Canning MP Andrew Hastie has slammed Labor and the Greens for their opposition to a plebiscite on same-sex marriage, revealing he had advocated a popular vote to foreign minister Julie Bishop before he had considered a parliamentary career.
In a letter written to Ms Bishop just three weeks before the death of then Canning MP Don Randall, Mr Hastie warned “the Coalition will needlessly bleed faithful supporters, who will feel politically homeless if a same-sex marriage bill is passed on the government’s watch”.
He urged the government to hold a plebiscite on changing marriage legislation, a position the foreign minister is understood to have argued inside the Liberal party.
“My son had been born 36 hours before and I think I woke up at 4am in the hospital to help feed him,” Mr Hastie said.
“This issue had been weighing on my mind and so I took the opportunity while he settled back down to write a brief email to the government.
“I was a concerned private citizen and I decided to write to Julie Bishop and express my view that we should have a popular vote on this issue, that marriage was too important an institution to be left for the politicians to redefine.”
He said the letter was a reminder of how ordinary Australians might be forming views on same-sex marriage.
“So now I go back to that email and reflect upon my mindset then and think about how other average Australians might be feeling about this issue,” he said.
“This is why it's so important we go forward with the plebiscite and that Labor and the Greens realise the folly of their ways and support it.”
Mr Hastie, a long-time supporter of traditional marriage, said opposition parties were putting political opportunism above the will of the people.
"Marriage is an institution that's thousands of years old, that crosses cultures – it existed long before the Australian parliament was formed,” he said.
“We didn't create it. Politicians should therefore recognise the significance of this proposed change and show some humility.
“It should be decided by the people, because it's the people's institution.”
Mr Hastie said 18 same-sex marriage bills had been introduced to the parliament since 2004 and the issue wouldn’t move without a direct mandate from the Australian people.
But both Labor and Greens were likely to oppose the plebiscite after opposition leader Bill Shorten said he was worried Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull would “stuff it up” and Greens leader Richard Di Natale said people's rights should not be subject to a popular vote that could unleash hatred.
Mr Hastie rejected their concerns and said they were playing “base politics designed to hurt the government, not designed to advance the cause of same-sex marriage”.
“The truth is that Labor and the Greens don't trust the Australian people to vote on gay marriage, nor do they tolerate the view of many Australians who will vote to retain the current definition of marriage,” he said.
“We have to have a serious discussion about secular liberty and religious liberty if we redefine marriage, because ultimately there are people of faith or of none who hold to the common or traditional view of marriage and we need to make sure that their freedom of conscience, their freedom of speech, their economic freedom and their freedom of religion is protected.”
Mr Hastie’s comments came before parliament was to resume on Monday, with Mr Hastie indicating he would be advocating in the Liberal party room for the position the Prime Minister took to the election.
He was confident the plebiscite bill would be considered by parliament.
“The Coalition is committed to putting the question of same-sex marriage to the Australian people and we'll be doing everything in our power to get the bill presented and through both houses,” he said.