CANBERRA – [AAP]
Labor senator Joe Bullock has announced his retirement from federal politics because of his refusal to vote along party lines in support of same-sex marriage.
In a remarkable twist of fate, openly gay former WA senator Louise Pratt will nominate for the vacancy left by his departure.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has paid tribute to admits the pair did not agree on a number of issues, but thanked Senator Bullock for his service in parliament and for Australian workers.
He described Senator Bullock as ‘a man of deeply held faith and convictions’ and said he respected his decision to step down.
Openly gay opposition Senate leader Penny Wong echoed her boss, also admitting she and Senator Bullock disagreed on ‘many things’.
But she said he had spent his life fighting for the things Labor believed were worth fighting for, including fair wages and conditions at work.
Senator Bullock, who opposes same-sex marriage, told the Senate on Tuesday his ‘troubles started’ when the Labor Party voted to remove a conscience vote and force a yes vote on the policy in the future.
‘How can I in good conscience recommend to people that they vote for a party which is determined to deny its party members a conscience vote on homosexual marriage?’ he asked in the Senate on Tuesday.
‘The simple answer is I can’t.’
Minister ‘supports’ program he’s investigating
And on the other side of the political fence, the federal education minister has defended the aim of a schools anti-bullying program focused on same sex issues that he demanded be investigated.
Simon Birmingham said students who are struggling with their identity should be supported and homophobia opposed, but he backed the need for a review of the Safe Schools program nonetheless.
‘I think the objectives of the program are good, sound objectives,’ Mr Birmingham told ABC TV.