Aus­tralia’s rul­ing party re­fuses vote to rec­og­nize gay mar­riage

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Aus­tralia’s rul­ing party yes­ter­day re­jected a push to al­low law­mak­ers to de­cide whether the coun­try should rec­og­nize gay mar­riage, con­tin­u­ing a bit­ter po­lit­i­cal stale­mate over the di­vi­sive re­form. The con­ser­va­tive Lib­eral Party-led coali­tion was nar­rowly re-elected in July 2016 with a prom­ise to let vot­ers de­cide whether Aus­tralia should rec­og­nize same-sex mar­riage through a pop­u­lar vote. But the Se­nate would not al­low the so-called plebiscite, which would have cost 160 mil­lion Aus­tralian dol­lars ($127 mil­lion), and the re­sult could have been ig­nored by law­mak­ers when de­cid­ing how to vote on gay mar­riage leg­is­la­tion in Par­lia­ment.

Lib­eral Sen Dean Smith, a gay man who op­posed le­gal­iz­ing same-sex mar­riage when he was ap­pointed to the Se­nate in 2012, has drafted a bill to al­low gay mar­riage now and wants his fel­low Lib­eral law­mak­ers to be al­lowed to vote on it ac­cord­ing to their con­sciences rather than ac­cord­ing to party pol­icy. “It’s time for the party to put the mat­ter to rest once and for all,” Smith told re­porters be­fore the meet­ing.

But a cri­sis meet­ing of Lib­eral law­mak­ers de­cided to try again to per­suade the Se­nate to en­dorse the plebiscite be­fore Par­lia­ment con­sid­ers vot­ing on leg­is­la­tion. The re­jected plebiscite bill will be rein­tro­duced to the Se­nate this week. Vot­ing on the plebiscite would be com­pul­sory and fail­ure to vote would be pun­ish­able by a fine.

Cheaper op­tion

If the Se­nate again re­jected it, the party would propose a vol­un­tary postal plebiscite in which vot­ers mail in their opin­ions in­stead of us­ing bal­lot boxes as a cheaper op­tion that would not need the Se­nate to ap­prove the ex­pense. The seven law­mak­ers who spoke against the plebiscite at the meet­ing were out­num­bered more than three-to-one by 27 col­leagues who sup­ported the 2-year-old pol­icy.

Find­ing pol­icy agree­ment on the is­sue is a test of Prime Min­is­ter Mal­colm Turn­bull’s au­thor­ity over his frag­ile gov­ern­ment, which holds a sin­gle-seat ma­jor­ity in the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives. Law­maker An­drew Broad had threat­ened to quit that gov­ern­ment and pre­dicted 16 of his col­leagues in the Na­tion­als party would fol­low if the Lib­eral Party opted to al­low a par­lia­men­tary vote on gay mar­riage with­out a plebiscite.

“It won’t be me only, the whole show would blow up,” Broad told the Sun­raysia Daily news­pa­per. “So sud­denly you’d lose 16 lower house mem­bers in one bloc. Turn­bull’s lead­er­ship would be­come un­ten­able and he’d no longer be prime min­is­ter,” Broad added. Gay mar­riage cam­paigner Anna Brown said she had le­gal ad­vice that the gov­ern­ment could not con­duct a postal plebiscite with­out Se­nate ap­proval. She said her ad­vo­cacy group The Equal­ity Cam­paign would seek a High Court in­junc­tion to pre­vent any postal plebiscite.

“The gov­ern­ment needs to think very care­fully be­fore it ex­pends up to AU$100 mil­lion of tax­payer dol­lars when it could re­solve this is­sue in Par­lia­ment as soon as this week,” Brown said. Opin­ion polls show most Aus­tralians sup­port gay mar­riage. But most of that sup­port is soft, and gayrights ad­vo­cates are con­cerned that ref­er­en­dums rarely change the sta­tus quo in Aus­tralia. —AP

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Kuwait

© PressReader. All rights reserved.