Prime minister Kevin Rudd believes his support of marriage equality will be a key factor in deciding the youth vote at the upcoming election.
Rudd, whose Kevin 07 campaign enjoyed strong backing from young voters, believes most young people consider current marriage laws inadequate.
“Wherever I go in Australia, it just hits you in the face what young people think about this, which is that our current arrangements are just wrong and offensive to people,” he said.
Speaking at his first press conference since being sworn in as prime minister for a second time, Rudd called on opposition leader Tony Abbott to allow his party a conscience vote on gay marriage.
“Whoever wins the next election, please, let’s just have the civility to open this to a conscience vote for all,” he said.
Rudd flagged the possibility of a referendum or plebiscite if the matter could not be resolved in parliament.
“I think I’m now the first prime minister who is a fully signed-up supporter of marriage equality.
“I would like to see this done, and the reason I want to see it done is frankly it causes so many people such unnecessary angst out … in the gay and lesbian community,” he said.
Rudd also said he believes the high-speed national broadband network made Labor appealing to younger voters.
“I’ve spoken to a whole bunch of foreign student who is come to Brisbane to study, from China for example, and they say what is it with your local broadband speeds?
“These things are just not up to world standards. The digital generation know this, older folks tend not to.
“I’ve got to say marriage equality and decent, world-class broadband – these are two selling points to young Australians, all of whom are wired for sound.”
In other news Rudd said he would continue to support the National Plan for School Improvement but would no longer refer to it as the Gonski package, saying people found the term confusing.
He also said the states will have an extra fortnight to negotiate an appropriate funding deal with the Government.
So far only South Australia, the ACT and New South Wales have agreed to the plan.
Rudd was not asked about Labor’s $2.3 billion cuts to student support and university spending, but it is unlikely he will reverse the funding decisions made by former prime minister Julia Gillard.
Update: Newly appointed Higher Education Minister Kim Carr has said he will re-examine funding for universities, but flagged the possibility of reducing student numbers to pay for it.
What do you think? Is support for marriage equality enough to bring young people back to Labor?