Plebiscite bill has failed in the senate for a second time

The government’s compulsory attendance plebiscite has been knocked back by the senate for a second time after MPs declined to have a second reading of the bill.

Labor’s Senator Penny Wong delivered a passionate speech arguing against the government’s plan to poll the population rather represent the people.

“This motion is not about giving people a say.” Senator Wong declared. “This motion is about weakness and division on that side of the parliament. This motion is about a government so divided, and so leaderless, they have to handball a hard decision to the community because they can’t make it in their party room. ”

Wong said the coalition were “utterly divided” on the issue of marriage equality and their decision to ask the senate to reconsider their decision from last year was simply a stunt.

“The reality is this all a stunt, and everyone knows that.” Senator Wong said. The South Australian Senator said she had a lot of respect for Acting Special Minister of State Mathias Cormann but said he was “valiantly trying to create some logic around what is an utterly ridiculous position.”

“Its a damaging stunt, and its an expensive stunt.” Wong declared.

“Its like one big opinion survey to get over the fact that the Liberal party room can’t make a decision and Malcolm Turnbull has not had the courage of his conviction.”

Senator Wong said she rejected a suggestion from Senator Cormann that the plebiscite could be a “unifying moment” for the Australian people.

“I hope that people watching me wouldn’t think that I’m a shrinking violet, and I know what hard debate’s like.” Senator Wong said. “but I tell you, have a read of some of the things which are said about us and our families and then come back and tell us it’s a unifying experience.”

Senator Wong said comments from the Australian Christian Lobby that described the children of LGBT couples as a ‘stolen generation’ were not a unifying experience.

The Greens also argued against the plebiscite getting a second reading in the senate. Leader Richard Di Natale said there were many arguments against the plebiscite but none was greater than the fact the government was allowing a vote on the status of people.

“We won’t support this plebiscite because it violates a fundamental principle in any liberal democracy, and that is you never put the question of discrimination of human rights to an opinion poll. That is the antithesis of the way any modern liberal democracy deals with questions of basic human rights.” Di Natale said.

The Greens leader said the government had entered into a “parallel universe” with their proposal for a postal opinion poll. “This is bizarro world stuff.”

Di Natale said the government was making decisions in its own self interest, rather than in the interests of the Australian people.

Senator Nick Xenophon described the return of the plebiscite legislation as ‘Groundhog Day in Canberra’.

“This should not go ahead, we’ve already dealt with this issue, it does not need to be dealt with again…this bill was comprehensively defeated, there ought to be a free vote of the parliament of this issue.” Senator Xenophon said.

Independent Senator Derryn Hinch said he was prepared to let the government have a second discussion about the plebiscite, and would vote in favour of the motion for it to be debated a second time, but he would not be giving the proposal support. Paraphrasing British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, Senator Hinch said he was ‘not for turning’.

The motion was defeated after thirty one MPs voted both for, and 31 MPs voted against against the proposal, meaning it did not pass. It is expected the government will now roll outs its plan for a postal based plebiscite administered by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

OIP Staff


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