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Spend plebiscite money on health: Labor

AAP logoAAP 14/09/2016

Labor has challenged Malcolm Turnbull to explain why the government is spending $170 million on a same-sex marriage plebiscite, but can't find $900,000 a year to keep a Sydney health clinic open.

Acting Labor leader Tanya Plibersek asked the prime minister in question time on Wednesday whether he would support the now-closed Haymarket Foundation clinic, which provided free medical, nursing and welfare services to the homeless.

Mr Turnbull said the government had invested $71.4 billion in health this financial year and aimed to get the "maximum outcome" from the spending.

Mr Turnbull said the views of all Australians should be respected on the issue of same-sex marriage.

"Yes, it will cost $170 million, but what price democracy?" the prime minister said.

He reminded Labor MPs - some of whom have described proponents of the traditional definition of marriage as "homophobes" - the ALP had only a few years ago opposed same-sex marriage.

"Was Julia Gillard a homophobe when she opposed same-sex marriage? Was Penny Wong a homophobe when she opposed same-sex marriage? Of course not," Mr Turnbull said.

Mr Turnbull later told parliament representatives of the Haymarket Foundation had met his officials in 2015 to seek ongoing funding.

He said transitional funding had been provided to April 2016, but alternative funding from private or not-for-profit sources beyond that time could not be found.

Ms Plibersek said this showed the lack of leadership from the prime minister.

"This prime minister is trying to convince you there's been a year of achievement but, you know, it's been a year of disappointment," she told parliament.

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