MEMBERS of The Nationals party have rejected the notion of a plebiscite on marriage equality and instead support a parliamentary vote on the matter, according to an Australian Marriage Equality (AME) poll.

While the poll signals a change from the party, the apparent shift in opinion is not total: 57.5 per cent of Nationals members oppose the plebiscite, while 56.3 per cent support a parliamentary vote.

Slightly more pronounced is the sense that its members have grown tired of the issue, with 63.5 per cent indicating they believe the plebiscite has “poor or very poor” value, and 61.9 per cent want the issue to be over with “sooner rather than later”.

The news increases pressure on National MPs to act on marriage equality, who have a policy of not supporting it. Their Coalition counterparts, the Liberals, voted to not support the issue nor to have a conscience vote on it during a party room meeting in mid-2015.

In response to the poll results, AME national director Rodney Croome said this shows regional and rural Australians – the Nationals’ main membership demographic – want federal parliament to move on issue soon and for the government to “drop its plan for an expensive, divisive and delaying plebiscite”.

“Rural and regional Australians want government money spent on essential services like hospitals and schools, not wasted on what is basically an elaborate, expensive and pointless opinion poll,” Croome said in a statement.

“The message to the National Party, and the Coalition broadly, is to abandon the plebiscite and allow its federal members a free vote so parliament can pass reform as soon as possible.

“The political reason for the plebiscite was to smooth over divisions in the Coalition and take marriage equality off the agenda in the lead up to the election but that hasn’t worked.

“It’s time for Malcolm Turnbull to bring back marriage equality legislation, allow a free vote and get this done straight away so Australia can move on.”

The results come after a heated week of public debate on the issue, which included Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s out lesbian sister and City of Sydney Liberal councillor Christine Forster publicly disagreeing with her brother on the issue via Twitter.

The openly gay Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, Penny Wong, published an essay in The Monthly about the damage from the argument that same-sex parents are harmful for their children.

Meanwhile, the Greens’ spokesperson on marriage equality, South Australian Senator Robert Simms, has said a plebiscite was “about as popular as its architect, Tony Abbott”.

“Poll after poll shows the Australian community wants the government to legislate for marriage equality,” Simms said in a statement.

“When Malcolm Turnbull became Prime Minister he promised a different style of leadership and a different direction for his government, yet all we’re seeing is the same stale old Abbott-era policies.

“Mr Turnbull should grant a free vote on marriage equality this week and end this farce over a national plebiscite.”

According to AME and Fairfax Media reports, there is majority support for marriage equality at a federal level now, with 76 out of 150 House of Representatives MPs now publicly in favour, 41 out of 76 Senators.

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