ATTORNEY-General George Brandis hopes Opposition leader Bill Shorten does not “succumb to the temptation to play politics” by voting against the plebiscite legislation.
Speaking on Lateline on Monday night, Brandis said people in the gay community are “sick to death of being treated as pawns in some kind of political game”.
“I think this is a real test for Bill Shorten. It’s instructive that after the shadow cabinet meeting this morning, the Labor Party, although critical of the plebiscite process, in fact stopped short of saying that it would vote against the plebiscite legislation which the Government is determined to proceed with,” Brandis said.
“The clearest path towards having marriage law reform and marriage equality in Australia is through a successful plebiscite. The Government proposes to introduce legislation early in the Parliament to enable the plebiscite to occur very early in the New Year so that we could have this with the endorsement of a ‘Yes’ vote, as I’m sure there would be, by the early months of next year, by February, if only the Labor Party would resist the temptation to take the low road and play politics with people’s lives.”
When asked by Lateline host Emma Alberici if the gay people Brandis had been speaking to supported a plebiscite, he said most of the people he has spoken to were “sensible and pragmatic enough” to know it was the best option.
“There is a variety of views across the gay community but I think that most of the mainstream gay interest groups and stakeholder groups are pragmatic enough to understand that this Government, having adopted this policy a year ago, having taken it to an election, is determined to ensure that there is an act of public choice.”
Brandis also revealed that Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, as well as many of the other senior members of the Government, would endorse a ‘yes’ vote at the plebiscite.
“If there were to be a ‘Yes’ vote, then the Government would move swiftly to pass through the Parliament the amendments to the Marriage Act to enable same-sex couples to marry,” he said.
When asked if he accepted arguments that the plebiscite campaign would be hurtful to the LGBTI community, Brandis said he has enough confidence in Australian people to believe it “will be a respectful discussion”.
‘I think we have heard hurtful arguments put from the benches of the Parliament, frankly. There will be things said in any debate on a topic of this sensitivity that some people will find offensive,” he said.