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Same-sex marriage gets state Labor support

Date

Sean Nicholls and Nicole Hasham

Keynote speaker: Federal Labor leader Bill Shorten addresses the NSW Labor Party annual conference.

Keynote speaker: Federal Labor leader Bill Shorten addresses the NSW Labor Party annual conference. Photo: Brett Hemmings

The NSW Labor Party has voted to support same-sex marriage but rejected a proposal that federal Labor MPs should be required to bind on a vote in favour of any legislation that comes before the federal Parliament.

During its annual conference on Sunday the party hailed the decision, which brings it into line with the national ALP platform, as "historic".

Introducing the cross-factional motion, Labor upper house MP Penny Sharpe recalled that former Premier Neville Wran decriminalised homosexuality in NSW 30 years ago. She said the reform was "hard fought" in the community and the Labor Party.

Mr Shorten greets the faithful on arriving at the Sydney Town Hall.

Mr Shorten greets the faithful on arriving at the Sydney Town Hall. Photo: Brett Hemmings

"It's time for Labor to deliver marriage equality," she told the conference, to cheers and applause.

Ms Sharpe said that marriage was an "intensely personal and significant decision. No Australian should be told by government their choice is less worthy, their commitment less enduring, their relationship less valid simply because the person they love is the same gender as them".

A motion to remove the conscience vote currently granted to federal Labor MPs was defeated by 352 votes to 284.

Instead, the conference backed a motion introduced by Senator Deborah O'Neill and seconded by Senator Sam Dastyari to "protect" the conscience vote. 

Senator Dastyari argued it would be hypocritical of him to argue that supporters of marriage equality, of which he is one, should demand that Liberal party MPs be granted a conscience vote but Labor MPs should be denied the same privilege.

Meantime, the NSW Labor conference voted unanimously to push for a total ban on coal seam gas mining in the northern NSW seats of Lismore, Ballina, Clarence and Tweed. The decision follows strong community fears of damage to water quality, farmland, public health and tourism.

The ban would put a stop to Metgasco's controversial gas project near Bentley, which is on hold after the government suspended its drilling licence due to inadequate community consultation.

Federal Opposition Leader Bill Shorten gave the keynote address to the conference on Sunday, lashing Joe Hockey as an “arrogant, cigar-chomping” Treasurer.

In his address, to about 1000 supporters at the Sydney Town Hall, Mr Shorten vowed Labor would offer “no retreat, no surrender” in its fight to preserve universal health care, arguing that up to $50 billion in cuts to hospitals over the next decade would be “federation changing”.

Mr Shorten, who had just returned from a week in the United States, attacked Mr Hockey over his budget, on the back of the release of the Treasurer's authorised biography last week.

The book, by Fairfax columnist and former News Corp journalist Madonna King, revealed the Treasurer thought his budget, which delivered savage cuts to health, education and pensions, was too soft but that the Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, intervened to stop the budget going even further.

The content of the book and its timing have created considerable disquiet in Coalition ranks, with many Liberal MPs unhappy with the Treasurer.

“If this is what an authorised biography reveals, imagine what the unauthorised biography would reveal,'' Mr Shorten said on Sunday.

''This arrogant, cigar-chomping Treasurer – his hopeless story reveals it took Tony Abbott to block him from deeper, harder cuts. Seriously, if it's up to Tony Abbott to tell you you've gone too far, you've well and truly gone too far.”

The Treasurer's charmed life, Mr Shorten said, has ‘‘robbed him of charity’’.

– with James Massola 

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