Opposition Labor leader Bill Shorten has proposed the name of “the father of reconciliation” Patrick Dodson to replace the sudden quitter of the West Australian senate, Joe Bullock.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported Shorten describing Dodson as a person with “unmatched intelligence, integrity and achievement” who will be able to provide valuable guidance to the parliament. On the other hand, Dodson said that he accepted the offer after thinking about it deeply. “Your phone call came as a surprise and it took me a little while to adjust to the idea that you proposed,” the former chairman of the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation and commissioner into Aboriginal deaths in custody said at a press conference in Canberra on Wednesday.

“Having spent much of my adult life trying to influence our national conversations, debate, government and the Parliament from the outside, it is now time for me to step up to the plate and have a go,” said Dodson.

Bullock, on the other hand, said that the reason behind his decision to quit the parliament just less than two years into his six-year term is his party’s continuous pressure on him to support same-sex marriage. The party removed the conscience vote from 2019 as decided by the ALP conference in 2015 so that the Labor MPs are left with no option to go against the notion.

Bullock said he walked away from the conference “shocked and alone” following the decision taken. “How can I in good conscience recommend to people that they vote for a party which is determined to deny its parliamentarians a conscience vote on the homosexual marriage question which I regard as of fundamental significance to the future shape of our society,” he told the Senate. “The simple answer is I can’t.”

To this, retiring frontbencher Gary Gray said on Wednesday that the Labor party needs to be more “accommodating” for members with differences in opinions, according to The Australian.