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Canberra Today Shows Just Why We Don't Have Marriage Equality

The parliament has failed to practise what it preaches.

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"We must work together on marriage equality."

So goes the rallying cry of Labor, the Greens, crossbench MPs, and same-sex marriage supporters within the Coalition. But the parliament has roundly failed to practise what it preaches.

On Monday morning, one after the other, opposition leader Bill Shorten and Greens MP Adam Bandt rose to introduce two separate, largely identical marriage equality bills into the House of Representatives.

Shorten called on prime minister Malcolm Turnbull to let marriage equality be "a truly cooperative achievement".

"Join with us and sponsor this legislation or bring in your own and we'll second it," he said. "We are prepared to work with the crossbench as well. We don't mind who gets the credit. A year, even a week from now, no one will care whose name was on this bit of paper."

Not ten minutes later, Bandt rose to invite Liberal and Labor MPs to co-sponsor his bill, supported by independents Cathy McGowan and Andrew Wilkie.

"If we all work together, wedding bells could be sounding before Christmas this year. And at the end of the day, what matters is that marriage equality is passed and the leader of the opposition is right, ultimately no one will care whose name appeared in what position on this bill. What they will care about is that the reform happens," he said.

Two marriage equality bills in the Senate that both lapsed at the close of the 44th parliament will also be re-tabled. One is from Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young, and the other is the "Freedom to Marry" bill from Liberal Democrat David Leyonhjelm.

The 45th parliament will then exactly reflect the 44th: four marriage equality bills, all with the same slim chance of making it to a vote.

Australian Marriage Equality chair Alex Greenwich told BuzzFeed News the LGBT community wanted politicians to "put down their armour and work together".

"The worst thing is it we have a same-sex marriage stalemate because of this standoff," he said.

"It will only take one bill to make marriage equality a reality."

Meanwhile, the government is steadfastly ignoring all of these efforts to introduce marriage equality by parliamentary vote, and pressing on with its plebiscite.

A proposal is expected to go to cabinet today. However, there are serious ructions within the Coalition on what the plebiscite should look like.

Monday morning saw back-to-back government backbenchers on ABC Radio express their opposing views on a central issue of the plebiscite: public funding for the "yes" and "no" campaigns.

Senator Eric Abetz, an opponent of marriage equality, said the campaigns must receive equal public funding, which would raise the $160 million price tag, potentially by over $20 million.

"This idea that you can have a proper plebiscite without funding ... would not be the sort of plebiscite that was envisaged by the partyroom," Abetz said.

MP Warren Entsch, a staunch marriage equality supporter, said no public funding was needed and you'd have to be "living on another planet" to not have made up your mind on same-sex marriage yet.

On Friday, senator Dean Smith told Radio National Drive that he has not yet decided whether to support the plebiscite legislation – the first Coalition MP to break ranks and say so.

Last week, shadow attorney general Mark Dreyfus flagged several conditions for the bill before it has a chance of gaining Labor's support – including no public funding.

Lane Sainty is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Sydney, Australia.

Contact Lane Sainty at

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