ALP in accord on gay unions
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”.