Staff writers

Email Staff writers

Entsch named among nation's most influential as same-sex marriage debate heats up

As a long-time advocate for the legalisation of same-sex marriage, Warren Entsch MP has called for a united front to enable plebiscite to proceed.


UPDATE 3PM 30/9/16:

Leichhardt MP Warren Entsch has been chosen as one of the nation's most powerful people in a list compiled by The Australian Financial Review.

The national newspaper's annual Power 15 list put Mr Entsch and Labor Senator Penny Wong in the impressive joint spot of number in the cultural category of Australia's most powerful people.

TV personality Waleed Aly was named as the most powerful identity in the cultural category.

Mr Entsch and Ms Wong were ranked ahead of national identities like Adam Goodes, Johnathon Thurston, Rosie Batty, George Brandis, and Stan Grant, among others.

The AFR said: "Most Australians – 70 per cent in some polls – want their gay and lesbian friends and family to be able to marry, so in many ways the topic has already shaped culture.

"Entsch – a 66-year-old conservative whose seat covers Cairns to Cape York – is the unlikely but passionate long-term advocate from the other side of the political fence."

EARLIER:

Leichhardt MP Warren Entsch has made a passionate plea to supporters of marriage equality, urging them to keep their eye on the “end game” and support a controversial plebiscite.

He fears opposition by Labor and the Greens to the Turnbull Government’s proposed plebiscite could derail the long-running push to legalise same-sex marriage in Australia.

Parliament is due to vote on legislation to enable a plebiscite within weeks. But the Government is struggling to secure enough support to get it through the Senate.

Labor and the Greens are pushing for a free vote in Parliament to settle the issue, rather than the plebiscite option.

Opponents to the Government’s plan – which it took to the Federal election – say the $160 million cost is exorbitant and the process would be divisive and harmful to the LGBT community.

But while Mr Enstch admits the plebiscite isn’t his preferred option, the process represents the best chance for a positive outcome on a range of levels.

“Labor needs to accept that the plebiscite is the only option now,” Mr Entsch said.

“Every issue has its time in the sun, when the national conversation is at its peak. But when that moment passes, it can be years – or decades – before momentum again reaches the point for change.

“Marriage equality is no different. You need only look at the poll figures to see where support for marriage equality is at - 62 per cent in favour and only 32 per cent against.

“The issue is white hot right now, and if not resolved on February 11th next year (2017) then I suspect many people will feel they have given it their best shot, and walk away to focus on other issues.”

Mr Entsch said a plebiscite will give all Australians the opportunity to have a say, rather than the issue being “owned by the politicians”.

“In the 2016 election, I won and lost votes on marriage equality alone, but conversations revealed that many people who supported the plebiscite weren’t opposed to gay marriage,” he said.

“There were certainly some, but the majority reasoned they did not want the vote to be owned by the politicians.

“These people wanted to be able to tell their gay friends or relatives that their vote had contributed to this significant change.

“It’s not about claiming credit, but playing their small part as citizens of our society, and that view should not be underestimated.”

If the plebiscite is enabled, Mr Entsch said legislation will be released well before the plebiscite date in February next year, ready to be enacted immediately in the case of a ‘yes’ vote.

“If we run this process with integrity and respect, it will be viewed much more positively,” Mr Entsch said.

"Conversely, there is a huge risk of ‘issue fatigue’ the longer this is dragged out.

“We’re in a position now where we can achieve the outcome we’ve been working towards for so long, so I urge people not to dismiss this opportunity because they don’t like the process.

“We must put aside partisan objections and focus on what we want to achieve.

“This is the best possible chance we have had in a decade, but if the plebiscite legislation fails to get through parliament in the coming weeks, I will be one of millions of Australians who will be profoundly frustrated and disappointed.

“Let’s not allow this opportunity to be squandered.”