The Australian – 23 June 2016
Rosie Lewis, Reporter
Labor senator Penny Wong is worried a plebiscite on same-sex marriage would license hate speech.
Labor hardened its stand against the government’s gay marriage plebiscite as frontbencher Penny Wong appealed to drop the people’s vote, which she said would “license hate speech to those who need little encouragement”.
But Scott Morrison warned marriage equality activists had targeted religious Australians such as himself with “dreadful hate speech and bigotry”, insisting discrimination was not confined to one side of the debate.
The clash between Coalition and Labor MPs over a plebiscite ramped up after Senator Wong, a gay mother of two children, used a speech on marriage equality to dismiss Malcolm Turnbull’s assurances the plebiscite campaign would be conducted respectfully as “the hollowest of hollow words”.
Mr Turnbull has pledged to move “swiftly” to hold a plebiscite before year’s end if he is re-elected, while Labor would introduce a bill to legalise gay marriage within 100 days of forming government.
“I know that a plebiscite designed to deny me and many other Australians a marriage certificate will instead license hate speech to those who need little encouragement,” Senator Wong said at her Lionel Murphy Memorial Lecture.
“I don’t oppose a plebiscite because I doubt the good sense of the Australian people. I oppose a plebiscite because I don’t want my relationship — my family — to be the subject of inquiry, of censure, of condemnation, by others.”
Mr Morrison told ABC radio he was “sensitive to the issues that she’s raised” but said hate speech did not only affect those supporting same-sex marriage, which he is against. “Frankly people who have very strong religious views, they have also been subject to … quite dreadful hate speech and bigotry as well,” Mr Morrison said.
“I understand the concerns Penny is raising, I know it from personal experience having been exposed to that sort of hatred and bigotry for the views I’ve taken from others who have a different view to me.”
Mr Morrison, who attends a Pentecostal church, said he had “a bigger view” about the Australian people that they could “once and for all” resolve the matter at the polls and “move on”.
Bill Shorten and deputy Labor leader Tanya Plibersek slammed Mr Morrison for “injecting” himself into Senator Wong’s “remarkable” speech but said no Australian should be attacked for the beliefs they hold.
“I do accept that people of faith sometimes get a hard time. People are entitled to their views in this country and people of religious faith are entitled to respect, just like people who hold other views,” the Opposition Leader said.
“At the end of the day I would like Scott Morrison to talk about the budget.”
Claiming Mr Morrison had painted himself as the “victim” in the gay marriage debate, Ms Plibersek said a plebiscite “where there is licence to say that there is something wrong” with same-sex families or gay children and teenagers would be “potentially profoundly damaging”.