Opposition leader Tony Abbott has ruled out allowing Coalition MPs a conscience vote following a Shadow Cabinet meeting, according to news reports.
“A quick check of the transcripts shows that on at least five separate occasions during the election campaign I affirmed that the Coalition’s position, our policy position, was that marriage was between a man and a woman,” Abbott said, The Australian reported.
“We affirmed the position because we are not in the business as a Coalition of saying one thing before an election, committing one way before an election and then doing the opposite after an election.”
It’s understood several Liberal MPs pushed for the party to be allowed a free vote during private party room discussions yesterday, including Malcolm Turnbull, Christopher Pyne, George Brandis, Bruce Billson, Joe Hockey and
Turnbull later told Fairfax media he would follow the party line when legislation comes before Parliament next year.
Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young hit out at Abbott’s decision, saying it betrays the Liberal Party’s belief in individual choice.
“Numerous surveys show Australians want their MPs to have a conscience vote on same-sex marriages,” Hanson-Young said.
“Mr Abbott should stop swimming against the tide of public opinion and let his Coalition MPs have a free vote when the legislation is presented in Parliament next year.”
A Galaxy poll released this month showed 80 percent, including 76 percent of Coalition voters, supported Abbott allowing Coalition MPs a conscience vote on marriage equality.
A Nielsen poll released this week showed voters overwhelmingly agreed (81 percent) that all MPs should be allowed to vote according to their conscience.
Australian Marriage Equality national convenor Alex Greenwich said he believes it is only a matter of time before the Coalition will again be faced with calls for a conscience vote on marriage equality.
“The Coalition and Mr Abbott are not immune to the arguments of love, family, and equality that have won over the hearts and minds of a clear majority of Australians from coast to coast,” Greenwich said.
“It was only a few weeks back when the Labor Party had the same position as Mr Abbott, and we have seen the impact the unstoppable momentum towards reform has had there.”
Several other Coalition MPs have publicly stated they would support a conscience vote on the issue including Russell Broadbent, Barnaby Joyce and Simon Birmingham.
Without Coalition MPs allowed a free vote on the issue it’s unlikely legislation allowing same-sex marriage, due to be tabled next year, will pass.
Labor Party MPs will be allowed to vote with their consciences but several have already indicated they will oppose any moves for change.