Labor senator Penny Wong has launched a blistering attack on the Government's proposed plebiscite, saying it would open up children in the LGBTQ community to "hatred" and slamming the idea as being born of "weakness and division".
"This is a vote because some in the Coalition can never countenance equality, and they're never going to change their minds," she said in a speech to the Senate on Wednesday.
"They simply cannot countenance people like me, and others, being equal -- simple as that. They're not going to change their minds on this issue."
Wong, who has two children with her partner Sophie and is recognised as the first openly gay female politician in federal parliament, has been one of the leading voices against the plebiscite.
The Government had proposed to put the plebiscite bill back up for debate in the Senate on Wednesday, with a view to holding another vote on the bill this week, but it was blocked as the vote ended 31-31 and therefore failed.
In the lead-up to the vote, Wong rose in the Senate to launch a fierce broadside at both the Government and their plebiscite policy, in a speech which soon raced around social media.
"This motion is not about giving Australians a say. This motion is about weakness and division on that side of the parliament. This motion is about a government so divided and so leaderless, they have to handball a hard decision to the community to make it because they cannot make it in their party room," Wong said.
"This is a vote whose sole aim is to stop the members of this Parliament being given a chance to do their job and vote."
Wong directed parts of her speech at Liberal Senator Mathias Cormann, the acting special minister of state, who appeared visibly upset at points during the Labor Senator's address.
"I do want to respond to the comment by Senator Cormann that this could be a unifying moment and that people could be respectful," she said.
"I don't think -- I hope -- that people watching me debate would think that I'm a shrinking violet. And I know what a hard debate's like. But I tell you: have a read of some of the things which are said about us and our families and then come back here and tell us this is a unifying moment.
"The Australian Christian Lobby described our children as 'the stolen generation'. We love our children, and I object -- as does every person who cares about children and as do all those same-sex couples in this country who have kids -- to being told that our children are a 'stolen generation'.
"You talk about unifying moments? That's not a unifying moment. It's exposing our children to that kind of hatred."
Wong then directed her fury at Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who on Tuesday poured scorn on a journalist who suggested -- as demonstrated by multiple LGBTQ advocates and mental health experts -- that a plebiscite would be accompanied by a harmful public debate which may further marginalise the gay community.
"There are arguments against having a plebiscite, I understand that. But the weakest argument of all, which I think has no basis, is that the Australian people aren't capable of having a respectful discussion on this issue," the PM said.
"Do we think so little of our fellow Australians and our ability to debate important matters of public interest that we say, 'you're not able to have a respectful discussion about the definition of marriage', which is a very significant, important, fundamental element in our law and culture?
"Australians are able and have demonstrated that they can have a respectful discussion."
Turnbull had seemingly forgotten or overlooked such arguments from members of his own party in recent times. Nationals MP George Christensen was slammed for linking the Safe Schools program to paedophilia just last year, while senator Cory Bernardi repeatedly linked same-sex marriage to bestiality while he was still a member of the Liberal Party.
Wong took aim at the PM's comments.
"I wouldn't mind so much if you were prepared to speak out on it, if the Prime Minister were prepared to stand up and say, 'that is wrong'," she said.
"But what does he do? He says it's a dreadful reason, to not trust the Australian people, don't be silly; of course we can have a sensible debate.
"Well, maybe he should stand up for some of the people who don't have a voice, because we know the sort of debate that is already there.
"Let me say, for many children in same-sex couple parented families and for many young LGBTI kids, this ain't a respectful debate already."Suggest a correction