Back in your schoolyard days, there was always some sort of debate about a popular thing that divided the class. On one side you’ve got people exalting the fact that Party In The USA is the greatest pop song of the past 20 years. And on the other side, people who shout black and blue about how it’s a stain on musical history.
“To be frank, the nature of Australia’s contemporary debate on same sex marriage has caused me to re-examine some fundamental assumptions I have held about this debate.As many of you in this room are aware, I voted against same sex marriage when changes came before the Federal Parliament. I ensured my political party had a conscience vote and I did not seek to influence the vote of any one within my political part on the legislation itself.I am aware that this vote by me was viewed as odd by many given what they know of my broader values. I am keenly aware my position was idiosyncratic. One of my staff members summarised it as that of a 1970s feminist. At least he had the courtesy to not call me a broken down 1970s feminist!At the ALP National Conference at which I was Deputy Prime Minister, the principal discussion in relation to Labor’s policy position centred on civil unions, a claim brought before the conference by many LGBTI activists. I thought in this campaigning lay the potential to create a new and modernised approach to the recognition of committed relationships, both heterosexual and homosexual. Given the 1970s feminist in me saw much to be concerned from a gender perspective with traditional marriage, I thought the better approach was not to change the old but to create something new through civil unions.However, in the years since, the debate has quickly moved on, and the claim for civil unions has been discarded in favour of a campaign for same sex marriage.In my time post-politics as key countries have moved to embrace same sex marriage, I have identified that my preferred reform direction was most assuredly not winning hearts and minds.In fact, I assumed what would likely happen next was that the Liberal Party would move to a conscience vote on same sex marriage and, inevitably at some point, the parliament would vote to amend the Marriage Act to allow same sex marriages.Being outside the Parliament, I would not have a vote in this process. After the vote was successfully taken my position would have been overtaken by history, something which would have caused me no heart burn.Now, given the discussion of a plebiscite or a referendum, I find myself in a world where these assumptions have been upended.As you know from my earlier remarks, I think it is vital that the proposal for a plebiscite or referendum is put to one side. I also think it is important that the matter is now resolved through a conscience vote by the Parliament as promptly as possible after the next election so that no more potential twists and turns can loom up. Of course, like everyone else in this room except Michael Danby, I would not have a vote in that debate. But if I did, I would vote yes.”
‘Course – what with hindsight being 20/20 and all that – all of this would have been far handier if it had occurred, oh say… whilst she was still the Prime Minister.