Dutton’s gay marriage slam “ironic”

Published: 20 March 2017

Gay marriage supporters outside Parliament House

Poll finds Coalition seats at risk

Gay marriage supporters outside Parliament House

Labor has hit out at Immigration Minister Peter Dutton's "extraordinary" attack on business chiefs who penned a letter to the prime minister in support of marriage equality.

The minister chastised the chief executives for getting involved in the same-sex marriage debate, telling Qantas boss Alan Joyce and other CEOs who had signed a letter expressing support to "stick to their knitting".

Shadow attorney-general Mark Dreyfus questioned the remarks at a time when government MPs were debating the merits of changing racial discrimination laws.

"I find it a bitter irony that we've got a Liberal Party that wants to give free speech for racists but not free speech for CEOs," he told ABC radio on Tuesday.

"CEOs of publicly listed corporations have a perfect right to speak out on absolutely anything in Australian society."

Mr Dreyfus cited ReachTel polling, commissioned by Australians for Equality, in 12 coalition-held seats which showed more than 50 per cent of voters in each seat support same-sex marriage.

A majority of voters in all seats also said it was “very important” that parliament resolved the issue this year.

Meanwhile politicians are wrangling over who’s being bullied by whom about marriage equality. Mr Dutton said on Friday that the government “won’t be bullied” by CEOs over issue, while Opposition Leader Bill Shorten on the weekend said it was right-wing MPs such as Dutton who were bullying the Prime Minister.

At least both sides of politics can agree it’s those with the most power who are the real victims of bullying. Now that’s ironic.

MPs returning for parliament were again greeted by billboards in support of change at Canberra airport as they arrived for the final sitting fortnight before the May budget.

"Our campaign will remind MPs every time they travel through the airport that marriage equality is a straightforward reform that allows every Australian the same opportunities in life," airport managing director Stephen Byron said.

Lobby group Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays is also stepping up an email campaign, encouraging supporters to write to Liberal MPs urging them to do more to allow same-sex marriage, including supporting a free vote in parliament.

A group of moderate Liberal MPs is reportedly considering pushing the issue of a free vote in Tuesday's Liberal party room meeting.

Federal Labor MP Terri Butler said the link between diversity, inclusion and good business was perfectly clear, and it was "absolutely appropriate" for business chiefs to hold and express views on same-sex marriage.

Crossbench Liberal Democratic Party senator David Leyonhjelm said a plebiscite wasn't necessarily out of the question.

"You can't assume the plebiscite is shot down on the basis that the Labor party can't change its position when you're asking the government to change its position," he said.

"I'm pretty confident the public will overwhelmingly support same-sex marriage. The onus is on those who support same-sex marriage, and I do, to win the argument."

Greens senator Janet Rice said a majority of Liberal party members supported same-sex marriage.

"We have got a prime minister who supports marriage equality, we've got the leader of the opposition - it's just a matter of time."

with AAP
© 2017 AAP