PRESSURE on the federal government to legalise same-sex marriage is mounting in Bendigo.
While in the city on Monday, Victorian Minister for Mental Health and Equality Martin Foley deemed a $122 million postal survey an “unnecessary, wasteful and potentially hurtful” exercise.
He said the non-compulsory opinion poll was an attempt to manage Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s “complete lack of leadership and inability to control his own rabble of a parliamentary party room.”
“But if we’re going to have it, the Victorian Government is saying people need to vote ‘yes’,” Mr Foley said.
“They need to use the opportunity to get enrolled and to update their enrollments with the Australian Electoral Commission so when this pointless, expensive survey to manage Malcolm Turnbull’s incapacity to be a leader happens, we can send a resounding message to Canberra that all people just want to get on with it and to make sure this issue is dealt with.”
He was flanked by members of the Bendigo community, who were gathered for the announcement of further funding for the $180 million Ice Action Plan.
The Victorian AIDS Council was among the funding recipients.
“We know LGBTI people face a range of issues and they’re less likely to access health care due to a range of reasons,” chief executive officer Simon Ruth said.
Fear of discrimination was among them.
“Right across Australia there’s a fear among LGBTI people about coming out and what people are going to say to you,” Mr Ruth said.
“We’re being told that our lifestyles lead to all manner of terrible things…”
He said telephone counselling services had seen a huge swell of people calling through for support during the past week.
That desire for help was extending to the services offered by organisations such as the Victorian AIDS Council.
“It’s only going to get worse over the next 12 weeks,” Mr Ruth said.
“My partner and I have been together for 15 years. I don’t see how our getting married is going to result in bestiality, or polygamy, or any of the other things the Christian Lobby’s accusing us of.”
He echoed Mr Foley’s plea for people to participate in the optional survey and to vote ‘yes’ for marriage equality.
“My organisation, like many others, will be campaigning heavily for that over the next 12 weeks,” Mr Ruth said.
Member for Bendigo Lisa Chesters amplified Mr Ruth and Mr Foley’s sentiments in federal parliament on Monday.
Earlier, she told the Bendigo Advertiser the federal government should let members of parliament to do their jobs.
“Our constitution is quite small, but one of the things it says clearly is the role of federal MPs and senators to make decisions,” Ms Chesters said.
Marriage was an area the parliament was explicitly empowered to act upon.
Ms Chesters said the postal vote was evidence of a failure of leadership.
“Minister Foley is right – $122 million on a postal survey is a waste of money,” she said.
“In saying that, I strongly encourage everybody to check their enrolment, make sure they’re registered to vote and participate in the national survey.
“It’s important we vote ‘yes’ and show our support for same-sex couples and their families. Love is love and no politician should make any family go through this.”