Labor frontbencher Penny Wong insists that her party will continue to push for a free parliamentary vote on same-sex marriage.
The Financial Review reports that in rebuffing an offer by the Turnbull government to negotiate a compromise on the issue, Senator Wong pointed to the non-binding nature of the plebiscite and the government’s plan to spend public funds on advertising.
“There is a good compromise available to him (Turnbull). Have a free vote (in the Parliament),” she said.
The government wants the plebiscite to be held on February 11, 2017, for which it has budgeted $170 million, with $7.5 million allocated to the “Yes” and “No” advertising committees.
It is understood the question will be: “Should the law be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry?”
Attorney-General George Brandis has indicated that the government is willing to negotiate with Labor to pass the same-sex marriage plebiscite bill.
Talking to Sky News, he praised the government for a “very good fortnight” and said that “the theme of this parliament has to be compromise”.
“The point I make to (Opposition Leader) Mr Shorten is this: the plebiscite may not be his preferred option, it wasn’t my preferred option,” he said.
“But it is where the government landed and it is the position we took to the election and that position was endorsed by the Australian public.
“So in these circumstances, it is up to the Labor party now to enable this plebiscite to happen because if they don’t they will be saying ‘no’ to marriage equality.”
However, shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus said Labor had already offered to negotiate but they had been rejected, and the party did not believe in a plebiscite.
“This government has had every opportunity to sit down with Labor and negotiate and has so far failed to do so. The right wing of the Liberal Party has designed this plebiscite to fail,” he said.
If Labor, the Greens and crossbenchers remain opposed, the government does not have the numbers to get a plebiscite legislation through the Senate.