Senator Matt Canavan departs after the joint party room meeting at Parliament House in Canberra on Monday 18 July 2016. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen Photo: Alex EllinghausenAs the Turnbull government prepares for the final two sitting weeks of Parliament before the May budget, two cabinet ministers – with different personal views on marriage equality – have repeated the Coalition’s position that a plebiscite is the only way the issue will be dealt with.
Resources Minister Matt Canavan said the government should be concentrating on its efforts to reduce company tax and on getting its childcare changes through the Senate.
“The Coalition’s policy is very clear. We think the n people deserve a say… it’s resolved as far as the Coalition is concerned,” Senator Canavan said on ABC television on Sunday.
“We’ve got a lot of other things to get on with. A notion that we’d distract ourselves and go into other areas would be a massive distraction.”
A letter from 20 of the country’s chief executives calling on the Turnbull government to legislate for same-sex marriage has reignited debate about the issue, and moderate Liberal MPs have suggested it was an unhelpful intervention into the debate.
On Saturday Immigration Minister Peter Dutton delivered a blunt and public warning to Malcolm Turnbull not to waver on same-sex marriage, insisting the government “won’t be bullied” and telling the country’s business leaders to “stick to their knitting”.
Health Minister Greg Hunt defended Mr Dutton’s comments: “What I do see is Peter making the same point as I’m making. This should be a debate not just for the elite but for every n to have their say.”
Mr Hunt repeated his support both for same-sex marriage and a plebiscite as the best way to achieve a change to marriage laws.
“It’s a positive for the n democracy that every n can have a say,” Mr Hunt told Sky News on Sunday.
Senator Canavan, who does not support same-sex marriage, said he wanted to see “a lot more respect” in the debate.
“What I found uncomfortable this week is contempt for those who might have a different view,” Senator Canavan said.
He echoed Mr Dutton’s criticisms of the companies that were signatories to the letter saying “customers of Qantas and Telstra shareholders deserve to have a say, too”.
He suggested changing ‘s marriage laws might damage relationships with regional trading partners that were more socially conservative.
“There’s no chance that any of these countries will legislate any time soon,” Senator Canavan said, and mentioned countries such as Indonesia and Japan.
“How can we go to our region and respect their views as well? There can be different views on this subject. If we just had a little bit more respect and common sense we could probably deal with the matter.”
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