and so I was sent there several times for fieldwork. For a few years in the 60s, it felt like we were overthrowing a new Prime Minister every year or so.

In between, I fell in love with Australia a little bit. What can I tell you? It's a nation of burly footballers in short shorts whose idea of a big weekend is to not stop from the weekend before, and whose idea of moderation is to have a bit of a spew so more beer fits in. It makes decent wine and you can have good e and an ounce of dope delivered to your hotel room within an hour of your plane landing. It has hopping rats and tree bears and more things to make fur coats out of than you can poke a dead dingo at. What's not to love?

Happily, there is a sanity still to their political discourse that has long been missing in these United States - if indeed it ever existed. It even extends (on occasion) to their legislatures - a right that hasn't gone full nutcase and which sometimes recalls the old meanings of the words "conservative" and "liberal", a centre that is actually in the centre, and a left that even gets to have a say in running the country every now and then.

At the moment, the Australians are having a go at the gay marriage debate, with mixed results. The Prime Minister, Julia Gillard wishes the whole thing would go away and is floundering pathetically as a result, while the best the religious right can come up with is the usual "won't someone think of the children, next it will be donkeys marrying cows" guff:

The survey also shows that this issue is not just about rights for homosexual people but also about the responsibility of society to always act in the best interests of children. ...

A substantial proportion of Australians are also concerned about the possibility of changes to the Marriage Act having unintended consequences.

However, the debate in the ruling Labor party is not whether legislation should be introduced - it seems a foregone conclusion that the Labor Party conference will support it - but whether any parliamentary vote should be a conscience vote for Labor members.

In practice, a conscience vote on this matter is not democratic. The majority opinion of the party is clear and the majority opinion of the public is clear. There is no compelling reason why this matter should be treated differently to any other on which Labor Party members routinely disagree. Same-sex marriage is not a life-or-death issue. A binding vote of conference, however, would provide all Labor parliamentarians with the protection of the democratic processes of our party. Making provision for same-sex marriage in Commonwealth legislation does not compel an individual to change their private views on the matter.

It is laughable to suggest that such legal recognition in any way detracts from the love that is shared between any heterosexual couple.

As the parliament is currently constituted, the bill has a chance only if all Labor members vote for it, which they would be bound to do (or face expulsion from the party) in a non-conscience vote. The forces of goodness have a battle on their hands, and I suspect that this time round they will be unsuccessful.

However, as ever at times like these, I take heart from the fact that the Christianists (as opposed to actual Christians) have already lost. Gay marriage will happen in Australia - it is merely a matter of time.

The Australian public seems to have made up their minds, as polls consistently show a majority of the population (and even a majority of Christians) in support.

The reason for that, I submit, is one that I have mentioned before, which summed up in that quite wonderful GetUp! video above - and that is the sheer, wonderful, gorgeous ordinariness of it all.

Gay marriage will win out in Australia simply because ordinary Australians love their gay children and their gay friends, because they work with someone nice who dresses up as Lady Gaga on the weekend or because their butcher or their best customer is a lesbian, because they watch other ordinary people living their ordinary lives and loving their ordinary loves and they know that it makes no sense - indeed, that it is deeply un-Australian - to stop them marrying the one they love.

Mind you, it would be nice if the Prime Minister grew a spine and did the right thing, but you can't expect miracles.

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