Editor’s note: The story appeared in the September edition of the Star Observer, which hit the streets on August 20. Due to the time between going to press and distribution, combined with the fast pace of the marriage equality debate, some bits may be slightly out of date.

IN the face of the push for a free vote the Federal Government has started to act like a dysfunctional family at Christmas time.

There’s the patriarchal leader Tony Abbott behaving like a grumpy old man from the days of Christmases past, pontificating that he knows what’s best for the rest of the family as he anxiously carves a turkey at the head the table. However, his rambunctious bunch of adult children just won’t listen. How dare they disrupt the party room and have the audacity to tell their old pop that public opinion has changed and he needs to move with the times?

[showads ad=MREC]Meanwhile, the nation’s drunken uncle Eric Abetz is sitting in the corner of the room mumbling “pull my finger” jokes as he dribbles down his brand new Dolce and Gabbana suit. Mum Julie, the peacemaker, is hiding in the kitchen slaving over a hot stove, slugging shots of gin and refusing to give much of an opinion either way.

If this wasn’t so close to the truth it would be funny. But instead it’s sad and exceptionally embarrassing.

Australia is now a laughing stock around the world because of one man’s inability to put his ego away and lead for the country. We have a Prime Minister who is obsessed with keeping his job.

It is the far-right who kept him there in the past and he hopes that they will do so in the future. The problem is more than half the country wants equality on the marriage front.

Marriage equality will happen in Australia, it is just a matter of time. But the question so many have asked since the blocking of a free vote is whether the Prime Minister himself is now out of time? By wedging his colleagues, it appears an already-weak leader will continue to suffer the slings and arrows. Can the far-right MPs in his party protect him? As soon as the Coalition boat starts taking on too much water, will those so-called supporters start to abandon ship and cling to the nearest life raft?

Abbott has argued that by involving the Nationals in the Coalition party room vote, he was sticking to an election promise. Sorry, Prime Minister, what about health, education and the GST? Why aren’t you going into bat for your election promises on those areas of the economy? Not only is this deplorable behaviour but it is extraordinarily patronising to the Australian people.

So too is the idea of a plebiscite after the next election. Seriously, does anyone really believe Abbott would change his tune after another election? If there is to be a plebiscite it must be at the next election and its terms must be determined by the parliament — not by the Prime Minister.

One of the key tenants of the Liberal Party is the belief in the sovereignty of the individual. Yet what we are seeing are well-meaning individuals who would like to make their own adult choice being bullied into submission. There needs to be leadership on this issue from the government, and perhaps since it isn’t coming from the actual leader himself, maybe those who supported a free-vote in the party room should stand up and take a self-assured walk across the floor.

Whitney Fitzsimmons is a freelance journalist and TV presenter. She is a former ABC senior journalist and newsreader and presenter of Business Today on ABC News 24. She is a passionate supporter of marriage equality. Follow her on Twitter: @whitfitzsimmons

Australian Marriage Equality needs your support more than ever to achieve equal marriage rights across the country. To find out how, visit australianmarriageequality.org

**This article was first published in the September edition of the Star Observer, which is available to read in digital flip-book format. To obtain a physical copy, click here to find out where you can grab one in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide, Canberra and select regional/coastal areas.

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