Liberal frontbencher Malcolm Turnbull has called on Opposition Leader Tony Abbott to allow Coalition MPs a conscience vote on the issue of marriage equality and hinted he would support a bill that came before parliament.
Speaking on the ABC’s Radio National this morning, the Wentworth MP said he had raised the matter of allowing a free vote with Abbott.
“I had raised the matter privately with Tony some time ago,” he told ABC radio.
“My view is we should have a conscience vote on it … but it is a matter for the shadow cabinet and party room as to whether we do.”
For years Turnbull has expressed support for same-sex civil unions over marriage equality.
Although he stopped short of indicating exactly how he would vote on a bill for same-sex marriage, Turnbull said he was, “committed to ensuring…no discrimination against same-sex couples”.
“I haven’t historically advocated same-sex marriage in large part because in the past the campaigns that were successful to eliminate discrimination, in terms of tax and superannuation and so many other matters, would really have been derailed and I think frustrated if marriage had been part of the agenda,” he said.
“In terms of my own electorate, I don’t have any doubt there is a large majority of people who support same-sex marriage.
“I will be accountable to my constituents and I’ll speak in a considered way, if and when the issue comes up next year.”
A survey conducted by Turnbull earlier this year of his inner Sydney electorate found 73 percent supported marriage equality, 17 percent preferred civil unions and 10 percent were against relationship recognition of same-sex couples.
Australian Marriage Equality (AME) national convener Alex Greenwich said Turnbull had opened the door to other Coalition MPs to show support for marriage equality.
“As a front-bencher and former Coalition leader, Mr Turnbull is the most prominent Coalition MP to support marriage equality,” Greenwich said.
“His stance opens the door for other Coalition MPs who support this reform to go public.
“By supporting a conscience vote Mr Turnbull represents not just his equality-friendly constituents, but also the 76 percent of Coalition voters across the nation who, according to a recent Galaxy poll, want a Coalition conscience vote on this issue.”
Last month Turnbull said he believed a conscience vote was “appropriate” in a letter to a constituent.
Nationals leader in the Senate Barnaby Joyce also backed a free vote.
Since Labor’s change of party platform on the weekend, to allow for same-sex marriage, Abbott has not ruled out allowing Coalition MPs a conscience vote on the matter.