A large crowd at a marriage equality rally in Melbourne in June. Photo: Luis Ascui Equal love. Photo: Luis Ascui
Crossbench MPs are calling on Bill Shorten to ditch his same-sex marriage bill and throw his support behind theirs in a bid to attract a Liberal co-sponsor and pressure Malcolm Turnbull to abandon his plebiscite plans.
Greens MP Adam Bandt and independents Andrew Wilkie and Cathy McGowan will introduce their private member’s bill into the lower house on Monday morning, just after Mr Shorten and his deputy Tanya Plibersek.
However the trio believe the Labor bill is doomed and theirs has a better chance of attracting support from across the aisle.
The crossbench bill is identical to the one introduced in the last parliament that had the support of now former Labor MP Laurie Ferguson, former Liberal MP Teresa Gambaro and still-serving Liberal MP Warren Entsch.
The crossbenchers have written to Mr Shorten urging him to join with them.
“We write to you seeking a way forward,” they say in the letter obtained by Fairfax Media. “We propose that instead of two bills proceeding we all unify as co-sponsors of one cross-party bill.
“We believe that a bill that is not owned by one political party will have the best chance of attracting a Liberal co-sponsor especially if legislation enabling a plebiscite is not passed by Parliament.”
With a Liberal co-sponsor, the chance of securing a free vote of government MPs can only be increased, they write.
Labor equality spokeswoman Terri Butler said: “We will work with anyone in the Parliament to make marriage equality a reality.”
However it’s understood Mr Shorten will press ahead with his own bill unless the crossbenchers can first secure a Liberal’s support.
Asked if he had been asked to support a new cross-party bill – or would consider doing so – Mr Entsch was clear: “No and no.”
Mr Bandt said “in the end, love will win”.
“If we all work together, we have a real chance to pass marriage equality through Parliament sooner rather than later, without a divisive and wasteful plebiscite. By working together, wedding bells could be sounding by Christmas this year.”
Mr Wilkie said no Coalition members would support a Labor bill and he hoped “wiser heads” in the ALP would recognise that.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull promised a public vote on same-sex marriage under pressure from conservatives in his party who want the issue delayed. However he looks unlikely to be able to secure enough parliamentary support to enable the plebiscite, unless Labor decides to change course and support it.
The bills will ensure same-sex marriage will be a major issue during the week.
Mr Shorten is also expected to introduce a bill to reform the political donations system in the wake of the Sam Dastyari scandal.
The government will seek to pressure Labor into supporting its omnibus savings bill, some elements of which has divided the opposition along factional lines. However much of the focus will be taken up by the first anniversary of Mr Turnbull’s ousting of former prime minister Tony Abbott, who has embarked on a media blitz.