MALCOLM Turnbull will not be at the Mardi Gras parade in Sydney this weekend, saying he will be attending to “other matters” interstate.
The Mardi Gras declared last year that Turnbull would not be welcome at the parade, due to his backing a plebiscite on marriage equality. The motion was overturned following controversy.
Turnbull has attended the parade in the past, including last year when he became the first sitting Prime Minister to do so.
“I go most years,” Turnbull said on Thursday. “I’m not going this year, I’ll be interstate on other matters. But [wife] Lucy and I have been strong supporters of Mardi Gars and the major sponsoring organisations for many, many years.”
“I have other things to do on Mardi Gras day,” he said in an interview on WSFM.
Marchers are expected to show frustration with Turnbull for obstructing marriage equality. The group who uninvited him to the parade will have a ‘No Pride in Detention, No Pride in Turnbull’ float, which also features an effigy of Donald Trump.
“I’m not happy. He would be able to start [marriage] equality and avoid the whole awkward scenario if he wanted to,” said Cat Rose, float organiser from Community Action Against Homophobia.
“It’s pathetic that he’s chosen to avoid our community. He’s being a real coward on both fronts.
“I’m proud that we sent the message to make him uncomfortable enough that he can no longer get away with being such a hypocrite, but equality would have been the real win.”
“Mardi Gras began as a protest so this year we want to give our support to migrants, Muslims and LGBTI people being attacked,” said co-organiser Patrick Wright.
“We are sick of the hypocrisy of Turnbull turning up to Mardi Gras for an insincere photo opportunity while he denies us equality and keeps innocent people in offshore prison camps.”
Opposition leader Bill Shorten and Greens leader Richard Di Natale are both expected to march in this year’s parade.
“I’m proud to be marching at the Mardi Gras parade again this year,” said Shorten.
“Labor has a proud record of delivering for LGBTI Australians that is unmatched by any other political party and I want to see that momentum continue.
“That’s why Labor wants marriage equality today, and a free vote is the fastest, least expensive, least harmful way to achieve that. It’s ridiculous that we’re still debating this. Let’s just get on with it.
“I hope Mr Turnbull hears the voices of thousands of Australians this weekend and finally lets the parliament vote the make marriage equality a reality.”
Marriage equality continues to divide the Coalition, which took the policy of a plebiscite at the last election and is now facing increasing pressure to hold a free parliamentary vote on the matter.