“To the question ‘How should we confront Numerous and well arrayed, Poised to attack?’ My reply is ‘Seize something He cherishes, And he will do your will.’” After his uninspired Budget Reply and with the federal government looking likely to hit the front in the polls with a well-received budget, Bill Shorten must have blown the dust off the cover of the copy of The Art of War by Sun-Tzu that Chris Bowen gave him for Christmas*. Bill Shorten has had to take a sabbatical from measuring the curtains at The Lodge, because he’s not going to waltz into the top job as easily as he had thought only fifteen short weeks ago. It would be naïve to think that a Shorten Labor has accidentally chosen one of the most divisive issues in the Liberal Party to spotlight right now, when the focus of the Parliament was going to be, in any normal circumstance, the passing of a successful Budget. The 2015-16 budget has united the Parliamentary Liberal Party as backbenchers now have a strong narrative to take home to their constituents, while their personal chances of being re-elected have improved dramatically. A contentious issue such as same sex marriage though, has the ability to divide the caucus. Already, there have been vocal members of the government willing to come out in favour of, or against the private member’s bill presented by Labor today. The introduction of a private member’s bill sponsored by the Leader of the Opposition and his deputy has not and will not see the Liberal Party spiral into leadership speculation, however it has certainly caught the government off-guard. A government that is seeking to milk every press conference for a chance to tout the positives of the latest budget will now be forced into speculation of a different kind: the diversity of opinion in the party room and the strength of the member in question’s view on same sex marriage. This being an issue irrelevant to fostering growth in the economy and getting people back into work. It appears as though Labor has successfully wedged the Abbott government in the (sometimes apparent) divide between the classical liberals and social conservatives within the broad church of the Liberal party. Abbott, a devout Catholic would not have the full support of his party in opposing the bill in the event of a conscience vote. Knowing that this is required for the bill to pass, the ALP leadership, the Greens and the media class have turned down the heat that they would normally apply to the government’s social policy, and are instead bullying the government into allowing a conscience vote. From this position, Labor cannot lose politically. Labor will still gain political capital if Abbott refuses his party a conscience vote. This will give them a free pass in the next federal election campaign to claim that the government is both unfair and out of touch (with the expectations of the left media). If Abbott does in-fact allow a conscience vote and the bill does not pass, the government can still be blamed, and Labor will lose nothing for fighting the Liberals on same sex marriage, especially when they compete with the Greens for inner-city seats, come next year. The media class has a lot to answer for as well. They have undertaken a Salem-like witch-hunt in the public eye, to the point where it is now acceptable for a journalist to call anyone and everyone who doesn’t believe in Marriage Act reform, a bigot and a homophobe. The media has beaten the public into believing that only the media is the true authority on the issue. Public debate has been extinguished and is now simply out of the question. The average punter however, has been left behind, without an extended opportunity to consider their own views on an issue that is important, but nonetheless very likely one they won’t consider when they’re busy with work and looking after their children. The Liberal Party did attempt to give this issue the deliberation it deserved amongst the electorate. The government promised that it would use this parliamentary term to consult widely, before resolving the matter. Surely this would be a more fulfilling victory for the pro-gay marriage movement, if a conservative government gave the community three years to make up their minds, and then in-fact had a majority of its members support the bill to remain in-line with their community’s expectations. Instead, the Liberal Party has been bullied into considering same sex marriage on par with matters of ‘life or death,’ (the established conscience vote standard within the Party) by the ALP and the left media. With the Opposition Leader attempting to steamroll through the legislative process, the mainstream have every right to feel powerless against the shameless politicking of Shorten & Co. Oh but how quickly the media class like to forget the actions of their patron saint, she-who-must-never-be-criticised, Julia Gillard. It is less than three short years since the feminist and atheist leader of the federal Parliamentary Labor Party voted against a private members bill of this very same reform. If this issue were so pertinent to the great Labor cause, they would have bound and used their coalition with the Greens to pass the bill. Julia The Great did not so much as have the modest, ‘dinosaur’ card played against her by the media. Poor old, white, married, Catholic, educated, male Tony however, is called an ultra conservative, homophobic, zealot without even causing a blip on the Twitter trend algorithms. No true supporter of Marriage Act reform wanted to see this issue become a political football, but as soon as it is left in the hands of politicians without a mandate to act on the issue, this was an inevitable consequence. The Liberal Party has not been taken hostage by elements from within the party, as some would like to believe, but by a Labor Party scraping the bottom of a barrel, hell-bent on scoring points with the centre left, a part of their base which has deteriorated considerably in recent years. Not to mention the untimely distraction this has proved in a pivotal time for the government’s economic agenda. The ‘Fuck Tony Abbott’ shirts present at yesterday’s rally supporting same sex marriage is every proof that the Liberal Party will never receive any credit for being the government that passed this reform through the Parliament. The history books will quickly and happily forget the role of a conservative government in a long established political class reform. You do not need to read The Art of War to figure that one out. *Bowen is known to have given Shorten books last Christmas, just not The Menzies Era.