New South Wales Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells resigned from cabinet yesterday citing the “same-sex marriage debate” for supporting Peter Dutton over Malcolm Turnbull.
Fierravanti-Wells was, as many people learned yesterday, Minister for International Development and the Pacific until yesterday when she tendered her resignation.
“Over the year, I have continued to express my concerns. The same sex marriage debate eroded further the support of our base.”
She noted in the letter than she had encouraged Turnbull to replace Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party Julie Bishop with leadership challenger Dutton many months ago, to no avail.
Today she spoke to reporters, saying “We are bleeding votes to the right.
“I think it’s very important for any government, particularly a coalition government to have the appropriate balance of moderate and conservatives.”
Fierravanti-Wells is a noted opponent of marriage equality, voting against the bill as it moved through the Senate last year.
“Labor has ignored your views. They are not listening to you. They have abandoned your values and are seeking to crush what you hold so dear,” she said during debate over the bill, addressing the high No vote in Western Sydney.
“You should never be made to feel that your values are wrong or your concerns insignificant,” she said.
Fierravanti-Wells also strongly supported amendments to marriage equality legislation which would have allowed civil celebrants the right to refuse to marry same-sex couples.
It was as recent as 2015 that Fierravanti-Wells claimed that marriage equality opponents were the “silent majority”.
“Our conservative base strongly feel that their voice has been eroded. They needed some demonstrable indication that there are conservative voices around your Cabinet table,” her resignation continued.
Dutton, who was defeated in yesterday’s leadership ballot by a vote of 35 to 48, is strongly opposed to marriage equality and pushed hard for last year’s postal survey to take place.
Dutton, who also resigned from his position as Home Affairs Minister, last year criticised Qantas CEO Alan Joyce for advocating for marriage equality.
“It is unacceptable that people would use companies and the money of publicly listed companies to throw their weight around,” Dutton said at the time.
“If Alan Joyce and any other CEO wants to campaign on this or any other issue in their own time and on their own dime, good luck to them.
“It is simply unconscionable.”
Fierravanti-Wells’ Liberal Party Senate colleague Dean Smith, who introduced the bill which later became Australia’s marriage equality legislation, also supported Dutton in the Coalition’s leadership contest.
A previous version of this story incorrectly referred to Julie Bishop as Deputy Prime Minister rather than Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party. This has since been updated.