Malcolm Turnbull has recounted his views on Australia’s slow journey towards same-sex marriage in his new memoir, but a former colleague has disputed the account.
Turnbull’s memoir, A Bigger Picture, was published on Monday. The former Prime Minister spends a chapter recounting Australia’s long and complex path to the reform, from Prime Minister’s John Howard’s notorious amendments in 2004 to legalisation in 2017.
Turnbull recalled sharing a flight with now-Prime Minister Scott Morrison on the day the postal survey “yes” result was announced.
“Scott was utterly deflated. He couldn’t believe his own electorate had voted ‘yes,’” he writes.
“‘I don’t feel this is the country that I grew up in anymore’, [Morrison] complained. A lot of them felt like that.”
Scott Morrison abstained from the final vote but last May said he now supports same-sex marriage because he “always supports the law of the country.”
In the book, Malcolm Turnbull describes at length the “formidable obstacles” used by conservatives to block a free vote, and later delay the passage of same-sex marriage legislation.
“[They] started to frustrate the quick passage by proposing additional and elaborate protections for religious freedom,” he writes.
“The longer we left it, the more this type of opposition would flare up. There was a powerful constituency in the party and in the churches trying to hold us up.”
When marriage equality passed, Turnbull described his happiness at the “great and long overdue reform”.
“We’d faced formidable obstacles within my own party from those vehemently opposed to same-sex marriage,” he said.
“But also from Labor, which saw the issue as one which they could use to split my party and bring down the government.
“But dodging and ducking past all these obstacles, we managed to get it done.”
Malcolm Turnbull admits divisive postal survey was ‘undoubtedly painful’
Malcolm Turnbull admits in his book that “sadly for many LGBTIQ people the [postal survey] proved to be a very painful experience.”
“With the benefit of hindsight, I’m convinced the postal ballot turned out for the best,” he writes.
“It wasn’t my first choice, not by a long way. But for those who felt alienated or unloved because of their sexual orientation this was an overwhelming vote of confidence.
“Undoubtedly it was painful for many people. But the truth is we can’t avoid debates of this kind, as we’ve seen in 2019 over Israel Folau’s social media posts.”
Last year, research found the postal survey led to increased depression, anxiety and stress among LGBTIQ Australians.
Same-sex marriage advocate Warren Entsch blasts Turnbull
But Queensland Coalition MP and veteran marriage equality campaigner Warren Entsch blasted Malcolm Turnbull’s account of the final stretch of the campaign.
“In terms of marriage equality, it went through in spite of Malcolm,” Entsch told the Australian Financial Review.
“To portray himself as some sort of friggin’ victim, it’s laughable.”
The same-sex marriage private member’s bill passed unchanged on November 28, 2017.
But Entsch accused Turnbull of “sitting on the fence” and joining conservative MPs to vote for amendments to the bill.
Had they passed, the bill would have had to return to the Senate, delaying its passage for months, Entsch explained.
“Much to my dismay I found out that the PM, totally committed that he [said he] was to marriage equality, had agreed to support two amendments,” he told the AFR.
“If one of those amendments got up it would have derailed the whole process.”
Entsch said he had wanted to address the parliament that day naming and thanking longtime activists.
“I had a third reading speech written, thanking all those people for my bloody decade of campaigning,” he said.
But colleague Christopher Pyne encouraged Entsch to allow Turnbull to speak. He reluctantly agreed, despite believing Turnbull “hadn’t contributed at all”.
“I put it in the bottom drawer to give Mal a moment to shine, which I didn’t believe he deserved,” Entsch recalled.
“Malcolm stood up and said, ‘Let there be love.’ I was sick in the guts. I regret now I ripped it up.
“What was even more disappointing for me was that [then-Opposition leader] Bill Shorten did give quite a good speech, thanking many of those people.
“I was so angry. So don’t talk to me about Mal and his commitment to marriage equality.”
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