Australia's ruling party refuses vote on gay marriage bill

by Garry Watts August 9, 2017, 0:08
Australia's ruling party refuses vote on gay marriage bill

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said if there was a majority "yes" vote the government would bring to parliament in the final sitting fortnight of the year a private bill, on which Liberal members could cast a free vote.

Cabinet minister Mathias Cormann says the government has advice there is a "legal and constitutional" way forward on the postal vote, but the specifics are a matter for the joint party room which will meet on Tuesday.

"That moved me and it reinforced my resolve and I came to the conclusion very quickly, with great clarity, that it's now time to legislate by parliamentary vote same-sex marriage in Australia".

While Coalition members always have the right to cross the floor and vote against a government bill, the suspension of standing orders by government backbenchers to consider a bill that is opposed to government policy is unusual, to say the least, if not unprecedented.

"If the Senate supports the government's preferred option of a compulsory attendance plebiscite, that would take place on the 25 November..."

Polls show the majority of Australians support same-sex marriage.

It is highly likely the plebiscite legislation will be voted down again as there are not enough numbers in the Senate in favour of it.

"Advice we received from [Ron Merkel QC] last week indicated the government can not act without specific legislation and a specific budgetary appropriation", said just.equal spokesperson Rodney Croome in a statement. "You heard me say again and again that every Australian will have a say on this issue", Turnbull said.

All this means the legal situation around the postal plebiscite has become even murkier, with two separate groups of marriage equality advocates returning to their lawyers to assess their chances in a High Court challenge.

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The government estimates the postal plebiscite would cost around $122 million - roughly $50 million less than the estimated cost of the full, in-person plebiscite.

"I don't think the ABS has the authority to run the plebiscite to be truthful", he said.

Liberal Party Senator Dean Smith, who is gay himself, explained this week how a tragic incident convinced him to campaign for same-sex marriage.

Several gay senators made impassioned pleas against the plan at the time, saying it would lead to denigration of their families and subject them to hate speech. Voters could see the ballot as soon as September 12 and would have until November 7 to return their ballot.

But the Senate in November blocked the plebiscite, which would cost 170 million Australian dollars ($135 million) and promote a divisive public debate.

Government tacticians view this as the best solution that will enable a start to 2018 without distractions on gay marriage and a focus on the economy, energy and national security.

The Nationals have been staunch supporters of the plebiscite, with MP Andrew Broad warning the coalition could split if the policy was dumped.
They will join talks on the mechanics of a potential postal vote in Canberra on Tuesday".

He concluded: 'Vote in Parliament and say "yes" to gay marriage and let's live happily ever after'.

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