SENATOR THE HON PENNY WONG

LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION IN THE SENATE

SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS

LABOR SENATOR FOR SOUTH AUSTRALIA

OPINION PIECE

10 August 2017

WE DIDN’T WANT TO BE HERE. WE SHOULDN’T BE HERE. BUT NOW WE ARE HERE, WE HAVE TO FIGHT.

TOPICS: MARRIAGE EQUALITY, MARRIAGE EQUALITY PLEBISCITE

There’s no denying the Turnbull Government’s opinion poll is a stacked deck – designed to mark every card against those seeking marriage equality.

That’s why supporters of marriage equality need to work twice as hard to get out the vote, and ensure that Malcolm Turnbull’s $122 million “survey” accurately reflects the overwhelming will of the Australian people.

Calls for a boycott are understandable. LGBTI Australians rightly feel insulted that we have to ask permission to be equal.

We didn’t want to be here. We shouldn’t be here. But now we are here, we have to fight.

Yes, there are serious questions about the legitimacy of the political fix chosen by Malcolm Turnbull to overcome the Senate’s repeated rejection of his plebiscite.

We know from the 1997 postal ballot on the republic that turnout is likely to be very low, especially among young people. It will disenfranchise people in remote areas, especially indigenous Australians, and those travelling overseas. And there are very serious questions about the ability of the ABS to run such a ballot.

It’s no wonder pollsters have ridiculed postal votes as a “complete waste of money”.

And we know, because we are seeing it already, that Malcolm Turnbull’s opinion poll will unleash a new wave of hatred and bigotry against LGBTI Australians, and especially against our kids.

But Malcolm Turnbull’s pathetic capitulation to the hard right of his party means that the campaign has been launched, and unless halted by the High Court, the ballots will be going out to millions of Australians in the next few weeks.

Labor supports marriage equality and we will campaign for the rights of all Australians to marry the person they love. Unlike Malcolm we will fight for equality.

Right now a boycott can only play into the hands of those who would deny us our rights.

So we must do everything we can to get as many people as possible on to the electoral roll in the next fortnight, to register all those young people who have never voted, and re-enrol all those struck off by moving house.

And then we must ensure we get those ballots back in record numbers to shame this weak and leaderless government into finally doing the right thing.

And because we believe in equality, if, after all this, Malcolm Turnbull still won’t act, Bill Shorten has made clear that Labor will legislate for marriage equality in our first hundred days.

This Opinion Piece was first published by The Sydney Morning Herald on 10 August 2017.