An unlikely new advocate.
Liberal MP Warren Entsch is a conservative Backbencher from Queensland.
The 64-year-old Liberal MP — a former farmer, real estate agent, crocodile hunter and member of the Australian air force — isn’t exactly known for his progressive politics.
Mr Entsch had previously criticised Opposition Leader Bill Shorten for bringing on a Labor bill on marriage equality, news.com.au reports.
But as Fairfax Media reports, when Prime Minister Tony Abbott asked Mr Ensch this week to deliver a private member’s bill on same-sex marriage for a vote later this year, Mr Entsch responded: “The time has come to put this to the test.”
News.com.au reports Mr Entsch has now spoken to numerous Labor MPs as well as Greens and independents about a possible bipartisan bill, which Fairfax revealed may be co-sponsored by Labor MP Graham Perrett if Mr Shorten’s push stalls in the Parliament.
While Mr Perrett appeared to have denied those claims in a tweet today, Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young has since confirmed she has had discussions with Mr Entsch and Mr Perrett about backing a “tri-partisan bill”, Fairfax reports.
Mr Entsch has also said he plans to discuss the matter with Liberal colleagues, and has suggested his intention is to have a cross-party bill debated in the August parliamentary sittings.
“It’s just a matter of finalising it,” the Queensland MP told ABC Radio.
Mr Entsch, whose Queensland electorate runs from Cairns to Cape York, was thrilled when both major parties voted to remove laws discriminating against LGBT people in the treatment of tax, superannuation and social security in 2009.
Fairfax reports the so-called “progressive redneck” also co-launched a cross-party friendship group for LGBT Australians, and has spoken of having two close friends who are gay.
Speaking to LGBT newspaper The Pink Broad in February 2006, Mr Entsch acknowledged his advocacy for LGBT rights may surprise some.
“I would think that if I was a gay activist, people would say ‘Oh, just another bloody fairy out there trying to push his own agenda’, but because of my background, people are a little bit puzzled by it and sitting up and listening. . . and in fact I’m getting a lot of people that are not gay coming up to me and saying to me ‘Hey, you know, we’ve got gay friends and family too’,” he said.
“And this is what I’ve found here, in this place as well. . . mind you, there are some who are still a little bemused. They don’t quite understand it.”
Meanwhile, Tony Abbott’s sister Christine Forster has announced she is confident same-sex marriage will be legal in Australia by the end of 2015.
Ms Forster, who is engaged to a woman, told news.com.au the successful Irish referendum on same-sex-marriage had sent a message to opponents that gay marriage was inevitable.
We applaud you, Warren Entsch. Keep up the good work.