LIBERAL MP Warren Entsch has described himself as “profoundly disappointed and frustrated” by the hypocrisy of Labor in its decision today not to support the same-sex marriage plebiscite legislation.
“The plebiscite certainly wasn’t my preferred way of doing things, but I came to the view that it would be the most practical way of getting an outcome and there’s no reason why we couldn’t be civil and respectful of different views,” he said.
“Labor’s focus on ‘hate speech’ ignores the fact that young LGBTI people will be vulnerable to negative commentary whether it’s through a plebiscite, a parliamentary vote or a drawn-out debate.
“Instead, we could have had all the leaders stand up and say that they would make sure the integrity of the process was absolute.
“But Labor and the Greens and cross-bench are playing politics and for them, it’s more about political grandstanding and the process rather than the outcome.
“Today’s decision could see this process delayed for an extended period of time; I’m very critical of Bill Shorten and others who have changed their position on a plebiscite.
“It’s worrying that there could now be open slather in a political debate and I’d urge both sides to show restraint.”
Mr Entsch said the decision to go to a plebiscite was not just a view of the party room, but something that the Coalition took to the last federal election.
“Votes were lost and won on the basis of the two parties each having a very different policy on marriage equality,” he explained.
“The reality is the Coalition won the election, so we have an obligation to introduce this commitment as quickly as possible, to make sure it wasn’t all smoke and mirrors. We’ve done exactly that, to the letter.
“We invited the Labor party and others to come and be a part of this process so we all could stand together, pat ourselves on the back and say we’ve done it.
“But Bill Shorten’s got no commitment to marriage equality, his only commitment is to divisive wedge politics and I find that profoundly disappointing.
“There are a lot of people who supported gay marriage and supported the plebiscite because they wanted ownership of this major social change.
“Labor and the cross-benchers are robbing them of that opportunity and you’ll get to a point where people say they’ve expended too much energy on this, it’s time to focus on other issues.”
Mr Entsch warned that there were “a lot of unknowns” in delaying an outcome for other three or more years.
“There are no guarantees that the issue will have such prominence or be as white-hot as it is right now in another two or three years’ time. I think this is an opportunity lost.”
Mr Entsch will be one of the first speakers in the House of Representatives later today when the Plebiscite (Same-Sex Marriage) Bill 2016 is debated.
“I’ll be hoping that common sense will prevail but I think it’s highly unlikely I think that politics will prevail and I find that very saddening and depressing.”
He added that if the bill gets through the House of Representatives but is voted down in the Senate, he too will step back from the issue to put more of his political focus into other areas.
“I can’t do any more.”