POLITICS

So Close, So Far: The Same-Sex Marriage Plebiscite Enters Parliament

And Malcolm Turnbull marks his first year as PM.

14/09/2016 9:11 AM AEST | Updated 14/09/2016 12:09 PM AEST
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Andrew Meares, Fairfax
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull will present the plebiscite legislation.

CANBERRA -- Malcolm Turnbull is marking his first anniversary in the top job by pushing ahead with a same-sex marriage plebiscite doomed to never be put to Australian voters.

The Prime Minister will present the plebiscite's enabling legislation to the House Wednesday, despite new moved by the Federal Opposition to kill off the plebiscite in the Senate.

Huffington Post Australia understands the Opposition Leader Bill Shorten will instruct the Labor caucus to vote against the plebiscite.

Mr Shorten has said in statement:

"The fact the Liberals announced public funding to give a platform to bigotry shows no interest from the government work with Labor on this. He is deliberately sabotaging the process to make it difficult for even the most ardent supporters of marriage equality to back it.

It's clear the extreme right wing of the Liberal party are setting marriage equality up to fail."
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten

The same-sex marriage plebiscite would put the question, "Should the law be changed to allow same sex couples to marry?" to voters on February 11 and allocate an extra $15 million to fund both "yes" and "no" steering and advertising campaigns.

Labor is yet to see the legislation, but Mr Shorten and his shadow ministry have described the plebiscite as "expensive, non-binding and divisive" and have warned any "no" campaign could lead to suicides.

The Labor Leader has describe Mr Turnbull as a "fraud on marriage equality" who knows the plebiscite is a terrible idea.

"I am gravely concerned about the plebiscite and over the coming days and weeks, we will be sitting down with people affected, families and mental health experts about the harm a plebiscite will cause.

He has no idea of the harm this could inflict on so many people and their families."
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten

In turn, Attorney General George Brandis, who supports marriage equality, has accused Mr Shorten of playing politics with gay people's lives.

"We can have marriage equality within a matter of months," Senator Brandis told ABC radio's AM program.

"It is so close now you can touch it."

"So instead, I am sorry to say, Mr Shorten has been putting political game playing ahead of the merits of the issue."

The Attorney-General claims most of the "many, many" same-sex marriage advocates he has met with – including groups involved with the successful Irish referendum -- support the government's plebiscite.

"It is so close now you can touch it"
Attorney-General George Brandis

"While the plebiscite may not be their first preference, (they) recognise the plebiscite is now the surest and most immediate path to this outcome."

"And I say again, the person standing in the way of this outcome while in a hypocritical way pretending to believe in it is Mr Shorten."

Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen rejects assertions that a free vote in parliament is years away. He's told RN Breakfast it could be just months.

"The Parliament in 2004 voted to make marriage between a man and a woman. What the Parliament did in 2004 they should undo in 2016," Mr Bowen said.

"That is our job. What we do is amend legislation. The marriage act is a piece of legislation. It's not the constitution."

Labor frontbencher Ed Husic would prefer to wait for an incoming Labor Government to enact marriage equality, rather than let young gay people "carry scars" from listening to a "no" campaign.

"People who are at that point, where they are discovering who they are, that needs to be dealt with in a much better way than a divisive plebiscite campaign," he told Sky News.

The same-sex marriage plebiscite's result would be determined by a simple majority of votes cast across Australia and Senator Brandis expects the "yes" vote will succeed.

"The fact is that the Australian people are ready for this," he said. "This issue is an issue which is ripe for choice and the time to make that choice is now.

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