Australian Labor’s Bill Shorten Voiced His Total Opposition To A Plebiscite

Australian Labor Party Leader, Bill Shorten (left) Photo: Sarah Farnsworth

The opposition to a plebiscite on marriage equality in Australia is very strong, and there are many reasons to oppose it, including the fact that although it will be a compulsory vote, it is non-binding, and will cost in the region of $160 million to the Australian people. Bill Shorten has also said recently that it risks providing a platform for prejudice and hate-speech.

The Australian Labor Party’s Bill Shorten has voiced his opposition to the plebiscite very well recently in a speech he made in parliament – partial text below:


“[..] I speak for Sophie Meredith and Alison Gerard, who have been together for eight years.

They wear rings, they have two children whom they adore.

They fulfil all the obligations of marriage: care, respect, love and family.

Yet they are excluded, their relationship is – in the eyes of our laws – somehow different, somehow less.

Go down any street in Australia and you can hear these stories.

Hardworking people, raising children, building communities, serving the country – made to feel like second-class citizens through one last lingering relic of legal prejudice.

It is in our power – in this place – to change that, once and for all.

[..] for LGBTI Australians and their families, those criticisms are far more common, far more cruel – and they are backed by actual, legal discrimination.

Why should the children of LGBTI Australians be denied the formal recognition of their parents’ relationship?

So, some might say marriage equality is a second-order issue, ‘identity politics’, mere symbolism.

But what they need to understand is that if you already enjoy a legal right, it is easy to take it for granted.

For me, it is as simple as this.

In delaying marriage equality, we are not just falling behind the rest of the world – 21 countries who we consider our legal, cultural and social peers – have already moved ahead of us.

We are falling short of our national sense of self – the country we want to see in the mirror, the Australia we tell our children to believe in.

How can we call ourselves the land of the fair go if we discriminate against our citizens on the basis of who they are and who they love.

And we who sit in this parliament, trusted with the great privilege of representing all the Australian people – not just some of the Australian people.

How can we call ourselves leaders, if instead of acting to correct this unfairness, we push the responsibility back onto the people who sent us here, with an opinion poll which will cost at least $160 million.

The Prime Minister and the Member for Warringah are both fond of quoting 18th Century Conservative Edmund Burke.

They would know what he told the people of Bristol, about the job of a parliamentarian:

“Your representative” – Burke said – “owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion”.

A plebiscite would represent a fundamental failure of this parliament to do its job”.


“How can we look Australians in the eye and say a piece of legislation three pages long – a straightforward change which a majority of members in both houses support – how do we say this is too much for us to handle?

How do we say that every question of human rights can be decided by the parliament – but a special exemption, a new hurdle must be imposed upon LGBTI Australians?

As Justice Michael Kirby has said, the plebiscite in itself is a “discriminatory step” driven by “hostility”. 

And how can anyone justify spending at least $160 million on a compulsory vote, when members of the government won’t be compelled to respect the result?

A plebiscite is not a real vote – it is a straw poll.

But it will cause real harm – and real waste.

The true cost of a plebiscite is far greater than $160 million.

Putting the question of marriage equality to a national vote, risks providing a platform for prejudice and a megaphone for hate-speech”.



About EILE Magazine

The new LGBT magazine; available online, for download and on podcast. It's time for another view.
%d bloggers like this: