PROMINENT federal Coalition backbencher Warren Entsch has reportedly said Prime Minister Tony Abbott has committed to passing marriage equality legislation if a plebiscite on the issue were to go ahead and led to a successful result.
The far-north Queensland MP’s cross-party marriage equality bill was briefly debated in Federal Parliament yesterday, but in the Federation Chamber rather than the House of Representatives.
[showads ad=MREC]After a brief 10 minutes of debate, Entsch’s private member’s bill now joins three other marriage equality bills in legislative limbo and it is unlikely to come to a ballot with the Coalition obliged to vote against it.
Following a Coalition party room meeting last month, Abbott announced a “people’s vote” on marriage equality would be held after the next election.
Many within the Coalition, including Attorney General George Brandis, have cautioned against a referendum as the constitution does not need to be changed for marriage equality to be legalised.
A plebiscite would not be legally binding, but Entsch told ABC News that he received a guarantee from the PM he would act on its finding.
“It’s already been committed by the Prime Minister that whatever that people’s vote is, even though generally it is not binding to government, we have made a commitment,” the Leichhardt federal Liberal-National MP said.
“Whatever that vote is, we will legislate accordingly.
“[Tony Abbott] made that commitment, and this is why I’m quite happy to support it, whatever the decision of the people is, that is what will be locked in.”
Meanwhile, the Australia Electoral Commission’s submission to a Senate enquiry 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.
Entsch told ABC News the issue of cost was irrelevant.
“We could’ve saved a lot of that cost if we had a free vote, but a decision was made that we would take it to the people,” he said.
“And people have to accept [that] for them to have a right to express a vote, there is a cost associated with that.
“Whatever the cost is, there seems to be an overwhelming view that people want to have a vote on this.”