In a passionate speech after parliamentary question time on Thursday, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten promised to stand with the LGBTI community through the voluntary postal plebiscite on marriage equality and attacked PM Malcolm Turnbull for “licensing this debate.”
"We have already seen the ugliness this debate holds for LGBTI Australians and their families. Extremists are re-running their smears against same-sex couples and their children," Shorten said.
"In less than 48 hours the Prime Minister has gone from promising to call out extreme voices to guaranteeing their view. He calls that strong leadership. Strong leaders do not need to say I am a strong leader. They prove it with their actions."
"In two years of a prime minister-ship defined by moral cowardice, this a new low."
"He (Turnbull) is giving his blessing to billboards, websites, pamphlets, TV advertising and online material. It will vilify and demean LGBTI Australians and their children. We know this vile will end up in the playground, the school yard and the sporting field. The slogans will be shouted at the children of same-sex couples. Young people who are gay will be confronted by it on social media every day."
"Prime Minister, I loathe the trolls and the haters, but I expected more from him. I hold you responsible for every hurtful bit of filth that this debate will unleash, not because the Prime Minister has said it, not because he agrees to it, he clearly doesn't. But because the Prime Minister has licensed this debate."
"You are the leader, Mr Turnbull, you have given permission. I will never hold you in the same light ever again. I hold the Prime Minister responsible and the Australians will too."
In the speech, Shorten announced that the Labor Party will vigorously campaign for a 'yes' vote if legal challenges fail. Lawyers acting on behalf of independent MP Andrew Wilkie, Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) and lesbian mum Felicity Marlowe filed proceedings to block the postal vote in The High Court today.
The Equality Campaign is taking legal advice and Australians 4 Equality director Tiernan Brady said they would pursue "every avenue to prevent this unnecessary, non-binding, massively expensive, dangerous precedent-setting plebiscite.”
The Labor Party has consulted with same-sex marriage advocates and held internal meetings to decide their strategy if the postal vote moves forward.
During the speech, Shorten spoke directly to the LGBTI community, urging everyone not to boycott the survey but to stand up and fight, saying "LGBTI Australians have every right to feel let down by their parliament today and to consider the postal survey the latest in a long line of insults. I can understand an LGBTI person receiving a survey with the Australian coat of arms on the envelope, I wouldn't blame you if you just wanted to chuck it in the bin."
"But let me say it to you, that is what they want you to do. The strongest supporters of this survey have been the vocal opponents against marriage equality, they have stacked the deck. The opponents of marriage equality have set this process up to fail. But we cannot let illegitimate tactics deter us and sit on the sidelines."
"Vote 'yes' and make sure your friends and relatives and colleagues and classmates and teammates vote 'yes', too. Get your name on the electoral roll today. Make your voice heard. Voting 'yes' is not about endorsing this process, it is about refusing to walk past our fellow Australians when they need us. This is my message for business leaders, sporting leaders and community groups. It is time to fight for equality."
“We are voting in this survey, we are participating in this survey because of you. Not because we respect the process but because the Labor Party will not let gay Australians and young gay people cope with this survey, this evaluation of their relationships, on their own. I say to LGBTI Australians, while ever there is a Labor Party, you are never on your own.”
“When you don’t feel like you have a voice, we will speak up for you. When you feel attacked, we will defend you, when we hear prejudice and discrimination we will not cross the road and pretend it is not happening, we will call it out. I will be voting 'yes', I will be campaigning for a 'yes' vote, I will do my bit and I encourage people to join the movement for marriage equality.”
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