ALP in ac­cord on gay unions

Townsville Bulletin - - NEWS - STEVEN SCOTT

BILL Shorten has been saved from a hu­mil­i­at­ing de­feat over his plan to al­low La­bor MPs a con­science vote on same- sex mar­riage un­der a last- minute deal struck by fac­tional bosses.

In a com­pro­mise de­signed to pre­vent Mr Shorten be­ing rolled by his own party, the Op­po­si­tion Leader teamed up with his deputy Tanya Plibersek to com­pel La­bor MPs to sup­port gay mar­riage if it has not be­come law in the next two terms of Par­lia­ment.

The deal avoided La­bor MPs be­ing forced to vote for gay mar­riage af­ter the next elec­tion in a move that would have chal­lenged Mr Shorten’s au­thor­ity as leader.

Mr Shorten vowed to in­tro­duce changes to the Mar­riage Act within 100 days of win­ning gov­ern­ment.

But his plan could back­fire, with some Gov­ern­ment mem­bers pre­dict­ing Prime Min­is­ter Tony Ab­bott will now be less likely to al­low his MPs a con­science vote on a cross- party bill due to be in­tro­duced to Par­lia­ment next month.

The face- sav­ing deal on gay mar­riage came at the end of La­bor’s three- day na­tional con­fer­ence, where Mr Shorten also with­stood a bid to scut­tle his plan to match Mr Ab­bott’s pol­icy of turn­ing back asy­lum seeker boats.

The con­fer­ence high­lighted di­vi­sions at the high­est lev­els of the ALP af­ter front­bencher An­thony Al­banese pub­licly voted against Mr Shorten’s plan to turn around boats.

Mr Al­banese, who was Mr Shorten’s ri­val for the La­bor lead­er­ship af­ter the last elec­tion, de­fended his de­ci­sion and said “if peo­ple were in a boat in­clud­ing fam­i­lies and chil­dren I my­self wouldn’t turn that around”.

He pre­dicted a fu­ture La­bor gov­ern­ment would not turn around asy­lum seeker boats de­spite the change in pol­icy.

Ten­sions were in­flamed within the Left of the party af­ter Ms Plibersek and Penny Wong used prox­ies to vote against Mr Shorten’s asy­lum seeker plan to avoid be­ing seen to un­der­mine their leader.

Another Left fig­ure, Kim Carr, sug­gested Ms Plibersek had changed her po­si­tion af­ter pri­vately back­ing Mr Shorten’s plan on asy­lum seeker boats.

Sen­a­tor Wong de­fended her de­ci­sion to chal­lenge the leader by proxy, say­ing her vote “re­flected my long­stand­ing op­po­si­tion to turn­backs”.

In a show of unity at the end of the con­fer­ence, Mr Shorten was backed by Ms Plibersek, Sen­a­tor Wong and Mr Al­banese in hold­ing a rain­bow flag af­ter the gay mar­riage deal.

Mr Shorten told the con­fer­ence he be­lieved mar­riage equal­ity would be­come law if the Coali­tion also al­lowed a con­science vote.

Mean­while, the power of unions was weak­ened as rules re­quir­ing ALP mem­bers to be­long to a union were scrapped.

And a plan for women to make up 50 per of La­bor can­di­dates by 2025 was backed, along with a re­view of the party’s “so­cial­ist ob­jec­tive”.

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