Conscience vote – call for action

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By Strategic Partner John Barker

The Federal Liberal Government is rapidly placing itself in a no-win situation with its continued endeavour to oppose a parliamentary conscience vote on marriage equality.

The issue has increasingly strong public support and delaying further consideration by not allowing all of its members to vote on conscience in the parliament will ensure the government loses more electoral support.

The Australian public are disenchanted with government procrastination on marriage equality and the Bronwyn Bishop issue (now thankfully resolved). They rightly expect their elected members to make decisions reflecting the wishes of their electorates.

It seems as though the issue of marriage equality has been debated ad infinitum other than in the Federal Parliament.

Intransigent adherence to philosophical or religious views is becoming increasingly less acceptable in voter land.

The political landscape has changed significantly since the introduction of advanced communications technology. Public awareness participation, media utilisation and exploitation of issues requiring political action means governments cannot now expect issues to simply go away.

The suggestion of a plebiscite with inherent delays is ridiculous and certainly politically damaging in these circumstances.

Here is a golden opportunity for the Prime Minister and his government colleagues to introduce a conscience vote into the Federal Parliament when it resumes next week and it will be hamstrung until it acts.

From a legislative perspective, marriage is a Federal matter, however state governments must also lead, particularly given the current circumstances in Canberra.

Tasmania has a positive record on gay rights, contrary to some mainland views. Indeed I was the first Tasmanian Government Minister to propose recognition of same-sex couples in 1996 and it was a State Liberal government which decriminalised homosexuality, following the granting of a free vote by then Premier Tony Rundle, and only recently a state liberal government also recognised Rodney Croome as Tasmanian of the Year.

It is also time for the Tasmanian government to bend the arm of the Prime Minister.

Why is Australia so different to New Zealand, United Kingdom and Ireland? Remember that the New Zealand Nationals Government of John Keys and the United Kingdom Conservative Government of David Cameron were returned with increased majorities after they enacted marriage equality.

The Australian people require leadership not inaction.

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