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Same-sex marriage will return to political agenda: Gallagher

Canberra Times logo Canberra Times 23/05/2014 Tom McIlroy
ACT Chief Minister Katy Gallagher. ACT Chief Minister Katy Gallagher.

Same-sex marriage will return to prominence on the national political agenda as parliamentarians catch up with community sentiment, according to ACT Chief Minister Katy Gallagher.

Five months after the High Court overturned historic ACT legislation allowing same-sex couples to marry, Ms Gallagher said efforts by the Abbott government to block reform would eventually be overcome.

In an interview with veteran journalist and former Canberra Times editor Michelle Grattan for The Conversation, Ms Gallagher said the 2013 ACT legislation represented genuine marriage equality.

She defended the government's decision not to pass eleventh hour amendments, which some experts and advocacy groups said could have weakened the inevitable Commonwealth challenge, led by federal Attorney-General George Brandis.

"I don’t think this is an issue that is going to go away," Ms Gallagher said.

"I think there's probably an understanding that the current federal government is not sympathetic to exploring this at this time, but I have no doubt that there's enough people in federal Parliament that will keep this issue alive, even if it goes through more years of being rejected before it is ultimately accepted.''

Now the second-longest serving state or territory leader, Ms Gallagher said federal MPs and senators continued to lag behind community sentiment on the issue.

Public opinion polls in Australia and overseas have consistently shown majority support same-sex marriage becoming legal.

"The community is much more progressive and accepting than federal parliamentarians are so I think the pressure will be maintained," Ms Gallagher said.

"It's up to the Australian people what they seek from their elected representatives that will ultimately determine the timetable for this reform but I am firmly of the view that it will happen.

"When it does we will reflect back and wonder why it has taken so long,'' Ms Gallagher said.

The interview also canvassed the territory impact of the federal budget and reforms of the Labor Party.

Ms Gallagher said she didn't believe Prime Minister Tony Abbott would spend significant time at his official Canberra residence, The Lodge. The historic Deakin home is currently undergoing a $4.5 million restoration. Mr Abbott and his family have moved into Kirribilli House on Sydney Harbour.

Asked if she supported an increase in the GST or a widening of the base of the consumption tax, Ms Gallagher restated her view that consideration should come during a wider tax review.

She said Canberra's social fabric could be damaged by last week's federal budget, as the city faces 16,500 public service job losses and cuts to health and community services.

She said Mr Abbott's views on the capital were unclear.

"He tells me he loves the city, he enjoys the time he spends here and that he does not want to cause economic harm to the city," Ms Gallagher said.

“We have some of [Mr Abbott's] senior ministers saying their view is unless there's a good reason to be in Canberra, the federal public service doesn't need to be here. It could be anywhere in Australia.

"That paints a worrying picture for us as a city."

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