Rural independent Rob Oakeshott, who would be a critical vote if same-sex marriage was adopted as Government policy in federal Parliament, has implied he supports same-sex marriage, but does not think his electorate is ready for it.
“From my perspective on the topic of same-sex marriage, there are times to lead and times to follow the community,” Oakeshott said in his report-back to Parliament on same-sex marriage.
“Picking when and why is very much the challenge for all of us in a representative democracy … At all times, right or wrong, a member of Parliament should make their own best judgements.
“On an issue like pricing carbon through an emissions trading scheme, I have chosen to lead community with the national interest in mind. On the issue of same-sex marriage, I am choosing to follow community, again as a matter of judgement and again with the national interest in mind.”
Oakeshott reported that his electorate of Lyne was split, with 40 percent opposed, 40 percent indifferent, and 20 percent in favour — and while that remained the case, he would continue to represent his constituents’ views.
“For the proponents, I will continue to listen closely, but there is plenty of work on the ground still to do,” he said.
Oakeshott also expressed shock at comments that had been made at the Marriage Day rally in Parliament’s Great Hall.
“Unfortunately, even in this place there have been disgraceful attacks and distortions in this debate,” he said, in apparent reference to verbal attacks on Labor’s Senator Penny Wong.
“I refer to an event in the Great Hall of Parliament House … which saw a personal attack on one of our colleagues’ … individual and private circumstances.
“More disappointing … was that other members of Parliament present chose to bear witness to that attack on a fellow member without objection or without clarifying that the issues that were the basis of the attack had nothing to do with or without changes to the Marriage Act.
“Alongside this … there were irrelevant, misleading and emotive fears presented as if they were plausible that marriage may become the province of paedophiles or close relatives of the same sex. This is nonsense that diminishes this important debate.”
Of the other two Independents the Government needs to pass legislation, Andrew Wilkie supports same-sex marriage, while Tony Windsor has implied that the word “marriage” might be a sticking-point for his constituents.