Bill Shorten has been an adamant supporter of same-sex marriage, even supporting it when other fellow Labor members opposed it. But Shorten’s convictions on same-sex marriage are second to political outcomes and popularity.
In an op-ed for the Australian, Chris Kenny lays out several examples demonstrating how Shorten is clearly not as strong a supporter of marriage when it jeopardises his political standings and privileges.
[W]hat is abundantly clear now is that whatever Shorten’s passion about the [marriage] issue, it is subsumed by political ambition. He is willing to confuse, confound and delay marriage reform in order to create partisan political outcomes that he thinks will favour him.
This is the only reason he would thwart a gay marriage plebiscite — a mechanism that he once supported, is popular with voters and has been endorsed at an election.
There are two partisan imperatives that would be driving Shorten’s resistance: denying the Coalition the opportunity to deliver the reform in the hope that he can later claim this piece of history; and, more importantly, hoping to foment internal divisions in the Coalition and unleash political pain and a possible misstep from Malcolm Turnbull.
Kenny goes on to refute arguments such as the plebiscite “encouraging homophobia”, which Shorten and fellow Labor members employ. Such claims are dismissive, even laughable:
[T]he argument about avoiding a divisive public debate not only does not pass muster but insults the broader electorate. It is a cynical attempt to appropriate the torment of sexually anguished youth for a partisan cause.
Let us be clear, none of us wants gay or sexually uncertain individuals to face mocking, abuse or bullying. But it is bigoted and uncaring people that are their problem and not debate about same sex marriage.
Notably, Shorten and his fellow Labor have been criticised for playing the “mental health card” for political benefit:
Liberal MP Andrew Laming said the opposition is being "two-faced" by resisting a public vote. "These are people with no training in mental health pulling a mental health card for their own political purposes," he told reporters in Canberra.
Dr Laming claimed the regular "failure-to-launch" attempts to have parliament make the change was prolonging the uncertainty. "So the LGBTI community should be acknowledging that there are definite mental health concerns particularly for young adolescents and the fastest way to resolve this is not to protract it. "That's precisely what Labor's doing purely for political benefit."
What is more, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has called out Shorten for demeaning voters, indicating how Shorten’s stance insinuates that “Australians are unable to have a civil discussion about a fundamental question.” The truth is, the plebiscite is supported by both opponents and supporters of same-sex marriage. Shorten and Labor are merely trying to draw out the debate, not end it:
If trying to silence debate on these issues is the best way to win acceptance for all, why are activists campaigning so strongly for gay marriage or promoting programs like Safe Schools? No, activists are promoting the debate and it has been prominent for years. If there is a parliamentary vote the debate will be condensed but intensified. If there is a plebiscite it will be extended by a few months. If the plebiscite is blocked the debate will be extended by at least three years.
Shorten is fooling no one: he is not a “champion for same-sex marriage,” nor does he respect the people and their wishes. He has his own desires in sight, and is clearly willing to sacrifice anything to keep his privileges — even the right of the Australian people to decide on the matter of marriage.