POLITICS

All The High Court Marriage Equality Reactions From Question Time

'We are ready to win this, and win this convincingly'.

07/09/2017 2:32 PM AEST | Updated 07/09/2017 3:34 PM AEST
Fairfax Media
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull stands to answer a question from Opposition Leader Bill Shorten after the High Court's decision on the marriage equality postal survey, during Question Time at Parliament House on Thursday

CANBERRA -- As the High Court's decision on the marriage equality postal survey was being handed down in Melbourne, Australia's politicians were gathered in Canberra, giving us some instant reactions to the controversial decision.

In a quirk of timing, the High Court's decision -- dismissing challenges to the postal survey and paving the way for the vote to occur as planned -- came down at 2.15pm, right in the middle of the daily Question Time session in Parliament House.

The liveliest and most-watched part of the day, Question Time usually gives the opposition a chance to grill the government on the issues of the day, but thanks to the High Court's scheduling, Question Time on Thursday also threw up an immediate chance for the government to gloat with its postal survey plan ruled legitimate by the highest court in the land.

The government will be breathing a sigh of relief after the court cleared the way for the $122 million postal survey to go ahead.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was seen anxiously checking his phone for the ruling and quickly leapt to his feet to accept the decision and denounce the Labor Party, even as Labor leader Bill Shorten asked him to now join a very active "yes" campaign.

"I note the High Court's decision moments ago in relation to the Prime Minister's $122 million postal survey on marriage equality," Shorten told the House of Representatives just moments after the decision was handed down.

"Will the Prime Minister work with the community to show his active support for marriage equality and will the Prime Minister now accept my invitation to write a joint letter to every Australian to support voting yes in the survey?"

Photographers captured the differing reactions of the two leaders -- Shorten grimacing, Turnbull grinning -- in the wake of the decision.

In response, Turnbull said he was happy the postal survey had been upheld by the court. He attacked Shorten for being "disingenuous" in shifting from his earlier position of supporting a plebiscite over a free vote in federal parliament.

"The Leader of the Opposition must be relieved that the promise he gave to the Australian Christian Lobby in 2013 is now being delivered by the Coalition," Turnbull said. "He went there to the Australian Christian Lobby and he said, "I think every Australian should have their say."

"I mean, I assume that was his heartfelt conviction. Or was he simply telling people what they wanted to hear?"

The Labor Leader is urging the Prime Minister to join him in writing a joint letter to every Australian to support voting yes in the survey, but Turnbull rejected the invitation.

"The Leader of the Opposition can make his case and I'll make mine," he said.

At least $14 million has so far already been expended on the postal survey by the ABS alone.

The ABS will be posting surveys to approximately 16 million electors on the electoral roll apart from silent electors. The AEC will be posting the surveys to that group.

Attorney-General George Brandis quickly released a statement saying the Government was confident all along that the postal survey would survive a High Court challenge.

"The Australian Marriage Law Postal Survey will now proceed as planned, with the ABS starting to mail out survey forms from 12 September 2017 onwards," Brandis said in his statement.

In the Senate, Brandis rose to speak on the decision as well.

"The effect of the decision of the Court is that there is now no legal impediment to a postal survey proceeding and all Australians having their say on this important social question," he said.

"The outcome of the High Court proceedings is what the Government expected and is consistent with the advice provided to the Government by the Commonwealth Solicitor-General, Dr Stephen Donaghue QC."

Greens senator Janet Rice -- who was party to one of the legal challenges to the postal survey -- said she and her party were disappointed with the decision.

"I'm very disappointed that the High Court challenge was not successful, especially in the face of what has already been a damaging and untruthful campaign by the 'no' side," she said in a statement.

"It has been a real privilege to be part of this legal challenge alongside Australian Marriage Equality, and to be so well represented by the legal team led by the Human Rights Law Centre and our barrister Katherine Richardson."

"It is shameful that the Government has chosen to put a matter of human rights to a public opinion poll."

"We are ready to win this, and win this convincingly. But we are not taking anything for granted. We will be campaigning hard to ensure that everyone who supports marriage equality will choose love and vote YES, so that everyone has the right to marry the person they love and so we can hear wedding bells for LGBTIQ couples ringing all across the country."

Independent Tasmanian senator Jacqui Lambie, for her part, called the survey "stupid" and "dumb", saying "let's get on with it."

More to come.

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