THE instigator of a revolt in the NSW Young Nationals, which led the party to defy the majority of its MPs and support same-sex marriage, has told the Star Observer he was motivated by his disappointment at the outcome of a Coalition party room meeting last month which saw a free vote on the issue quashed.
A motion by NSW Young Nationals development officer Blaise Bratter, which simply stated that the organisation supports marriage equality, is thought to have passed by a majority of four to one by delegates at the group’s state conference in Corowa last weekend.
[showads ad=MREC]A motion to uphold the position that marriage should only be between a man and a women was soundly defeated.
“After the party room meeting, I was very disappointed at the outcome so that really motivated me to take more of a stand and show that quite a few people in the ranks of the party want this to go ahead,” Bratter told the Star Observer.
At the time Federal Education Minister Christopher Pyne was so concerned by the inclusion of Nationals MPs, in what was previously just a Liberal party room meeting, that he is said to have warned Prime Minister Tony Abbot that it could be seen as “branch stacking” to ensure moves to a conscience vote would be defeated.
“The Nationals have traditionally had much more of a free vote attitude so it was a disappointment the party would actively prevent a free vote from occurring,” Bratter said.
Bratter added that the motion’s passing meant the NSW Young Nationals were the first major youth wing of an Australian conservative party to back marriage equality.
“I’d like to give empowerment and support to MPs on a state and federal level who are being outspoken on marriage equality and show there are people in NSW [Nationals] and on a larger scale who want this to go ahead,” he said.
Bratter said attitudes were changing in the Nationals’ heartland of regional Australia with many young people in rural areas supportive of marriage equality.
NSW upper house Nationals MP Trevor Khan told the Star Observer he applauded his party’s youth arm on their marriage equality motion.
“I share their sentiment of disappointment and disillusionment at the Federal Nationals for denying Coalition members a conscience vote on this issue,” he said.
Khan said the group’s decision was symptomatic of a wider debate in the party with several MPs having expressed their support for a change to the federal Marriage Act.
“If there is an expectation that the debate on marriage equality will now subside, I feel confident that those holding that view will deeply disappointed,” he said.
“All of us engaged in this debate, irrespective of which political party we belong to, will remain engaged until marriage equality is achieved.”
Agriculture Minister and New England federal Nationals MP Barnaby Joyce said in July that Asian trading partners might see Australia as “decadent” if marriage equality was legislated.
However, last month Gippsland federal Nationals MP Darren Chester decisively saw off a move to disendorse him as the party’s candidate at the next election following his support for marriage equality.
Talking to Fairfax Media, Young Liberals federal president Simon Breheny said the organisation continued to oppose changing the Marriage Act, despite recent polls showing almost nine out of 10 young people backed marriage equality.
“There are strong views on either side of the debate within the Young Liberals, but each time the question has been put, it’s been resolved in favour retaining the traditional definition of marriage,” Breheny said.[showads ad=FOOT]