Bill Shorten

Exclusive! Politician changes mind on something in three years!

Thus was the front-page expose in this morning’s Australian, which breathlessly reports that Bill Shorten once supported a plebiscite on same-sex marriage but now, three years later, wants Parliament to vote on it — a position he took to the Labor conference last year.

What positions did Malcolm Turnbull hold in 2013? He wanted Parliament to hold a conscience vote on the issue: “So people of the same sex can get married in Auckland and Wellington, Toronto and Ottawa and Vancouver, in New York and Los Angeles, Baltimore and Cape Town, but not Australia. ‘It does start to look as if we’re the ones out of step.”

Now, of course, he wants a plebiscite.

In 2013 Turnbull was also pushing for Australia to become a republic. “I’m very positive about the republican cause. I agree with Wayne Swan that it’s always a good time to talk about our constitution. People say, ‘Oh we shouldn’t be talking about our constitution’ — that’s ridiculous.”

And now? It’s not the right time: “I have led a yes case for a republic into a heroic defeat once — I have no desire to do so again … You want to be sure that the manner and the timing of the referendum is as such that it is successful and that it unites rather than divides Australians.”

On climate change, the Turnbull of old derided Tony Abbott’s “Direct Action” policy: “So any suggestion that you can dramatically cut emissions without any cost is, to use a favourite term of Mr Abbott, ‘bullshit’. Moreover he knows it … Second, as we are being blunt, the fact is that Tony and the people who put him in his job do not want to do anything about climate change.”

Now, Turnbull says Direct Action has been “very successful”.

Both leaders have changed their tunes. But only one is now singing a better melody.

Peter Fray

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