The chances marriage equality will pass in the current Australian parliament are virtually zero.
Tony Abbott’s Liberal/National coalition has dashed the hopes of same sex marriage proponents in Australia, by rejecting a free vote on the issue. Coalition MPs voted 66 to 33 not to allow a conscience vote.
The party room vote was held after Queensland backbencher Warren Entsch reportedly initiated discussion on whether Liberal MPs should be a allowed a conscience vote at a party room meeting this morning without their Nationals counterparts in what Tony Abbott latter called a “brief and spirited discussion.”
What followed was an afternoon meeting called at short notice which included both Liberal and National MPs and senators. Coalition MPs reportedly lined up at the rate of about two to one to speak in favour of the Coalition’s existing policy of marriage being defined exclusively as the union between a man and a woman. The meeting lasted 5 and a half hours and concluded with coalition MPs being required to vote against same sex marriage should a vote come up on the issue.
The way in which the debate was conducted has been widely criticsed by some of Tony Abbott’s senior frontbench colleagues, including leadership contender Malcolm Turnball and Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop.
The Sydney Morning Herald reports that manager of government business and otherwise strong supporter, Christopher Pyne, likened Mr Abbott’s conduct to “branch stacking” after he included more socially onservative National party MPs in a Liberal party policy discussion in order to shore up the numbers against same sex marriage.
However, Abbott defended the party room decision and his own personal opposition to same sex marriage saying “There was a strong view in the party room today that if we were to drop the policy, even if we were to adjust the policy to the extent of having a free vote, a lot of people who voted for us were going to feel dudded.”