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Plebiscite sets poor precedent, says Kirby

AAP logoAAP 21/08/2016

Australia's politicians didn't need a plebiscite to end discrimination against Aborigines, women, non-white immigrants or people with disabilities so they shouldn't need one for gay people.

That's the view of former High Court justice Michael Kirby, who says it's better to wait for parliament to deal with same-sex marriage than hold a divisive and non-binding public vote that sets a precedent.

"It will mean that any time there is something that is controversial, that's difficult for the parliamentarians to address or they don't want to address, they'll send it out to a plebiscite," he told ABC radio on Monday.

"This issue is not being given a fair trot in parliament, it hasn't really been properly considered."

He drew a parallel with the recent Brexit vote in the UK, saying that was an unnecessary national poll and the result shattered expectations.

Australia's parliaments weren't working well at the moment but instead of putting tricky issues out to a plebiscite we should be strengthening parliament and making sure it did its job.

The public weren't asked when politicians moved to give equality in law to Aboriginal people, to end the White Australia policy, to advance women's equality or for disabled people.

"Why are we now picking out the LGBT, the gay community?" Mr Kirby asked.

"It's simply an instance of hate and dislike, hostility to a small minority in our population, it's un-Australian."

He was also concerned about the effect of "running out the old issues of hatreds and animosities, abominations" on young gay people, saying many were already extremely stressed and suicidal.

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