The belated emergence of same-sex marriage as a point of contention in election campaigning gives Opposition leader Bill Shorten an opportunity to gain some political capital.
This is the view of Dr Liz van Acker who researches gender and couple relationships at Griffith Business School.
“We know that if re-elected, the Coalition will support a national plebiscite at some unknown date after the election. Any clear outcome would be delayed and provide the opportunity for moral panic from opponents of marriage equality” she said.
“The Labor party has promised to vote same-sex marriage into law within 100 days of office if it wins.”
Dr van Acker believes that the Coalition’s commitment to a plebiscite, combined with a $160 million budget allocation for this public vote, represents a risk for Malcolm Turnbull.
“A people’s vote would be unnecessary, expensive and potentially dangerous. It may, in fact, actually cause more harm.”
Six weeks into the campaign, Bill Shorten homed in on Mr Turnbull’s determination to hold a plebiscite, saying it could encourage homophobia and possibly be damaging to the LGBT community.
“The major political parties had been silent on the question of same-sex marriage up to this point,” Dr van Acker said.
“They had been treading very cautiously around this issue.
“It appears that despite polls showing consistently high approval rates for same-sex marriage, nobody wanted to annoy voters in marginal seats who may have more traditional family values.”