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SA church's cloud over same-sex marriage anniversary

Notes on Adelaide

In today’s Notes on Adelaide, a South Australian gathering of the Uniting Church today could suspend same-sex marriage ceremonies in the denomination, new members revealed for the Government’s Productivity Commission, and Adelaide commercial radio continues to be a bleak place for women.

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The anniversary waltz

Almost exactly a year ago LGBTIQ Australians and their families and supporters were relieved when the nation voted overwhelmingly in favour of same-sex marriage in the Federal Government’s contentious postal vote.

On yesterday’s one-year anniversary, the Uniting Church in South Australia began a meeting which will decide the future of that church’s historic decision in July to allow ministers to conduct same-sex marriages.

The church’s General Assembly approved two definitions of marriage – allowing pro- and anti-same-sex marriage ministers to make their own choice about whether to marry same-sex couples.

Marriages under the decision began in September, but the conservative wing of the church remained desperately unhappy and has been fighting to have the decision revisited.

Under the complex church rules, if enough presbyteries demand more consultation within six months of the July meeting, then the decision will be suspended.

The Moderator (head) of the Uniting Church in SA, Reverend Sue Ellis, told InDaily that the South Australian presbytery and synod’s meeting this week will essentially decide the issue, after some interstate branches of the church voted in favour of more consultation.

“If, at this three-day meeting of the Uniting Church in South Australia, the Presbytery of South Australia votes according to 39(b) of the Uniting Church Constitution, they will join other presbyteries who have made the same decision,” Ellis told InDaily.

“This part of the Constitution requires a certain threshold to be reached, and this threshold will be reached if the vote in South Australia is positive. If the threshold is reached, the decision regarding same-gender marriage that was made at the 15th Assembly in July this year will be suspended until further consultation occurs. After the further consultation happens, members of the 15th Assembly will gather to consider the decision again.”

The process is bureaucratic but the effect will be dramatic if the presbytery decides in favour of more consultation: the Uniting Church will have to suspend same-sex marriages until the consultation and a new decision is made.

It’s uncertain whether the South Australian presbytery will come to a decision today or tomorrow.

Regardless, the whole thing could end up being a moot – but no doubt distressing – disputation.

The same General Assembly that made the decision this year will take any new decision. Why would they change their minds?

It should be noted that the Uniting Church is far more liberal on the same-sex marriage issue than any other mainstream denomination, regardless of the SA synod’s decision. The Anglicans and the Catholics do not allow same-sex marriage and it’s hard to imagine that they will in the foreseeable future.

Productivity Commission a three-man show

The State Government this week quietly appointed the remaining members of the SA Productivity Commission – and it will be a lean and powerful body.

The Commission will advise the government on how to drive economic reform, including examining the state’s regulatory framework and cutting red tape.

Dr Matthew Butlin has already been appointed as chair and chief executive officer of the commission, which will report directly to the Premier.

Two more members were gazetted yesterday: economist, businessman and former Essential Services Commission boss Paul Kerin, and corporate lawyer Adrian Tembel from Thomson Geer.

Treasurer Rob Lucas told InDaily that the three permanent members of the commission would be joined by additional commissioners, brought on temporarily when “a specialist set of skills are required for certain inquiries”.

“Professor Kerin and Mr Tembel both bring a wealth of knowledge and expertise to their roles, with extensive experience across a range of sectors which are crucial to driving South Australia’s economy,” Lucas said.

Women off the air

The shock sacking of long-time FIVEaa newsreader Anne Stone this month has again raised a perennial issue in some quarters of South Australia’s commercial radio scene – the distinct lack of women.

Stone, who fell victim to cost-cutting after two decades at the station, was one of the few female voices at FIVEaa, most of them in news.

Its current line-up has no women in weekday hosting roles, apart from Jane Reilly whose role is limited to weather spots during the breakfast shift.

Stone was hired in the noughties by then news director Nicole Haack, who later took on the afternoon shift. Haack was followed by a succession of women – Amanda Blair, Belinda Heggen and Jade Robran. Robran was asked whether she’d like to stay on as a co-host with current presenter Alan Hickey, but decided against that last year.

Several other stations are no better. Increasingly popular Cruise 1323 has no women on its regular weekday roster. Triple M has one woman in a regular hosting role – Jane Kennedy in a syndicated drive show out of Melbourne.

Sports station SEN – about to start its second crack at the Adelaide market – has announced three local presenters so far. All of them men.

By contrast, Adelaide’s long-standing ratings leader – Mix 102.3 – has a more than even representation of women in presenter roles.

Curious connections

Also on FIVEaa, the radio station has begun a new partnership with Nine News.

Nine is now supplying a half-hour news bulletin for broadcast on FIVEaa at noon each weekday.

The move has some curious corporate relationships in the background.

FIVEaa is part of Nova Entertainment, owned by Lachlan Murdoch, co-chairman of News Corp – the owner of The Advertiser, which is promoted heavily on FIVEaa.

Nine, meanwhile, is set to become joined at the hip with News Corp’s Australian newspaper nemesis – Fairfax Media.

Fairfax Media owns a network of top-rating talk stations around Australia, including 2GB in Sydney and 3AW in Melbourne.

Is the Nine/FIVEaa simply a marriage of convenience in an increasingly difficult news market, or does it presage something more significant?

Notes On Adelaide is a column telling the inside stories of Adelaide people, politics, institutions and issues. If you have information that you believe should be noted in this column, send us an email: editorial@solsticemedia.com.au

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