Late on Monday night, the Labor Party voted to reject the plebiscite legislation in the Senate. Thirty-three senators voted to silence your voice, narrowly defeating the votes from 29 senators who believe that your voice matters and deserves to be heard.
Rather than allow the Australian people to decide the matter, same-sex marriage advocates will now aim to force a change to the Marriage Act through Parliament. This week’s vote, however, does not end the battle to defend marriage – it merely emphasises that Australians must remain vigilant.
Same-sex marriage advocates have already warned that they will continue to campaign for a parliamentary vote. These advocates know that if put to the people, the majority of Australians would vote to keep the definition of marriage as it has always been: between one man and one woman. In order to legalise same-sex marriage, advocates are now seeking to push legislation through Parliament. This bypasses the opportunity for a full and frank discussion regarding the consequences of changing the law, and most importantly, shuts down any opportunity to give the Australian people a say on marriage.
Senator Penny Wong, the Opposition Leader in the Senate, confirmed the strategy on Monday in her Senate speech, saying:
“Marriage equality supporters will fight for a vote in Parliament... we will keep campaigning and keep fighting until this Parliament... legislates for marriage equality.”
In the Australian Financial Review, Phillip Coorey articulated the real reason Labor rejected the plebiscite. He explained:
Labor was also worried the plebiscite may fail, putting the issue on the backburner for at least a decade. Mr Turnbull was always confident the Yes vote would be carried.
This is not a new revelation. Back in August, Barry Cassidy from the ABC’s Insiders program, said in an interview with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, that Labor was briefing the media that their polling had revealed that a plebiscite would not receive the necessary votes to change the law.
Prime Minister Turnbull’s response summed up how drastically undemocratic it is to reject a public vote on the matter, simply because the majority of Australians do not want the definition of marriage to change:
“The worst argument, the absolutely worst argument against a plebiscite is to say that it wouldn’t be passed. So if Labor is seriously saying that, they are saying, ‘Don’t consult the Australian people because they won’t give you the answer you want.’ It is the most anti-democratic argument. I mean, Bill Shorten, if his people have been briefing that last night, Bill Shorten should stand up today and disown that, otherwise he has absolutely destroyed the credibility of his case against the plebiscite.”
This type of tactic should never be used by a “representative” government. It is precisely these actions that reveal that many Australian politicians do not care about the wishes or best interests of the people – they infuse their own opinions and gains into their rhetoric, and vote according to their personal best interests.
There have already been 16 failed bills relating to same-sex marriage introduced into the Australian Parliament in recent years. We don’t need a 17th attempt. We need to give the Australian people a say on this matter, once and for all.
A plebiscite acknowledges the importance of marriage; it acknowledges that a change to the foundational unit of our society would have consequences that would create a ripple effect. These consequences will extend beyond the LGBTI community: education, employment and business, and many other societal areas would be greatly affected. What is more, future generations would feel the effects the most drastically. Above all, a plebiscite affirms the value of free speech and the importance of public discourse. Preventing a plebiscite prevents Australians from exercising the very freedoms that render Australia a free country.
Marriage Alliance will continue to ensure that every Australian knows the consequences of changing the definition of marriage, including what it means for our freedom of speech, our families, our schools, and even our workplaces.
We will continue to demand that Opposition Leader Bill Shorten and the Labor Party cease playing politics with marriage, and allow the Australian people to have their voices heard. Do not surrender your voice: you have a right to vote on the crucial matter of marriage. The fight is not over: one battle may be over, but together, we will continue the fight to protect marriage, and to protect the rights of all Australians.