Cut and Paste: One Nation Senator’s “Ethanol” Speech on Marriage Equality Bill

Observers of the Senate debate on the marriage equality were left puzzled and bemused in equal measure yesterday when Pauline Hanson One Nation Senator for NSW, Brian Burston, made a comparison between water and ethanol to argue against marriage equality.

Burston, now the second most senior PHON Senator after the departure of Malcolm Roberts, has a relatively low profile, but his party biography touts his background in trades and higher education, culminating in a four year stint at Newcastle University.

Having gone over Burston’s speech – with, if not a fine-tooth comb, then a hair brush with big bristles – I’d say he’d find himself in some difficulty if his contribution was measured against any academic integrity policy.

Just about every segment of his speech – including the notorious water/ethanol comparison – was lifted word for word or cribbed without attribution from a handful of sources.

  1. Burston opened with an exposition on the Christian origins of the Constitution, which was lifted from conservative legal academic, Augusto Zimmerman’s 2014 article on the subject

2. Burston then went on to mount a cultural heritage argument, which appears to take its structure and much of its language from a two week old comment on an article by Bill Muehlenberg. Though Burston has had the wit and imagination to make adjustments for NSW heritage law, courtesy of Wikipedia:

3. While “Australia’s political and legal systems owe so much to Christianity”, this passage owes so much to Zimmerman again and to an American website, “Discussing Marriage”:

4. Even the passage which had everyone scratching their heads – the comparison of a union between two people, and the differing properties of water and ethanol, was lifted from a months old piece by a Professor of Philosophy at ACU on the ABC website.

Which should at least earn the ABC some kudos from One Nation, surely?

5. Then Burston went on to offer his less than original thoughts on the original meaning of the Constitution, borrowing from Augusto Zimmerman again – this time a 2016 article from News Weekly:

6. Then some ruminations on the real agenda, courtesy of campaigner David van Gend:

7. Then Burston let a 2012 background paper from the Parliamentary Library do a lot of heavy lifting for him. The problem is that this paper was written before the 2013 High Court judgment in the Commonwealth v Australian Capital Territory, which settled the law on whether the Commonwealth could legislate for same-sex marriage.

Apart from some added comments along the way, the only truly original aspect of Burston’s speech is his claim that he did not receive a survey, which has you wondering if this might have actually happened to someone else.

8. In for a penny, in for a pound, Burston then passes off a 30 year old dicta from Mason and Deane JJ as his own.

9. I’ll have to admit, it’s when I read the words “Perusal of some High Court dicta ….” that I started this exercise. That stood out like balls on a dog.

And here, Burston, brings his air quotes original contribution air quotes to a fine finish, borrowing a little bit here from the Parliamentary Library, a whole lot there from Wikipedia, and finishing with a flourish from Augusto Zimmerman again



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