Australian opposition to put forward rival equal marriage bill as public vote plan implodes

Bill Shorten

Australia’s opposition Labor Party is submitting its own equal marriage bill to rival the government – after objections to a planned public vote on the issue.

The country’s right-wing Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has avoided a free Parliamentary vote on equal marriage, instead making plans to take the issue to the public in a non-binding plebiscite to avoid a rift with his own conservative anti-LGBT MPs.

But the proposal is being blocked by opposition parties, who support equal marriage but see a plebiscite see it as costly measure inviting homophobic debate.

The opposition Labor Party – which holds a decisive sway on the issue due to the government’s wafer-thin majority – has today confirmed that it would not be supporting the government’s plan, and would instead put forward its own legislation.

Under the Labor plan, equal marriage would go straight to a free vote in Parliament, paving the ways for marriages to begin much sooner without requiring a plebiscite.

Labor leader Bill Shorten said: “[Deputy] Tanya Plibersek and I have given notice to the Parliament that we intend to introduce a private member’s bill to make marriage equality a reality – without an expensive and divisive plebiscite”.

The bill could come to the floor within the next few days depending on Labor’s strategy on the issue.

However, it may be seen by government MPs as an attempt by the opposition to take the credit for reform, meaning it would be unlikely to secure cross-party support.