Bill Shorten and Tanya Plibersek must be commended for their decision to table a bill on same-sex marriage. It is well past time Australia joined the 21st century on this issue. But Labor’s timing on this — just as the government is trying to sell a relatively well-received budget — is opportunistic and cynical.

Of course Labor is keen to get itself some of those warm and fuzzy feelings that Ireland experienced at the weekend. But it’s unlikely the government will allow the opposition its day in the sun on this issue just yet.

No bill gets considered in the lower house without the government’s approval. Will the Abbott government allow the vote to go ahead? The PM’s comments this morning suggest not.

At yet another whistle-stop on his tour of the country’s small businesses, Abbott told journalists his party would have a “full and frank and candid and decent debate” about the issue if and when it were brought before Parliament.

But he also characterised it as a distraction from the government’s task at hand: improving business confidence and passing its 2015 budget. “There’s a total focus inside the government on improving our economy and boosting small business,” he said.

After a disastrous budget in 2014, there is a miniscule chance that the Abbott government will allow Labor and gay marriage to take the spotlight just now — and Bill Shorten knows that.

Both parties need to stop playing politics with this issue, and just legalise the damn thing.

Peter Fray

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