Labor’s national conference has ended on a unifying note with a pledge by Bill Shorten to act on same-sex marriage within 100 days if his opposition party is elected to government.
Under pressure from the Left faction to immediately drop an existing conscience vote for federal MPs in favour of a binding vote on the issue, Mr Shorten announced a compromise to deliver laws in the next parliamentary term under a Labor government, or see Labor MPs bound to vote in favour in the parliament after that.
“Marriage equality is a simple overdue change that sends a powerful message,” the federal Labor leader told the conference.
Labor frontbencher Penny Wong, who has a lesbian partner, said the decision would end a conscience vote “that never should have been a conscience vote”.
“Our party is a party of progress,” she told the conference on Sunday.
In his final words to delegates, Mr Shorten said the party had over three days established it was serious about offering a social and economic program for Australia’s future.
He later told AAP the 397 delegates had dealt with some “extremely difficult issues”, including support for the option to turn back asylum seeker boats.
“But these are issues we have to confront if we want to form government,” he said.
Labor senator Sam Dastyari said it had been an important conference for Mr Shorten – his first as party leader.
“There is no doubt about it … Bill Shorten has stamped his authority on the Labor party.”
The conference passed a raft of new rules, including allowing non-union members to join the party, and agreed to a review the ALP’s 1921 “socialist objective”.
Delegates also hailed a new rule to ensure 50 per cent of party roles are held by women as an historic moment in the party’s history.