A NSW Liberal MP has told the Star Observer that Coalition colleagues who have called for civil unions as a compromise for full marriage equality are “squibbing” the issue.
Bruce Notley-Smith – who has become the first openly-gay MP in NSW to be added to the roster of speakers – also said a cross-party “unholy alliance” of parliamentarians against marriage equality was to be expected but could be defeated.
“[But] I think we’ve got to the point now where those resisting the change will be on the wrong side of history.
“The thing about the Australian community more generally is that this is not a front mind issue because there’ve bypassed that, they’ve seen the rest of the world and there haven’t been the debates in the pub and across the dinner table.
“It’s just ‘get on with it.’”
The Daily Telegraph recently reported several cabinet ministers were in active discussions with some Labor MPs to block any attempt to bring on a marriage equality vote.
“It was inevitable that they would team up,” Notley-Smith said.
“There’s always been very socially conservative people in both parties and I think it’s an indication of the inevitability of change is why they’ve been forced into an unholy alliance.”
Notley-Smith dismissed a proposal from Berowra federal Liberal MP Phillip Ruddock, and later backed by Social Services Minister Scott Morrison, on ABC’s Q&A program that French-style state unions “may be worth a look at”.
“That’s squibbing it basically,” Notley-Smith said.
“If they were having the civil union debate they should have had it ten years ago, the horse has bolted in regards to that one.
“We should have the right to have our relationships respected and regarded as equal to anybody else in this country.”
Marriage equality campaigners have also criticised the plan that they say misrepresents the situation in France where civil marriage remains in place and is, in fact, a mandatory first step for any couple wishing to wed in a religious ceremony.
Late last month, Notley-Smith presided over parliament for the first time as one of the temporary speakers of the NSW lower house.
The first time an openly-gay MP has taken on the role, he will now sit in the chair several times a week.
Notley-Smith said NSW was now “the gayest parliament in Australia,” with six openly gay members on Macquarie St.
“I think it just goes to show [with] gay people are taking on these significant responsible positions, being gay is business as usual,” he said.
Notley-Smith said his previous experience as mayor of Randwick had been a useful grounding for the role: “Council meetings can get quite rowdy and there’s a lot going on that you have to be across and at the same time fair but firm.”
He also said he would not be modelling himself on federal speaker Bronwyn Bishop who Labor have criticised for bias.
“There’s many speakers that each have something to contribute, so I’ll looking towards my own style,” he said.
Notley-Smith would not rule out the speaker role being a step on the road to a ministry: “I just want to focus on doing the absolute best job I can and let history take its course.”
Speaker of the lower house, Shelley Hancock, told the Star Observer: “Bruce’s ability to stand up for his community in the Parliament proves he is worthy of this prestigious role, and I congratulate him on his appointment.”
Notley-Smith will also chair the cross party working group on LGBTI matters, the public accounts committee and the parliamentary friends of Israel group.