Bill On The Brink – Keep Calling!

Bill Shorten - federal member for Maribyrnong - Official PortraitBill Shorten still hasn’t agreed to a plebiscite on Marriage Equality. Why? Because YOU keep calling!

First, please, take it as read that a plebiscite is an all-time bad idea – even Panti Bliss agrees with me, despite a misleading headline in today’s papers – and if you still need reminding why, there’s ton of stuff on this very site. Browse around or just use the site search facility.

The Irish campaign was rough, according to Panit Bliss

The Irish campaign was rough, according to Panit Bliss

So, are you saying a plebiscite might not be so bad after all?

“I’m still not going to recommend it,” [Panti] says emphatically. “It is unpleasant, and difficult and in your case so unnecessary and expensive. And if you don’t get the right answer you’re going to have to wait ages to do it again.”

The latest poll indicates that public support for a plebiscite continues to fall

“A ReachTEL poll of 10,271 voters, commissioned by the progressive Australia Institute and conducted on Tuesday evening, has found 59.7 per cent of voters support same-sex marriage and 40.3 per cent opposed it.

But asked whether legalisation of same-sex marriage should be decided by a national plebiscite, or a parliamentary vote, a bare majority of voters – just 51.7 per cent – backed the plebiscite and 48.3 per cent preferred a politicians’ vote.”

We’re still waiting to hear if Bill Shorten and Labor will support a plebiscite for Marriage Equality (please stop calling it Same-Sex Marriage, that excludes our Intersex allies), and on what terms. What’s holding him up? We are.

Behind the scenes, furious lobbying is continuing. But not quite in the way you might think.

pic: Australian Greens

The latest outcome of behind the scenes lobbying was Greens MP, Sarah Hanson-Young, musing publicly that she might support a plebiscite if the alternative were to have no progress on Equal Marriage this term.

She made her remarks after posting selfies with her good buddy, and leader of Australian Marriage Equality, Alex Greenwich, who was her date at the Midwinter Ball.

Greenwich has been very busy lately lobbying Green, crossbench and Labor Senators, and of course Bill Shorten, over the plebiscite issue.

Other minor Gay Inc players have also been buzzing round parliament pushing the same AME line: if the government continues to block a free vote, then the community will reluctantly support a plebiscite. Rumour has it that Rainbow Labor are urging the party to abstain on any vote to establish a plebiscite. Sean Mulcahey of VGLRL says they have been lobbying against a public vote.

We have not told the Opposition Leader that the community will accept a plebiscite – it’s clear that the LGBTIQ community are strongly opposed. We have made it clear in our meeting with the Shadow Assistant Minister for Equality that we do not support a plebiscite.

But Shorten and the rest are also being inundated with phone calls and emails pleading with them to stand firm against a plebiscite under any circumstances.  Again may I remind you there are a whole host of excellent reasons not to have a plebiscite: search the stirrer for a comprehensive selection.

Shorten is dithering for a whole host of reasons. Principally he wants to cause Malcolm Turnbull maximum trouble. But he also wants cast-iron assurances that he won’t be crucified for his decision – whichever way he jumps – by the LGBTI community as a whole. An assurance our ‘leaders’ cannot give him.

Word is that he was on the brink of announcing his support for a plebiscite, until his office began receiving lots of phone calls from opponents – you – over the last few days. So keep it up.


There’s a handy form here to use to mail your MP and Senators with your thoughts, so if you oppose a plebiscite, I suggest you get clicking.


02 6277 4022 (Canberra) or (03) 9326 1300 (Moonee Ponds) / FB / Twitter @billshortenmp


And if you want to suggest Ms Hanson-Young find some other means of addressing her sudden attack of relevance deprivation, Twitter @sarahinthesen8 / phone (02) 6277 3430 (Canberra) or 08 8227 0426 (Adelaide)  FB  email /

Now go create some mayhem 🙂 !


About the author

Veteran gay writer and speaker, Doug was one of the founders of the UKs pioneering GLBTI newspaper Gay News (1972) , and of the second, Gay Week, and is a former Features Editor of Him International. He presented news and current affairs on JOY 94.9 FM Melbourne for more than ten years. "Doug is revered, feared and reviled in equal quantities, at times dividing people with his journalistic wrath. Yet there is no doubt this grandpa-esque bear keeps everyone abreast of anything and everything LGBT across the globe." (Daniel Witthaus, "Beyond Priscilla", Clouds of Magellan, Melbourne, 2014)