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'Former PMs would have opposed plebiscite'

AAP logoAAP 29/09/2016 Anna Hitchings

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Neither Menzies, Howard nor Whitlam would have held a plebiscite to decide the issue of same-sex marriage, says former High Court judge Michael Kirby.

He made the argument while breaking down the political approaches of all three former prime ministers in an address to Western Sydney University students on Friday.

"Citizens could agree and disagree with those leaders. But they would never have resorted to a plebiscite where parliament had the full constitutional power of action," he said.

The former judge, who has been in a same-sex relationship since 1969, has been highly vocal in opposing the plebiscite.

John Howard © AAP Image/Mick Tsikas John Howard "Parliamentary democracy ... is central to our version of democracy. We should be strengthening that formula, not undermining it," he said.

The Turnbull government says it will go ahead with the public vote, planned for February 11, a move opposed by Labor leader Bill Shorten.

A meeting between Attorney-General George Brandis and shadow attorney-general Mark Dreyfus intended to break the deadlock went nowhere on Monday, with both sides blaming each other for the impasse.

Labor is expected to decide its final position when caucus meets on October 11.

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