The Politics    Monday, June 1, 2015

Gay marriage Bill

By Sean Kelly

Today was a big deal

Sometimes it feels like the caravan rolls on a little too quickly in Canberra.

Last week Bill Shorten announced he would introduce a bill to make gay marriage legal in this country.

This morning he did just that. Just a few hours later, that moment felt like it had happened years ago. Question Time, at 2 pm, was dominated by questions about cabinet leaks, terrorism legislation, and housing prices.

It’s true that Shorten’s bill is unlikely to be the gay marriage bill that finally becomes law. He’s also not the only parliamentarian putting forward legislation. And it’s possible to take potshots at his precise motivations, or ask why Labor isn’t having a binding vote on the issue (the second of which I did last week).

But none of that should detract from the significance of what we watched happen today. It was an historic moment: the leader of one of Australia’s two major parties standing up in parliament and advocating for same-sex marriage, before introducing into the parliament legislation to make same-sex marriage possible. (You can watch the speech here.)

Shorten said: “The opportunity of a generation is before us now. The moment is here. Let this law reflect the nation we want to see in the mirror: generous, smart, modern, diverse, honest and, above all, equal.”

It’s always difficult in politics to say precisely when a particular shift came about. The momentum for gay marriage has been building for a long time. But in any battle there are a few days on which it is possible to remark “something changed today”. Today was one of those days.

Forty Coalition backbenchers have written to the PM asking for stronger action on terrorism, effectively backing the stance the PM took – before he was rolled by his own cabinet. The letter includes these lines: “If a person has rejected Australia and our values and is eligible to be a citizen of another country we should have the ability to act against them … We ask that you ensure the legislation to be presented to Parliament includes provisions to cover not only dual nationals but those eligible for the citizenship of another country.”

Scott Morrison has suggested there may be another path, namely stripping Australians involved in terrorism overseas of residency rights rather than citizenship. More details here.

A mystery tribute to children kept in detention.

My favourite parliamentary tweet of the day.

Cardinal George Pell has been slammed by a member of the Vatican’s commission for the protection of children for not voluntarily appearing in person before the royal commission into institutional responses to child sex abuse. Pell is consulting his legal advisers about the “outrageous” comments

Treasury Secretary John Fraser says that Sydney and parts of Melbourne are in a house price bubble.

A group of arts organisations are calling on parliament to examine the cuts to the Australia Council.

Former Greens leader Bob Brown’s continuing references to “Earthians” underscore just what a mould-breaker Richard Di Natale seems to be.

From the weekend: a detailed description of last week’s divisive cabinet meeting from Peter Hartcher (great read). Laurie Oakes on why national security matters should never be above scrutiny.

Australia responds to UN questioning on the climate change Direct Action policy.

Nine out of ten people who edit Wikipedia are men.

Spectacular North Korea rumours that turned out to be false – including Kim Jong-un executing a traffic lady for sneezing.

El Bronco – fighting for a new way in Mexico? 

Sean Kelly

Sean Kelly is a columnist for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, and was an adviser to Labor prime ministers Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd.


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