Prominent backbench federal MP Warren Entsch has warned against slow progress on a marriage equality plebiscite and has said if Greece could organize a referendum on a multi-billion dollar bailout within 10 days, Australia should be able to organize a “people’s vote” on marriage equality before 2018.
Entsch, who introduced his cross-party marriage equality bill into the Federal Parliament last month, also told the Star Observer that in Tony Abbott’s household the prime minister was likely the odd one out on the issue with “probably his bloody dog” now supporting marriage equality.
The Leichhardt federal Liberal-National MP spoke last night at a Liberal fundraiser in Sydney that also saw speeches by City of Sydney Councilor Christine Forster and Lucy Turnbull, former Sydney Lord Mayor and wife of Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
Entsch’s bill, which is backed by a number of Liberal, Labor, Greens and independent MPs, is unlikely to make it to a ballot following the Coalition party room’s refusal to allow their members a conscience vote.
Instead, Abbott has said a “people’s vote” on marriage equality, now considered more likely to be in the form of a plebiscite rather than a binding referendum, will be held if the Coalition retains power after the next federal election — possibly pushing a vote out until 2018 or later.
Entsch, whose electorate is based in far north Queensland, said a plebiscite should happen sooner.
“If the Greeks can organize something in two weeks I can’t see any reason why we can’t do something, maybe a little bit longer, but…sooner rather than the later because the Australian people are ready for this,” he said.
“The longer you let this go on, the more you going to get the extremes of both sides turning it into something that’s just unpleasant.”
While Entsch didn’t specify a date, Australian Marriage Equality Deputy Director Ivan Hinton-Teoh told the Star Observer last month a plebiscite should be held on the same day as the 2016 federal election.
The former crocodile farmer, who has commented he revels in his unconventional image of an LGBTI advocate, said he was unimpressed by arguments that politicians should be focused more on economic matters.
“It mightn’t be an important issue for some but it’s a critically important issue for many,” Entsch said.
“If my son, or my daughter, or my family member wanted to marry somebody that was the love of their life, to me that would be a bloody important issue and I would fight for their right to be able to declare their love and protect their family.”
He also told the Star Observer that while the PM was entitled to his opinion he was increasingly in the minority, even within the Abbott family.
“I know in his own household his wife and children and his sister, probably his bloody dog, all support the change,” Entsch said.
“He’s the last man standing, we’ve had this discussion and he agrees with me.”
Commenting on LGBTI parenting documentary “Gayby Baby”, Entsch said he had seen the film “and it moved me to tears.”
Last week, an edict from the NSW (New South Wales) government restricting when and where the film could be show in state schools prompted Labor premiers in Victoria, Queensland and South Australia to praise the documentary.
“People that are making decisions should see it,” said Entsch.
“But if they say no [to showing the film in schools,] fair enough, but make sure they are consistent and pro-heterosexual parenting films should also be prohibited.”
Entsch also publicly invited himself to the wedding of Forster and her partner Virginia Edwards.
Forster, who has said the couple would prefer to marry under Australian law, commented they were happy for Entsch to come along but the first dance was theirs alone.
If Entsch does attend the nuptials he can compare notes on how the pro- and anti-marriage equality campaigns fared with Forster’s brother and fellow guest, the prime minister.