This week, Australia’s federal government continued to act like a homophobic uncle at Christmas lunch, digging its heels in and refusing to be drawn into any meaningful discussion on same-sex marriage. 

After a party room meeting at which the issue was raised, Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced that LNP members would be denied a free vote, but that Australia might have a public vote at … some vague point, possibly after the next federal election. 

In a blog post earlier today, Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull criticised this, and called for a plebiscite to be held before, to get the Australian public’s “open and honest” views on the subject of same-sex marriage.

Turnbull hasn’t suddenly transformed into a rainbow flag-waving SSM supporter or anything like that; in asking for the plebiscite to happen soon, he’s thinking mainly about political expediency. He does, however, seem fed up with the current level of inaction:

The definition of marriage and the manner in which same sex unions are recognised are very important issues and they deserve to be considered calmly and thoughtfully.

My own view for what it is worth is that it would be better if same sex marriage were not a contentious issue at the next election – there are sincere, conscientious differences of opinion throughout the community and on both sides of the political divide and issues like this are better dealt with outside of the frenzied hurly burly of an election campaign.

An election campaign is about 35 days – I would rather spend every single one of them talking about economic management, how we ensure Australia’s prosperity, how our free trade agreements will drive prosperity, how we are promoting innovation, technology and science and so on.

Important though the matter is, every day talking about same sex marriage will distract from the Coalition’s core messages.

TL;DR: “Let’s just get this the fuck over with so we can deal with other issues like the economy.”

The opposition has warned against allowing the public to decide, not only in fear of unleashing a nationally divisive debate, but also highlighting the futility of a referendum or plebiscite, citing its extreme likelihood of being passed. 

Yesterday, Bill Shorten described a plebiscite as a “$150 million taxpayer-funded opinion poll to tell us what we know”, and told Abbott to grow a pair of balls and have a parliamentary vote, 

He said:

Mr Abbott and his right wing liberals broke the heart of the nation. They are holding Australia back. It should not be the case in our country that people should not be allowed to be treated as a second class citizen, merely because of who they love. We are a better country.

And If Mr Abbott does not understand, that ordinary Australians, real people with families – we just want all Australians to be free of discrimination, to be able to marry who they want….our laws fail us if we do not allow marriage equality.

The government have still not announced the timing of a plebiscite on same-sex marriage, should we decide to go that way.

Photo: Frazer Harrison via Getty Images