Tony Abbott’s MPs want to decide for themselves whether to vote for marriage equality or not – and are challenging the opposition leader to grant them a conscience vote on the issue, like Julia Gillard’s Labor Party has done.
And voters agree. A new Galaxy poll published in the Sunday Herald Sun today shows 77% of Coalition voters want the party to allow a conscience vote on same-sex marriage, and say it would be a “smart move” if Abbott allowed one.
“By allowing a conscience vote, Tony Abbott will represent the wishes of Coalition voters, prevent disunity in Coalition ranks, and be seen as upholding Coalition values of individual freedom,” says Australian Marriage Equality’s Alex Greenwich.
He says this is the first time in the party’s history that Liberal MPs have not been granted a conscience vote on a substantive policy issue when Labor MPs were granted one.
“The Liberal Party prides itself on allowing more freedom to their MPs than the Labor Party does, but on this issue Tony Abbott is turning his back on party tradition and liberal values,” Greenwich points out.
Abbott’s recent argument that allowing a conscience vote would somehow amount to a broken promise can be dismissed.
“Mr Abbott may have opposed marriage equality during the election campaign, but he did not rule out a conscience vote,” he adds.
Coalition figures who reportedly support a conscience vote include Joe Hockey, George Brandis, Christopher Pyne, Greg Hunt, Senator Nigel Scullion, Malcolm Turnbull, Barry O’Farrell, Simon Birmingham, Barnaby Joyce, Russell Broadbent, and former Howard Government minister, Amanda Vanstone.
Today’s newly-published Galaxy poll also shows that a majority of Australians are in favour of marriage equality, with only a third of voters against the reform.