Joyce stands by plebiscite for gay marriage

Barnaby Joyce
Barnaby Joyce

NEW England MP Barnaby Joyce believes the issue of same-sex marriage should be decided by the Australian people, despite polling evidence to the contrary.

It follows the release of poll results that show just 28 per cent of people in his electorate support a national vote on the issue, suggesting the community would prefer the Turnbull government abandon its plan for a costly plebiscite.

ReachTEL, on behalf of Australian Marriage Equality, also polled two other Nationals seats – Capricornia in north Queensland and Gippsland in Victoria – where the results were similar.

Mr Joyce told The Leader he believed a plebiscite was the appropriate way to determine the fate of same-sex marriage, while emphasising he did not support the re-definition of marriage.

However, he said, politicians alone shouldn’t determine the outcome of such an important issue and the people of Australia should get a say.

“It’s personal for everybody and this way everyone has one vote ... a plebiscite will determine what happens,” Mr Joyce said.

Australian Marriage Equality said the results sent a message to the Nationals, and to the Coalition more broadly, that it should rethink its position.

“Rural and regional Australians want government money spent on essential services like hospitals and schools, not wasted on what is basically an elaborate, expensive and pointless opinion poll,” spokesman Rodney Croome said. 

Despite arguing against a plebiscite under Tony Abbott’s leadership, since becoming prime minister, Mr Turnbull has stuck with the Coalition’s plan to hold a national vote. 

“The Coalition party room ... made a decision that the matter would be put to the people,” Mr Turnbull said recently. 

The polling comes as Parliament returns for 2016 with debate about same-sex marriage continuing to rage.

While the government works on the wording and process for a plebiscite, Labor is pushing for Parliament to deal with the issue.

Labor leader Bill Shorten has argued “marriage equality should just happen”, while Opposition frontbencher Penny Wong talked about the hurt caused by opponents of same-sex marriage. 

“The ‘think of the children’ argument is among the most hurtful in the marriage equality debate,” she wrote in an essay in The Monthly magazine. 

“It posits that gay and lesbian relationships harm children, that gay and lesbian parents are bad parents.” 

Inverell-based Nationals Senator John Williams bought back into the debate on Wednesday, telling Parliament men who married each other would never be the same as a male and female couple.

“There will never be equality,” he said.

“They can’t have children for a start.”