Bendigo MP pleased with result but slams process, Nationals Senator likely to vote 'no' regardless

Lisa Chesters welcomed the result, but slammed the process that lead to the same-sex marriage postal survey. Picture: DARREN HOWE
Lisa Chesters welcomed the result, but slammed the process that lead to the same-sex marriage postal survey. Picture: DARREN HOWE

THERE was a consensus among Bendigo Labor and Greens representatives when it came to the same-sex marriage vote – the result was great, but the survey should never have happened in the first place.

Member for Bendigo Lisa Chesters was front and centre at a ‘yes’ supporters event in Trades Hall on Wednesday morning before she quickly headed down to Kyneton to join celebrations.

She said the outcome in the Bendigo electorate – which stretches from Macedon to Elmore, and Tarnagulla to Heathcote – was an “overwhelming” result.

“No more delays, no more excuses. It’s time to make marriage equality law,” she said.

“But this day should not have happened and it’s only because of a gross lack of leadership on the part of Malcolm Turnbull.”

Same-sex marriage still faces a perilous road through the parliament, albeit clearer than 24 hours earlier.

Nationals’ Victorian Senator Bridget McKenzie, who has an office in central Bendigo, was one of a number of parliamentarians who declared they would vote ‘no’ regardless of the outcome of the survey.

She declined to comment to the Bendigo Advertiser about her position.

Nationals Senator Bridget McKenzie is likely to vote 'no' despite the same-sex marriage survey result. Picture: DARREN HOWE

Nationals Senator Bridget McKenzie is likely to vote 'no' despite the same-sex marriage survey result. Picture: DARREN HOWE

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said he expected same-sex marriage to be legalised before Christmas.

A private members bill which gave businesses and individuals greater protection was withdrawn on Wednesday, but some MPs are likely to continue their push for greater protections when the matter is debated on Thursday.

A large proportion of ‘no’ voters were in Labor-held seats in the outer suburbs of Melbourne and Sydney, which include significant multicultural communities.

Related: By the numbers: How Bendigo voted in the same-sex marriage survey

The Greens in Bendigo were also pleased with the result, but believed it was unnecessary that “matters of fundamental human rights” be put to a “popularity poll”.

Spokesperson Nathan Wingrave said it had been a “hurtful” process for many LGBTI people in Bendigo, who could take some comfort in the result.

“The yes result is an example of love triumphing over hate and prejudice,” he said.

“We look forward to the legislation to legalise same-sex marriage being brought to parliament at the earliest possible time, and expect all parliamentarians to respect the will of the people as reflected by the survey.”

The Bendigo Advertiser attempted to contact leaders of the ‘no’ campaign in Bendigo but they were unavailable for comment on Wednesday.

Bill to be debated on Thursday after introduction to parliament

Two bills were expected to be debated after the ‘yes’ vote was successful in the same-sex marriage survey, but one was withdrawn on Wednesday.

Liberal MP Dean Smith introduced his Bill on Wednesday afternoon which includes exemptions for religious organisations who choose not to conduct same-sex marriages.

The Bill also allows religious groups to deny providing goods or facilities for the marriages. Ministers will also be able to refuse to conduct same-sex marriage ceremonies.

Liberal Senator James Paterson planned to introduce a different Bill, which had the same protections but also gave parents the right to remove their children from classes that conflicted with their beliefs.

It gave protections for people with a “conscientious belief”. Mr Paterson’s Bill was withdrawn on Wednesday.

Read more: How Bendigo celebrated the ‘yes’ vote