CANBERRA -- Tensions are again building within the Coalition over marriage equality with a conservative Senator describing a new plan from a colleague to enshrine it in law as a “thought bubble” and an “ambush".
Stymied by the current plan to hold a post-election plebiscite on the issue, Queensland Liberal MP, and long-time same sex marriage advocate, Warren Entsch put forward an alternative plan for the Prime Minister’s consideration.
Entsch now wants legislation to amend the Marriage Act before the next election, but the amendments would only come into force after the election if the plebiscite ends with a yes vote.
He argues such legislation would let Australians know exactly what they are voting for and would give teeth to a non-binding plebiscite.
Tasmanian Liberal Senator Eric Abetz is unimpressed with Entsch’s move.
“It seems a bit of a thought bubble and an ambush to boot,” he told the ABC’s AM program.
“What it is, is an attempt to overcome the overwhelming vote of the (joint Government) party room by two thirds majority to maintain our position on marriage, which is to maintain the truth of marriage as being between a man and a woman to the exclusion of others.”
The vote, while Tony Abbott was Prime Minister, was for the position to be held until the next election.
The former Government Leader in the Senate said the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is now in a “very difficult position".
“It is not the actions, if I might say, that will help unity which will help to heal some of the wounds of that which has happened over recent weeks,” Abetz said.
Abetz, the former Employment Minister was one of several Coalition Ministers dumped by Turnbull soon after ousting Tony Abbott just over a month ago.
Turnbull’s current support for plebiscite over a referendum model is a reversal of his position before becoming Prime Minister. He has vowed to commit to Abbott’s timetable.
“I have every confidence that the Prime Minister will abide by the wish of the party room,” Abetz said.
Other Liberal MPs, opposed to gay marriage, are perplexed.
“I think that's a strange issue that's been brought up,” Dennis Jensen told reporters in Canberra.
“I mean people know my personal view on same-sex marriage, which is I'm opposed, but quite frankly we have clear policy on this and that is that if we're elected we will have a plebiscite in the next term of Government and obviously we will vote on the issue after that plebiscite.
“To have a vote before a plebiscite is really strange.”
Asked yesterday in Parliament if the plebiscite result will be binding on Coalition members, Turnbull replied that the consequence of a yes vote will be that same-sex marriage will be legal in Australia.