ALP to talk gay marriage, refugees
Labor's cross-factional gay marriage advocates, led by the ACT's Andrew Barr, are confident they have the numbers to change the party platform on the issue at the party's national conference.
Mr Barr, the ACT Deputy Chief Minister and a Right faction member, confirmed last night he would move an amendment to the ALP platform for Labor to amend the Marriage Act to ensure equal access to marriage for all couples irrespective of their sex. Federal Finance Minister Penny Wong, who is also openly gay, is expected to second the amendment.
The issue of whether to change the party platform at the national conference to support gay marriage or to allow a conscience vote in Parliament has been highly divisive.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard supports a conscience vote on the issue, but has previously said she considers marriage to be between a man and a woman.
Mr Barr said last night that change needed to be embraced at the national conference.
''It's time to make a decision and that's what I've called for and why I'm moving the amendment this weekend,'' he said.
Meanwhile, Immigration minister Chris Bowen will propose an almost doubling of Australia's refugee intake in a bid to win support at the conference for his controversial Malaysian people-swap agreement to deter boat arrivals.
Mr Bowen will present a new ''soft heart-hard head'' platform that backs returning boat arrivals to transit countries under regional agreements, but increases Australia's resettlement target from 13,750 to 20,000.
Mr Bowen said last night he was ''hoping for, and expecting'' the support of the conference.
Labor's Left has vowed to oppose any endorsement of the Malaysian agreement and will try to commit Labor to onshore processing of asylum-seekers.
The new draft platform would explicitly support regional approaches to ''discourage'' people from attempting to come to Australia by boat, without detailing the elements of the Malaysia agreement to send 800 boat arrivals to that country in return for a 4000 increase in Australia's humanitarian intake.
''If you have the proper regional arrangements ... then you can as a complement to that, look at things like increasing the refugee intake more generally and focusing it on key transit countries,'' Mr Bowen said.