Nasty $525m plebiscite? Or marriage equality within 100 days?

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The Hon Michael Danby MP, Federal Member for Melbourne Ports

It’s been clear for a long time now, that the Australian public just want Malcolm Turnbull to show some leadership and deliver on marriage equality.

We are the last developed English-speaking nation not to allow loving same-sex partners to marry, a form of discrimination that numerous polls show most Australians are unhappy with.

The Liberals are still quarrelling over marriage equality and as the AFR journalist Phillip Coorey argued “the issue is too inflammatory at the moment, inside a coalition already riven by tensions between the Left and the Right” and “gay and lesbian issues have become proxies inside the Coalition in the general animosity between the Turnbull moderates and the conservatives who backed Tony Abbott”

The result of the Coalition’s paralysis is that Tony Abbott’s policies still live on in the Turnbull government and if the planned plebiscite is to go ahead, Australians will pay a hefty price for their delays and division.

With Liberal Senator George Christensen comparing the successful anti-bullying program ‘Safe Schools’ with paedophile grooming and Cory Bernardi sending aggressive emails to the parents of LGBTI students, Turnbull’s own conservatives are going to make the plebiscite debate inherently nasty.

But on top of the divisiveness of the debate comes news from top accounting firm PwC that the cost of the plebiscite is likely to be in excess of $525m.

Just imagine how far $525m would go towards funding our health and education systems instead of a ‘yes’ campaign which some have even asked to be exempt from anti-discrimination law. And all of this just to buy Malcolm Turnbull some time by pleasing his hard-line conservatives.

But there is another way. The Liberals’ wasteful, nasty plebiscite is not an inevitability. We’ll all get a chance to vote on marriage equality before the possibility of a plebiscite – it’s called the federal election.

Should Labor take office at this year’s federal election, there’ll be no plebiscite, no delays, just legislation for marriage equality passing the parliament within 100 days.

After Bill Shorten raised marriage equality in the parliament last year, I wrote to thousands of Melbourne Ports constituents expressing the view that Bill had given.

Marriage equality is a civil rights issue best dealt with by the parliament. We live in a representative democracy where the role of the elected parliament is to legislate on these issues, not defer our responsibilities back to the people when it suits party political aims.

Malcolm Turnbull may have abandoned his previous positions on climate action, the republic and for marriage equality to get the keys to the lodge, but we are rock solid in our commitments.

A vote for Labor this election is a vote against a wasteful, divisive plebiscite and a vote for marriage equality within 100 days.


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