| 02.12,11. 11:53 PM |
Gillard reasserts control
December 3, 2011
JULIA GILLARD has given the green light to change Labor policy to support same-sex marriage by ordering factional bosses to allow a free vote on the issue.
In a last-minute intervention aimed at reasserting her control, the Prime Minister also insisted that, when the push for same-sex marriage comes before Parliament next year, Labor MPs be given a conscience vote.
Nineteen religious leaders responded last night, issuing a joint statement that called on the government to protect the legal definition of marriage.
Advertisement: Story continues below When the ALP national conference debates gay marriage this morning, it is expected to endorse a conscience vote by a majority of eight to 12 votes among the 400 delegates, sparing Ms Gillard a damaging defeat because she has called publicly for a conscience vote. But the policy platform changes, which are being driven by the Left, were unstoppable because a large proportion of the Right was intent on backing them as well.
By ordering a free vote yesterday on the changes that explicitly support gay marriage, Ms Gillard absolved herself from charges that a platform change would diminish her authority. She has not publicly opposed a platform change but does oppose changes to the Marriage Act, which defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman.
The non-binding platform change says: ''Labor will amend the Marriage Act to ensure equal access to marriage under statute for all adult couples irrespective of sex who have a mutual commitment to a shared life''.
Last night the NSW Right granted its 71 delegates a free vote. Ms Gillard's intervention was a rare defeat for a powerful part of the Right, which is allied to the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association, headed by Joe de Bruyn. He opposed any platform change but could not hold the Right together.
Mr de Bruyn argued internally that a platform change would be a blow to Ms Gillard's leadership but yesterday she told him to cease resistance and allow a free vote.
The Left had been pushing for Labor to change its position and support gay marriage but this threatened to split the party. Most of the Right supported a conscience vote.
When a Labor MP moves a private member's bill next year, there will not be the numbers to legalise gay marriage. The Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, has said he would not allow the Coalition a conscience vote but said yesterday the matter was academic and he would consider what to do at the time. If he were to allow such a vote, the numbers would be tight.
The Catholic Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal George Pell, and the Anglican Archbishop of Sydney, Peter Jensen, were among the 19 leaders who issued the joint statement last night.
''Marriage is the lifelong commitment and faithful union of one man and one woman,'' they wrote. ''As such, marriage is the natural basis of the family because it secures the relationship between biological parents and their children. The preservation of the unique meaning of marriage is not a special or limited interest but serves the common good, particularly the good of children.''
The leaders called on the government to ''not change the meaning of marriage by adding to it different kinds of relationships''.