PM Questions Bill Shorten's Sincerity Over Marriage Equality

Is the government being outmanoeuvred over the plebiscite?

31/08/2016 9:48 AM AEST | Updated 31/08/2016 9:50 AM AEST
Alex Ellinghausen, Fairfax
The Prime Minsiter has questioned Bill Shorten's sincerity over same sex marriage

CANBERRA – Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who changed position on same sex marriage from backing a free vote to a plebiscite, has questioned the Opposition Leader's sincerity over marriage equality.

Labor and a group of crossbenchers are trying to outmanoeuvre the government over the planned same sex marriage plebiscite.

Legislation to enable the plebiscite appears set to be blocked – although the opposition is yet to declare its hand - and late Tuesday, Labor and crossbenchers Adam Bandt, Andrew Wilkie and Cathy McGowan flagged bills to immediately legislate same sex marriage.

Neither bill is expected to go far as the Government has the numbers and the Prime Minister is regarding the Opposition Leader's tactics as a stunt.

"(Mr Shorten) has got to decide if he wants to keep on playing politics," Turnbull told reporters in Canberra.

"If he wants to keep on playing a tactical game or rather focus on the main goal, which is surely, if he is to be believed, if he is sincere, is that same sex couples should be able to marry."

"That is our commitment. We are setting out the way for that to happen. Mr Shorten is standing in the way."

Andrew Meares, Fairfax
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Treasurer Scott Morrison enter the House at Parliament Hous

The Prime Minister, who was a vocal supporter of a parliamentary vote on marriage equality prior to taking the top job, is talking up the plebiscite as the only way forward in this term of parliament.

"My judgement and that is consistent with all of the polls is that the plebiscite will result in a yes vote and then parliament will legislate," Turnbull said.

"So whatever Mr Shorten's reservations about the plebiscite may be, it is a very, very clear road to enable same sex couples to get married."

The Opposition Leader – who had a run-in with an Anglican rector yesterday over his use of language describing same sex marriage "haters" - has described the planned plebiscite as an expensive, non-binding, "second best" option.

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