The Same Sex Marriage vote, the JCCV, and issues of interest

November 20, 2017 by Professor Bill Rubinstein
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My article about the JCCV and its increasingly left-wing orientation, “Out of Left Field,”  which appeared on J-Wire some weeks ago, attracted 79 responses, possibly a record. Now that the referendum has been held, there are a number of further points which I would like to raise, both for information for the community and for further discussion…writes Bill Rubinstein.

Professor Bill Rubinstein

There is, first, the likely attitude of the JCCV when same sex marriage is enacted. We do not yet know the provisions of the actual bill, especially as to whether conscientious objectors among marriage celebrants, caterers, etc. will be protected, but if they are not protected, my guess is that the JCCV in its present guise will not lift a finger to help them and is, in fact, more likely to go to bat for a Muslim shopkeeper who refuses to stock non-halal products than for an Orthodox Jew who refuses to flush away 4000 years of Jewish teaching to appease of a politically correct bandwagon. It is also interesting to consider what effect the bill’s enactment will have on the community’s synagogues. Since  ̶  presumably   ̶  no such marriages will be held in any Orthodox shul, all will be held in either a Liberal or Masorti synagogue, and probably in particular in Temple Beth Israel (TBI) , which has made a speciality of attracting gays. There are likely, on my calculations and given the backlog, to be a demand for about 100 such marriages in the first year or two, and one wonders how the old families at TBI will react to this endless stream of gay marriages. Possibly an exodus will occur. We live in interesting times.

Politically, there is a major question of how the referendum vote will affect the chances of the Turnbull government being re-elected. As things stand, the Coalition is very likely to be slaughtered at the next Federal election, which will probably be held in early 2019, with Labour likely to pick up 20-25 seats. (An election may well be held even sooner, if the Government loses its majority owing to the dual citizenship issue.)  Among the main reasons for this dire state of affairs for the Coalition are the leadership qualities of Malcolm Turnbull. Despite his obvious intelligence, presentation skills, and experience, as a winning political leader he has been quite appalling, and in 2016 came close  to losing what appeared to be an absolutely unlosable election.  In particular, he seems quite incapable of taking the fight to the ALP, spelling out the allegedly dire consequences of its policies, as John Howard and Tony Abbott did so well.  Even worse, his political style left it open for Bill Shorten and the ALP to exploit this vacuum with their own attacks of the kind which Turnbull never makes, especially the highly successful campaign to “defend Medicare,” despite the fact that it wasn’t under attack.

Turnbull and the Coalition have also failed totally to address what is certainly the greatest issue facing many voters, the housing crisis, or to curb the absurdly high rates of immigration which are fanning  the inability of countless Australians to get onto the housing ladder. Turnbull clearly sees the “yes” vote in the referendum as some sort of lifeline.  I do not have a crystal ball, but it is difficult to agree with him.  He has split the Coalition over this issue, always a suicidal tactic for any party, while many conservative voters will not forgive his high profile on this issue, even to the extent of voting Labor.  If there were an obvious successor to Turnbull within the Liberal party, he would probably be replaced as leader within six months.

One claim made repeatedly by supporters of the “yes” vote is that enacting same sex marriage “could prevent up to 3000 teen suicide attempts” in Australia, according to a story in the Sydney Morning Herald and other newspapers and websites. In my opinion, this claim, which probably swayed many voters, is utter rubbish.  Accurate statistics exist about the actual number of suicides in Australia for each year, with statistics given by age, gender, state, etc. In 2016 the number of suicides in the whole of Australia, from Broome to Hobart, among 15-19 year olds was as follows: 101 males and 36 females, a total of 137 persons. (According to the 2016 Census, there were 1,421,612 persons aged 15-19 in Australia.) This figure of 137 includes all suicides among 15-19 year olds, of persons of any sexual orientation, of any ethnic background (the suicide rate among Aborigines is twice that among non-Aborigines), for any reason, including those spurred by drug use, by dysfunctional  homes and abusive parents, by bullying at school, by unwanted pregnancies, by grief at the death of a relative or friend, by schizophrenia, or by any other causal factor. The number of suicides caused by the fact that same sex marriage is illegal may well in fact be zero. There are no statistics for “attempted suicides,” but it is self-evident that the vast figure suggested by the claim that up to 3000 attempted suicides can allegedly be prevented by legalizing same sex marriage strongly suggests that the total number of attempted suicides among 15-19 years olds for any reason is astronomically higher. This argument is, surely, pure, unadulterated nonsense, and is about as egregious an example of mendacious propaganda as one can imagine. In 1954 an American author named Darrell Huff published How to Lie With Statistics, a book which sold 1.5 million copies, and a second, revised edition is clearly needed.

There is, finally, the question of how representative the JCCV actually is, the central question in my J-Wire article. I have been informed by a former JCCV delegate that “Chabad/Yeshiva and other Haredi  groups are not delegates to the JCCV. They chose not to be because Reform Judaism are members.” One might well question how sensible this reason for not joining is, but it is interesting to see its effects  on the composition of the JCCV. A useful way to approach this is to set out the enrolments at the eight Melbourne Jewish day schools, which may serve as a proxy for how representative the JCCV actually is. There are good, official figures for the number of students in 2016 at all schools in Victoria, including the eight Melbourne Jewish days schools, and for these the figures are as follows: Adass Israel  512; Mount Scopus 927; Leibler Yavneh 572; King David School 593; Yeshivah College 390; Beth Rivkah 592; Bialik 861; Sholem Aleichem 188  ̶  total 4635. Five of these schools are affiliates of the JCCV, while the three Charedi schools  ̶  Adass, Yeshivah, and Beth Rivkah  ̶  are not, and nor are their synagogues affiliated.  These three schools combined have 1494 students, or 32.2 per cent of the total enrolment at Melbourne’s Jewish day schools, a fraction under one-third.

If anything, this understates the extent of non-affiliation to the JCCV, since apparently increasing numbers of Jewish students attend state schools, and a considerable number have always attended non-Jewish private schools. This one-third (or more) percentage are as unrepresented at the JCCV as is the Hare Krishna Association of Victoria. They are not, of course, randomly self-selected, but represent the conservative wing of the Jewish community here, both in terms of religion and of social attitudes. Their non-participation allows the liberal left to run amok at the JCCV.  Had they been affiliated to the JCCV and sent delegates to it, it is hard to believe that its vote on same sex marriage would have been 100 per cent “yes,” 0 per cent “no,” margins otherwise associated with votes in the Supreme Soviet of the old USSR and with “parliaments” in dictatorships.

Professor Bill Rubinstein held chairs of history at Deakin University and at the University of Wales.


8 Responses to “The Same Sex Marriage vote, the JCCV, and issues of interest”
  1. Harold Zwier says:

    I would very much appreciate an email from j-wire on why the comment I posted on 22nd November was not accepted. It was both relevant to the content of Bill Rubinstein’s article and not in any way offensive.

    • J-Wire says:

      Publishing comments is at JWire’s absolute discretion.

      JWire does not enter into correspondence with people who feel aggrieved that their comments are not accepted for publication.

  2. David Zyngier says:

    Bill is this an article about the unrepresentative nature of the JCCV or the lack of leadership and direction in the Liberal Party? What had one to do with the other? Accusing JCCV of being left wing is just so funny! Of course at its head is that well known secret communist revolutionary Dr Danny Lamm!

    Of course the JCCV is not representative of the Jewish community but not for the reason you suggest – the lack of religiously orthodox schools and synagogues. Why should that matter?

    The real reason that the JCCV is not representative of the Victorian (Melbourne?) Jewish community is that the recent analysis by Monash University AC4JC finds that the majority of Jews are just not affiliated!And probably don’t don’t want to be. That’s the old Marxist (Groucho) principle ‘Any group that would have me as a member is not worth joining! ‘

  3. Rabbi Chaim Ingram says:

    Bill, you speak sound common-sense based on facts not based on spin. It will be interesting to see if any of the secular state or federal communal roof-bodies of Australia will lift a finger to help conscientious objectors. I’m not holding my breath.

  4. Lynne Newington says:

    I can’t see the Catholic Church changing their laws either regardless of who voted for what.

    They may have lost the battle but not the war…..

  5. Adrian Jackson says:

    The SSM vote was not a referendum it was an opinion poll. Referendums change the constitution but opinion polls and votes in federal parliament do not.

    Brexit was a referendum too and the UK government was required to follow its dictate.

    The last referendum held in Australia was the constitutional monarchy referendum held in 1998 and every state and the NT supported the status quo with only the ACT out of step supporting a “banana” republic.

    7 million Australians out of 13 million eligible voters thought the status quo was good for Australia. That’s 1 million more that the republican got.

  6. Michael Barnett says:

    Bill, terminology is important. This was not a referendum. It was not even a plebiscite. It was a non-binding, non-compulsory postal survey.

    • Adrian Jackson says:

      Agree. A referendum changes the commonwealth constitution without a vote in parliament but as you say it was an ABS opinion poll to give guidance to the parliament.

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