It now seems likely that there will be no vote on marriage equality in the House of Representatives before the next Federal election, following a decision last Thursday by the Parliamentary Selection Committee to allocate time for four more speakers on the bill rather than refer it to a vote.
With few parliamentary sitting weeks left in the year, this delay means the legislation is unlikely to go to a vote until some time next year.
The disappointment comes after weeks of campaigning in Canberra by marriage equality advocates for the support of MPs voting on the bill.
The bill’s sponsor, Greens MP Adam Bandt, released a statement last week accusing Labor and the Coalition of using the selection committee to block the vote, taking the issue of marriage equality off the table before September’s election.
“Voters deserve to know where every MP stands before the election,” said Bandt.
“This would have been an opportunity to do that.”
Speaking to the Star Observer, Labor MP and Leader of the House Anthony Albanese (right) said the Greens, not Labor, are to blame for the bill not going to a vote before the election.
“[The Greens] shouldn’t blame someone else if it doesn’t then get to a vote,” he said.
“On any bill you have debate, where people can speak for or against or what have you.
“For a period of two years the Greens chose not to have it listed in the time in private Member’s business they’re allocated.
“Knowing full well that people have to speak on legislation, [the Greens] chose to prioritise other legislation than this.”
Albanese, who publicly supports marriage equality, went on to question why the Greens would call for a vote on the bill after two years of arguing against having a vote they thought was doomed to fail.
“They weren’t even neutral, they were hostile to a vote taking place…now there’s only two Mondays left for private Members business, everyone’s known what the timetable was for the election, and now all of a sudden that
was [Bandt’s] decision, and the Greens decision,” he said.
“Why until May were they actually critical of us for having lost [the 2012 vote
on marriage equality]?
“Now they’re trying to imply that unless you have a vote that’s lost you don’t support marriage equality.”
Asked to respond to Albanese’s comments, Adam Bandt told Star Observer his bill has already been debated extensively.
“My bill was introduced in early 2012, has been through a wide-ranging parliamentary inquiry and has been debated on four separate occasions, with more speakers than almost any other private member’s bill this Parliament,” Bandt said.
“I’ve been flagging for a while that this bill should be put to a vote.
“The suggestion that everyone needs to speak on a private member’s bill before a vote is just rubbish. Some bills have gone to a vote with as few as four people speaking.
“It’s disappointing that Labor is working with the Coalition to prevent a vote, but I won’t stop until we achieve marriage equality.”
Following the selection committee’s decision last week, the Greens have turned their attention to a bill before the Senate to allow legal recognition for foreign same-sex marriages in Australia.
Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young plans to move the Senate bill to a vote next week.