Given the events of this week, this matter of public importance raised by the member for Sydney is particularly timely. It is appropriate that this House again put on the record its support for marriage equality. I begin by acknowledging the work of the member for Sydney. As a chair of Marriage Equality Australia, he has been at the forefront of the marriage equality debate. I know that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, and questioning [LGBTIQ] Australians value his leadership and his conviction on this issue. Unfortunately, we have failed this is the type of leadership from the Prime Minister and the Federal Government. Time and again we have offered magnanimous cross-party support on LGBTIQ issues, and particularly on the issue of marriage equality.

The Prime Minister and the Federal Liberal and Nationals parties have failed LGBTIQ people this week. Rather than show leadership and allow their members a free vote on a simple private members bill to decide this issue—that is, to do their job—they have taken us down the path of a postal plebiscite. We will have an expensive, $122 million opinion poll that will divide the community and cause immeasurable harm to our democracy. Never before has a postal plebiscite been used to decide something so fundamentally important to people's lives as marriage. We have used this mechanism to take the national temperature on what song we would like to have as a national anthem. We also used it to determine delegates for the constitutional convention prior to a vote in a referendum. These are important issues, but in no way are they as important to the lives of the people the result will affect. We are talking about their ability to marry the person they love.

Frankly, it is offensive to LGBTIQ people and it treats them as second-class citizens. As Justice Michael Kirby put it so clearly this morning, an unbinding poll was not conducted to decide on the advancement of equal rights for Aboriginal people or the advancement of the equal rights of women. As Justice Kirby said, it is a political improvisation. It is completely unacceptable and it should be stopped. It appears that the postal plebiscite will be binding only if the answer is no. If it is yes, some parliamentarians have already said that they will ignore it and vote no anyway. There has been very little detail on how registered voters overseas will be able to vote or how votes will be secured and counted.

There can be no doubt that this is a divisive and damaging delaying tactic, and it is an indictment on the Prime Minister's leadership. We are only days into the debate, and the most degrading and derogatory things have already been said about LGBTIQ people and their families—that their relationships are akin to bestiality and the children of LGBTIQ parents have been abused. Former Federal Liberal member of Parliament Chris Miles has indicated that he intends to distribute a leaflet that reads:

Married biological parents have a better record of providing safety and development of healthy, well-adjusted adult children. They minimise abuse and neglect of children.

Only days in, and the debate is already ugly, cruel and misleading. As an antidote to that pessimism and negativity, it was a pleasure to welcome Rainbow Families into the New South Wales Parliament today. New South Wales Rainbow Families is a community organisation that supports and connects families and builds resilience for LGBTIQ parenting families across the country. In the usually sedate Macquarie Room, which is usually the venue for committee hearings, there was colouring in, laughter, toys and joy. We saw happy, safe, competent children being raised with love and optimism. Unfortunately, I think it will take more than a visit by Rainbow Families to win this debate. If the High Court challenge is unsuccessful and we do indeed have a postal plebiscite, people should, first, check their electoral enrolment. Secondly, we need everybody to have conversations with their families, friends, neighbours and colleagues. We must have courage and fortitude.

As the Federal Labor Leader Bill Shorten said today, we need to pull out all the stops and campaign for a yes vote. For those of us who have allies in the LGBTIQ community, we must also reach out to them and make sure they are doing okay. Above all else, we need leadership. Federal Government leadership has been sorely missed in this debate. The children of those rainbow families and children across New South Wales being raised in loving LGBTIQ families deserve nothing less.