Businessman Dick Smith has urged all Australian MPs to end the “pathetic political strutting” and legalise same-sex marriage.
Mr Smith, who was awarded a Companion of the Order of Australia in the Queen’s Birthday honours, lambasted all sides of politics for bickering over who or which party should have “ownership” of gay marriage legislation.
The 1986 Australian of the Year said Prime Minister Tony Abbott needed to show some leadership on the basic human rights issue.
“I just turn off with the pathetic political strutting,” Mr Smith said. “We all know it’s going to happen.
“I wish the prime minister would just do it. Show some leadership and get on with it.”
Since Ireland’s historic referendum in favour of same-sex marriage numerous people, including previously tight-lipped politicians, have publicly affirmed their support for similar legislation in Australia.
Three bills to legalise gay marriage have already been put forward – by the Greens, Liberal Democrat David Leyonhjelm, and most recently by the Labor leader, Bill Shorten – but none are likely to pass the parliament.
Mr Abbott, a stubborn opponent, said there were far more pressing issues, primarily pushing parliament to pass the budget’s multi-billion-dollar small business tax breaks.
Queensland Liberal Warren Entsch, an influential Coalition backbencher, has agreed to meet with Mr Shorten after the current budget sittings of parliament, which finish on June 25, to come up with an “all parties” solution.
“We are going to work together. Once the budget sittings are over, I’ll pop around and have a yarn with Bill,” he said.
Mr Entsch, who has spoken to Labor’s Graham Perrett and Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young about a possible cross-party solution, said his office had been deluged with correspondence about same-sex marriage, with the vast majority of people urging the Coalition to support a change in the law.
Several other politicians have come out in support of marriage equality.
● Northern Territory federal MP Natasha Griggs says she will vote in favour of marriage equality in federal parliament, even if it means voting against her party if Mr Abbott refuses to allow a conscience vote.
● Canberra Liberals leader Jeremy Hanson, previously opposed, said his views had “evolved”.
“This is an issue I have been considering for some time, but the big changes is that this is now clearly on the national agenda, it is the national arena,” he said.
● Liberal backbencher Sarah Henderson says marriage equality “is consistent with fundamental Liberal values which embrace freedom of the individual and stable, long-term relationships”.
● Marriage equality advocate Rodney Croome believes Henderson’s support tips the balance in the House of Representatives.
“We may just have crossed the line into a majority; I’m not calling it yet but I think we’re very close,” he said.
● Liberal frontbencher Josh Frydenberg said he believed same-sex marriage laws would be passed this year.
On the flip side, a Catholic bishop has issued a warning about legalising same-sex marriage, saying children of gay couples will see themselves as another Stolen Generation because they have been denied a mother and a father.
South Australian Bishop of Port Pirie Greg O’Kelly wrote to his parishioners saying that comparing same-sex and heterosexual relationships was like comparing apples and pears.
And conservative NSW Liberal senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, the Abbott Government frontbencher responsible for social cohesion, believes allowing a conscience vote on the issue would be perceived as a “cop out” and might lead to a disconnect between the Liberal Party’s base and parliamentary wing.
She said the “silent majority” of Australians would reject moves to introduce same-sex marriage.