THIS week’s coalition vote on same sex marriage was as close to unanimous as the Liberal Party gets, says Bowman MP Andrew Laming.
Mr Laming said a plebiscite was the coalition’s 2016 election promise and the government owed the nation every opportunity to allow people a say.
He said same-sex marriage was emotive and heartfelt, which explained why a poll last month found 45 per cent wanted a plebiscite, compared with 39 per cent for a parliamentary vote.
Mr Laming said the coalition parties were the only political parties whose membership and politicians reflected the polarized views of the nation. This showed coalition parties were hardly out of touch.
The same-sex marriage issue has been a major distraction for the federal government, with opposition leader Bill Shorten telling parliament that Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull would be responsible for the hurt unleashed by debate on the government’s proposed postal survey on the subject.
Mr Shorten said Labor would support the same-sex marriage vote in the non-compulsory survey.
Labor held meetings with same-sex marriage advocates on Wednesday to discuss tactics and strategy about the campaign.
Mr Shorten criticised the government's plan to hold the survey which was effectively a plan B approach because parliament has twice blocked a compulsory plebiscite.
Former prime ministers John Howard and Tony Abbott have said they will join the no campaign.
Marriage equality campaigners Just.Equal and PFLAG have announced a High Court challenge to the postal plebiscite.
Australians 4 Equality director Tiernan Brady said his group would pursue every avenue to block what was an unnecessary, expensive and precedent-setting plebiscite.
Mr Laming said the real question was why marriage equality proponents rejected a people’s vote.
“The answer is apathy,” he said. “The majority of voters in the centre may profess support for marriage equality in polls but whether they turn out to vote is uncertain.
“Same sex marriage may be inevitable but that doesn’t make it imminent.”
Mr Laming said the coalition realised that while distracting, the debate was not politically damaging.
“It is true a majority of younger voters are in favour of change but they comprise non-coalition voters who aren’t for changing, swingers whose vote turns on other issues and coalition supporters who are sympathetic but not impatient,” he said.
Mr Laming said running to the High Court showed the extremes the yes case advocates would go to avoid the people’s view.
He said the vote was a plebiscite that did not require public funding for each side.
“In fact a case can be made for a media advertising blackout, to prevent the avalanche of international financing that has contaminated overseas marriage votes,” he said.
“Most of us just want to have our say and move on.
“… Get ready for a surprise result as the interminable phone polls and online petitions are replaced by the cold hard methodology of collecting a form, filling it out, and putting it in a box, in this case a post box.”