Former Prime Minister and longstanding anti-marriage equality campaigner Tony Abbott has changed his tune on the issue of marriage, in a bizarre backflip during his parliamentary speech in the debate.

Speaking in parliament, Abbott said he now believes marriage equality will “strengthen our social fabric” of Australia.

“The overwhelming support for same-sex marriage that the plebiscite showed is a sign of the warm acceptance that Australians have for gay people,” he said.

“There may indeed be a few homophobic individuals lurking amongst us, but no-one should ever again claim that Australia is a bigoted or intolerant country.

“As the plebiscite abundantly demonstrated, we are as easygoing as any country on Earth, and, whatever your race, your creed, your gender or your sexuality, to be an Australian is well and truly to have won the lottery of life.”

He added that he looked forward to attending the impending wedding of his sister Christine Forster and her partner Virginia.

Throughout the postal survey process, Abbott was a strong advocate for the No campaign.

At one stage he said he would prefer a straight couple to raise his lesbian sister’s children, reinforcing the tired notion that kids fare better with both a mother and a father.

He also said that anti-marriage equality campaigning should continue well after the postal survey period.

Given Dean Smith’s marriage bill is likely to pass the House of Representatives this week, making marriage equality a reality, perhaps Abbott’s 180-degree turn isn’t a major surprise, but rather a tactical move to position himself on the right side of history in the last minute.

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