Federal Liberal MP questions plebiscite

Perth [AAP]

An openly gay West Australian Liberal MP is questioning the proposed same-sex marriage plebiscite, citing its $160 million price tag and saying politicians have the authority to change the law without it.

Senator Dean Smith, a supporter of same-sex marriage, said he would voice his concerns in the party room and added it would be logistically difficult to hold the plebiscite in 2016 if the federal election was not called soon.

‘I’m uncomfortable with the cost, secondly I’m uncomfortable with us too readily abrogating the foundational principle of parliamentary sovereignty,’ he told ABC radio.

‘Once we set a precedent on this issue, how do we argue that we shouldn’t have a plebiscite on other issues, for example sending men and women off to armed conflict overseas. How do we argue that we don’t have a plebiscite on euthanasia?’

Mr Smith, once an opponent of same-sex marriage, said he began to advocate for change after reflecting on the key principles of the Liberal Party.

‘I came to the position that equality before the law is a core Liberal principal and I decided that a same-sex relationship should be accorded the same sorts of respect by the law as heterosexual relationships,’ he said.

The WA MP said his colleagues must disregard their personal beliefs on same-sex marriage in determining if a plebiscite was the most appropriate course of action.

‘Many people come to the issue of a plebiscite through the lens of what is their attitude to gay marriage, I’m taking a step back from that,’ Mr Smith said.

‘I’m asking as a conservative person interested in our democratic traditions, is this the sort of step we want to take, and if it is, we need to make sure it’s well considered.’

Mr Smith said he viewed recent comments by Attorney-General George Brandis that a plebiscite would be held later this year as an observation rather than statement of fact.


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