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Mixed messages on marriage free vote?
He told Fairfax Media at the weekend he did not anticipate “much enthusiasm” to revisit the issue after the September 14 election.
“I don’t think anyone should expect that this is necessarily going to come up in the next parliament,” he said.
“Now, an incoming Coalition government is going to have a lot on its plate, so I can’t see much enthusiasm for having another go at this from the Coalition. That’s not to say that others might have a go at it.”
He said the most recent vote on the issue back in September last year had been “fairly decisive”, adding that he believed only a dozen Coalition at most would have voted for change.
“So it still would have been pretty decisively beaten, regardless of the fact that we didn’t have a free vote.”
It follows comments from Abbott last month at a community forum in Geelong where he argued that same-sex marriage was far from inevitable and likened it to the unsuccessful campaign to make Australia a republic in the 1990s.
“Is gay marriage inevitable? Well, look, if you go back a decade or so people thought that the republic was inevitable and yet I don’t believe it is inevitable, certainly not any time soon,” he said.
However, during that same week he told reporters in Melbourne that the issue of a conscience vote was ultimately up to the party room despite his own opposition to it.
“Our position, my position, going into the next election, is that what our policy is … will be a matter for the post-election party room,” he said.
Senior Liberal frontbencher Christopher Pyne also told the Nine Network that week they didn’t have a clear policy on a conscience vote.
“The party room will get to decide that.”
“We might well end up with some recognition of same-sex couples.”
Last week, Coaltion frontbencher Simon Birmingham, who has expressed support for same-sex marriage, told The Australian newspaper he and other Liberal MPs strongly believed the partyroom would join them in the push for a free vote.
Even MPs who oppose same-sex marriage, such as frontbencher Barnaby Joyce and openly gay senator Dean Smith, have called for a conscience vote.