LABOR voters will leach to the Greens unless all the party’s MPs commit to supporting marriage equality, the organiser behind a major demonstration on the issue has told the Star Observer.
Equal Love campaign manager Anthony Wallace said around 2000 people were expected to attend Saturday’s rally outside the Melbourne Convention Centre where Labor’s national conference is being held.
[showads ad=MREC]Delegates are expected to discuss whether the party’s MPs should be compelled to support marriage equality should a vote come before parliament.
The party is divided on the issue. NSW Labor leader Luke Foley recently told Sky News MPs should be allowed to vote according to their personal beliefs, while federal Deputy Opposition Leader Tanya Plibersek and South Australian Senator Penny Wong are in favour of a binding MPs to the ALP’s policy position in favour of marriage equality.
Wallace said a free vote could lead to marriage equality failing if enough Labor MPs sided with the Coalition against the measure.
“The answer is not a free vote; the answer is a vote against inequality,” he said.
“There might be some members who are against [marriage equality] but the bottom line is if they support equality, they should support equality.”
Wallace added it was disappointing that some of the key backers of a binding vote now seemed to be cooling on the issue.
Last week, The Australian reported that Plibersek said the matter was now “less important” as “she couldn’t have predicted” that opposition leader Bill Shorten would so strongly back same-sex marriage.
“She came out all guns blazing on a binding vote, that’s stirred a lot of debate in the party room and clearly it’s not the feeling of a majority of members,” Wallace said.
He said even if a motion to bind its MPs failed at the conference it was vital the issue was revisited sooner rather than later.
“We know the government won’t allow a free vote on this because marriage equality will not be passed under a prime minister who doesn’t support it,” Wallace said.
“So this will run all the way to the next federal election and if they bind they go to the next election with an unofficial referendum on marriage equality.”
However, if a conscience vote remained in place Wallace believes “there are a lot of pro-marriage equality votes and a lot of those will go Green”.
The Greens have said all their MPs would vote in favour of same-sex marriage.
Australian Marriage Equality national convenor Rodney Croome said the organisation would work with whatever decision was made at the conference but Labor should stop prevaricating on a binding vote.
“The Labor party’s policy of having a conscience vote on marriage equality is inconsistent with its fundamental ideal of equality for all in the same way the Liberal’s opposition to a free vote is in opposition to their fundamental ideal of individual freedom,” he said.
Rainbow Labor national co-convenor Louise Pratt told the Star Observer the party’s LGBTI wing remained “very clearly” in favour of binding.
However, she was mindful that even if every Labor MP voted in favour, marriage equality still needed support from the government benches.
“It’s in the best interests of this issue to give the current parliament the opportunity to resolve it,” Pratt said.
“If we bind now it makes no difference unless the Coalition have a conscience vote because we don’t have enough numbers to deliver [marriage equality].”
Pratt said if marriage equality was still not a reality before the next federal election, Labor MPs all being in support of the issue would give voters a clear choice.
Plibersek’s office has been contacted for comment.
The Equal Love rally at the ALP National Conference is at 1pm on Saturday, July 25 outside the Melbourne Convention Centre.[showads ad=FOOT]