CANBERRA -- As Turnbull Government MPs continue an internal war over moves to bring in same-sex marriage, a new report has found more Australians now support equal rights for same-sex couples including the move to change the definition of marriage.
The results, in Australia's longest-running annual economic and lifestyle survey, the just released Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) report from the University of Melbourne and the Melbourne Institute, show the absurd and impossible position of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
The PM is known to be personally in favour of marriage equality and a parliamentary vote to bring it in, and he's backed by Wednesday's HILDA report which surveys the same 17,000 people each year. It has found a "profound shift" towards the view that homosexual couples should have the same rights as heterosexual couples.
Almost two-thirds of Australians now support equal marriage, parenting and employment rights for same-sex couples, a jump from just 38 per cent in 2005. That's 67 per cent of women and 59 per cent of men in the survey year of 2015.
This shift over a decade towards a "non-traditional" attitude on equality and marriage is at odds with the many of the views inside the Turnbull Government.
The Government has a position, left over from Tony Abbott's time as Prime Minister, to hold a plebiscite on same-sex marriage, allowing the Australian people to have a say on the issue.
But the plebiscite proposal, which failed to get through the parliament without the backing of the Opposition, the Greens and several independent senators, has been derided by pro-marriage advocates as pointless, a waste of money, potentially harmful to young gays and lesbians and nothing more than a delay tactic.
There have now been several days of anonymous and public threats against the moderate Liberal MPs and Senators agitating for change. Liberal MP Tim Wilson has been the subject of pre-selection threats while Turnbull has been warned his prime ministership would be "terminal" if the issue progresses beyond the current policy of a plebiscite.
It is expected to come to a head next Tuesday in the Liberal Party room. Brisbane based Liberal MP Trevor Evans is expected to raise the need to support a private members bill from Liberal Senator Dean Smith for marriage equality.
Cabinet minister and moderate Liberal, Simon Birmingham, has warned colleagues to think of the consequences of crossing the floor on same-sex marriage.
Conservative Liberal senator Eric Abetz has warned such a move would be a "grave" issue for the authority of the Prime Minister, Birmingham is urging caution at the same time as saying Liberals have the right -- and the party has the tradition, unlike Labor -- to exercise their conscience.
"It is a right that people should exercise carefully, with caution, with consideration for all of the consequences," the education minister told Sky News.
"Therefore, I would urge everybody to think about the policy we took to the last election, to work as hard as we possibly can to ensure that is implemented if it possibly can be."
Wilson declared on Tuesday he will not be crossing the floor by voting for a Labor Bill or motion. He views it as support a colleague's move for a free parliamentary vote.