Labor Holds Sway as Crossbenchers Oppose Plebiscite
30 August 2016 at 11:42 am
Crossbenchers are lining up to block the same-sex marriage plebiscite with Labor yet to reveal how it will vote.
South Australian independent Senator Nick Xenophon announced on Monday his party would vote against the legislation to enable a plebiscite.
His team said it was a matter that parliament could and should decide on as a free vote.
“In our representative democracy we are paid to make decisions on behalf of Australians who have voted us into office. This is a decision the parliament should make now,” Xenophon said in a statement.
“The plebiscite, which in any event could be disregarded by the parliament, could be in the order of $160million or more. We believe this money could be better spent.”
It comes just days after the Greens confirmed they would vote to block enabling legislation in the Senate, and Senator Derryn Hinch also announced he would vote against the bill.
It means the government will now need to seek Labor’s support in the Senate to pass the legislation.
Labor is expected to oppose the plebiscite but is yet to finalise its position.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten told Labor’s shadow cabinet on Monday a plebiscite campaign could subject gay and lesbian Australians to public vilification.
He recommitted Labor to pushing for a free vote in parliament.
Listen to Not for Podcast’s Purpose of Plebiscite to hear academics, politicians and advocates debate the issue of a plebiscite versus a free parliamentary vote, while a mental health expert explains the impact on the LGBTI community.
Speaking to the ABC, the leader of the opposition in the senate, Senator Penny Wong, said the plebiscite was a “political deceit” imposed upon the Coalition by Tony Abbott and the conservatives.
“It would be expensive, divisive and it is non-binding,” Wong said.
“They’ve made clear that they won’t support marriage equality even were a plebiscite held and passed.”
Wong dismissed suggestions that blocking the plebiscite would result in taking same-sex marriage off the agenda.
“I don’t accept that it is as binary as that,” she said.
“I think that what we should have is continued pressure on Mr Turnbull, and in every seat that a so-called ‘moderate’ holds and across this country, fair-minded Australian who want this will need to put pressure on the Coalition.
“I think the majority of Australians want to see marriage equality and the majority of Australians want this dealt with by the parliament, which is what our system demands. That is what we are paid to do, that is what we are elected to do. We are paid to come to Canberra and to make laws and the fact that Malcolm Turnbull is so frightened of allowing that to happen I think is really a mark against him.”
However Attorney-General George Brandis said Shorten would be responsible for “stopping gay marriage for the foreseeable future” if a people’s vote is rejected.
He urged Labor to “get out of the way” and get behind the government’s proposed plebiscite.
A total of 38 votes are required to block legislation in the Senate.