Marriage equality could be legalised in Australia “sooner than everyone thinks,” government minister Christopher Pyne.
But both he and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull have said the government has “no plans” to change their policy of holding a plebiscite on the reform.
Mr Pyne was caught on tape making the comments at a meeting of Liberals at a Sydney bar on Friday, News Corp columnist Andrew Bolt reported on Monday.
According to the recording, Mr Pyne said: “Friends, we are in the winner’s circle but we have to deliver a couple of things and one of those we’ve got to deliver before too long is marriage equality in this country.
“And your friends in Canberra are working on that outcome.
“We’re going to get it. I think it might even be sooner than everyone thinks.”
But a spokesperson for Mr Pyne told News Corp: “The minister did not say action on marriage equality was imminent.
“The minister said that while marriage equality had failed to materialise over the last two years it would become a reality eventually.”
I support marriage equality and if Labor had supported the plebiscite, it would now be a reality. The govt has no plans to alter the policy.
— Christopher Pyne (@cpyne) June 25, 2017
The government’s proposed plebiscite on marriage equality was was widely criticised for being expensive and divisive and the legislation was blocked by the Senate last November.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said on Monday morning: “Our policy is clear and we have no plans to change it.”
Shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus said the majority of Australians want the plebiscite dumped and a free vote held in the parliament instead.
“Internal divisions in the Liberal Party are the biggest impediment to making marriage equality a reality in Australia,” he said.
Earlier this month, Queensland Liberal MP Warren Entsch said he “hopes and expects” the Coalition party room to discuss marriage equality again “very shortly,” and all he wants is the opportunity to vote for the reform in the parliament.
“We have been working on this for a while now. I would hope and expect that it’s going to come to some discussion very shortly,” he said.