PRIME Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s confirmation earlier today that the Coalition under his leadership will continue to support a plebiscite on marriage equality has prompted Australian Marriage Equality (AME) to now call it a key election issue.

During his first parliamentary sitting since ascending to the country’s top office overnight after a successful leadership ballot against Tony Abbott, Deputy Opposition Leader Tanya Plibersek raised the question of where he stood on the issue.

[showads ad=MREC]“It would take half an hour of parliamentary time to allow this bill to be voted on,” she said (scroll down to watch the video of the debate).

“Will the PM allow a vote on this bill and allow members of his party a free vote as he’s publicly called for previously?”

In response,  Turnbull — who has stated his support for the Liberals to adopt a conscience vote in the lead-up to the Coalition party room meeting in August that rejected it — said: “If we are re-elected to government, every single Australian will have a say.”

The new PM also said that amendment to the federal Marriage Act to make marriage equality reality would be “determined by a vote of the people, all the people, via a plebiscite”.

Turnbull, whose Sydney electorate includes some of Australia’s most LGBTI-centric suburbs, went on to defend the cost of the plebiscite despite acknowledging it was the costlier option.

The Australia Electoral Commission’s submission to a Senate enquiry last week estimated that if a plebiscite were to be conducted at the next Federal Election, it would cost $44 million. However, if the plebiscite were to be conducted on its own, it’s estimated it would cost $158 million.

“When did it cease to be democratic to let the people speak?” Turnbull said.

Last week, the Victorian and NSW gay and lesbian rights lobbies released the results of a joint survey that confirmed 70 per cent of respondents were against a plebiscite.

AME national director Rodney Croome said millions of Australians would be “disappointed that this parliament, like the last one, has failed to deliver marriage equality” and that Turnbull had “not seized the opportunity” to do so.

Regardless of which party wins the next election we need the support of a majority of MPs to make marriage equality a reality,” he said in a statement.

“We will work hard right up to election day to make sure a majority of members of the next parliament will vote for marriage equality.”

“But should Mr Turnbull be prime minister after the election, and the Coalition decides to proceed with a plebiscite, we look forward to working with him to ensure a plebiscite is conducted fairly, with a neutral question and that it occurs as quickly as possible.

“We are confident a majority of Australians will vote ‘yes’ for candidates who support marriage equality at the next election and would also vote ‘yes’ in a fairly-framed plebiscite.”

At its national conference earlier this year, Labor promised it would introduce marriage equality legislation within the first 100 days of parliament if were to win the next federal election.

Labor parliamentarians, as well as the Greens, also have a conscience vote on the issue. Coalition cabinet members are currently bound to vote against it.

Nonetheless, Australia made history earlier today when Turnbull was officially sworn in as PM — it’s the first time the leader of the government and the leader of the opposition are both in publicly support of marriage equality.

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