Prime Minister Tony Abbott has suggested that, after the next federal election, the Coalition may be willing to consider a plebiscite on whether or not to accept the 21st century. The comment came after a six-hour-long Coalition party room meeting on Tuesday that ruled out allowing a “conscience vote” among members of the governing parties on the question.
“Obviously, for many, many centuries, there has been a settled position on it not being the 21st century,” the Prime Minister told a press conference. “Indeed, from time immemorial, no one has ever suggested it was the 21st century until a new and vocal social movement arose very recently, in the past 15 years or so, to say it was.”
Mr Abbott said debate over whether it was the 21st century was “intensely personal”, but “we all need to think carefully about the consequences”.
“It is not just about people’s individual choice to accept or reject which century they are living in. If our nation accepted this was, in fact, the 21st century, then we’d presumably need some sort of government-initiated ‘national broadband network’ to guarantee high-quality internet access, we’d have to think seriously about action on climate change and, most of all, we might find women unwilling to do all of the ironing.
“This is a serious discussion the entire nation needs to have in a calm fashion.”
One strong opponent of the 21st century is Liberal senator Eric Abetz, who pointed to all the people who “lived and died in the 20th century without seeing any need to live in the 21st century”. The senator condemned the 21st century as “the latest fad” and claimed accepting it would lead “almost inevitably” to a 22nd century.
But some within the Liberal Party criticised the fact that the National Party coalition partners were included in the party room discussion around a conscience vote, saying it “stacked” the vote with opponents of the 21st century. One senior Liberal minister told The (Un)Australian that, “these people are convinced it is still the late 19th century and frankly, the prevalence of hipsters with Ned Kelly beards each time they go and order a coffee when they’re in the city is really not helping.”