CANBERRA -- It was a spiky Malcolm Turnbull who fronted a Tuesday press conference to explain the way forward for the Government's controversial marriage equality plebiscite, shooting down claims of a harmful public debate around the LGBTQ community and taking a not-so-veiled potshot at Tony Abbott.
The Prime Minister confirmed earlier reports that -- if passed through the Senate -- a plebiscite would be held on November 25, with a view to having a vote in parliament by the end of the year.
If the Senate votes the plebiscite down, as it already did last November, a postal plebiscite is planned to be held with forms arriving in mailboxes from mid-September.
The postal option would cost $122 million, Turnbull said, and confirmed he would be voting in the affirmative to support same-sex marriage; this, despite how busy he is.
"I have many other calls on my time as Prime Minister but I will certainly support a 'yes' vote. As I said I would in the past. But I have many other calls to my time," the PM said.
Advocating the postal plebiscite with a straight face is surely Malcolm Turnbull's most embarrassing moment in public life.— Peter van Onselen (@vanOnselenP) August 8, 2017
Finance Minister and acting Special Minister of State, Mathias Cormann, outlined the way forward on the back of the plebiscite.
"If it returned a majority 'yes' vote, as the Government has indicated we would then facilitate the consideration of a private members bill in the final sitting fortnight," he said.
In a rare move, Turnbull acknowledged there were negatives associated with a plebiscite, but poured scorn on a journalist who suggested -- as demonstrated by multiple LGBTQ advocates and mental health experts -- that a plebiscite would be accompanied by a harmful public debate which may further marginalise the gay community.
"Yeah, that's me. I bet you're wondering how I got myself in this situation." pic.twitter.com/fujbzUkg9c— Sally Rugg 🏳️🌈 (@sallyrugg) August 8, 2017
"There are arguments against having a plebiscite, I understand that. But the weakest argument of all, which I think has no basis, is that the Australian people aren't capable of having a respectful discussion on this issue," the PM said.
"Do we think so little of our fellow Australians and our ability to debate important matters of public interest that we say, 'you're not able to have a respectful discussion about the definition of marriage', which is a very significant, important, fundamental element in our law and culture?
"Australians are able and have demonstrated that they can have a respectful discussion."
Turnbull had seemingly forgotten or overlooked such arguments from members of his own party in recent times. Nationals MP George Christensen was slammed for linking the Safe Schools program to paedophilia just last year, while senator Cory Bernardi repeatedly linked same-sex marriage to bestiality while he was still a member of the Liberal Party.
Just this year, we've had uproar after tennis legend Margaret Court linked the LGBTQ community to Hitler and "the devil".
Mr Turnbull says he believes Australians "are able to have a respectful debate". We've seen time & time again that this is not true. #auspol— Paul Rees (@madam3181) August 8, 2017
The PM claimed his government was sticking to the plebiscite out of strength and honour.
"Fundamental to political leadership is integrity and trust. We all know what happens to governments that break their promises," he said.
"Strong leaders carry out their promises. Weak leaders break them. I'm a strong leader. I made that promise again and again."