Australian finance minister Penny Wong has warned the country’s government to steer clear of a referendum on the legalisation of gay marriage.
Last week, recently appointed Prime Minister Kevin Rudd become the first in the country’s history to support gay marriage. He had previously opposed same sex unions but claims to have changed his mind after discussions with daughter Jessica and others.
“Wherever I go in Australia, it just hits you in the face what young people think about this, which is that our current arrangements are just wrong and offensive to people.”
He urged Tony Abbott, leader of the opposition Liberal Party, to allow his MPs to join a free conscience vote on the issue.
“If he doesn’t, then I think we then have to look at other mechanisms, including the possibility of recourses to plebiscite or referendum.”
But Penny Wong, who is openly gay, said a referendum would carry risks.
“I believe marriage equality will only be achieved when all parliamentarians are able to vote on their conscience. While an increasing majority of the public support marriage equality, a referendum would not be without risk. Remember the referendum on the republic: although the majority of Australians supported it, John Howard and Tony Abbott ran a very good fear campaign, and the referendum was lost in every state.”
She joined Mr Rudd urging Tony Abbott to allow the conscience vote and called for “Liberal politicians to reflect on their liberal principles”.