Openly gay Labor frontbencher Penny Wong has delivered an emotion-charged speech to the Senate opposing the government's plan to hold a plebiscite on whether same-sex couples should be allowed to marry. Below is an edited transcript of her speech.
This motion is not about giving Australians a say. This motion is about weakness and division on that side of the Parliament. This motion is about a government so divided that they have to handball a hard decision to the community to make it because they can't make it in their party room. That is what this is about. No amount of words can hide from the fact that this is one big massive handball, because this is a government without a leader, utterly divided on this issue. That is what this vote is about.
The reality is this is all a stunt and everybody knows that. Now, I have a lot of regard for Senator Mathias Cormann. He is generally a very decent person to deal with and he is trying valiantly to create some logic over what is an utterly ridiculous position. It is a stunt and an expensive stunt. There are a lot of things you could do with $120 million: GP visits, more teachers. I am sure we can go through a whole range of things that $122 million can be spent on far better than a vote that is not going to be binding.
We talk a lot about democracy and Australians having their say. But Eric Abetz is not going to change his vote if this is successful. Senator [Cory] Bernardi is not going to change his position.
[...] I want to comment on the comment by Senator Cormann this could be a unifying moment and that people could be respectful. I hope that people watching me in this debate would not think I am a shrinking violet. I know what a hard debate is like. But I tell you, have a read of some of the things which are said about us and our families and then come back here and tell us this is a unifying moment. The Australian Christian lobby described our children as the stolen generation. We love our children. And I object, as do every person who cares about children, and as do all those couples in this country, same-sex couples who have kids, to be told our children are a stolen generation. You talk about unifying moments? It is not a unifying moment. It is exposing our children to that kind of hatred.