The Abbott Coalition Government has voted against allowing a conscience vote on same-sex marriage ahead of the introduction of a multi-party marriage equality bill entering parliament this week.
The vote was taken at a special Coalition party room meeting held after the issue was raised without a decision at the Liberal and Nationals’ regular joint meeting this morning. The mammoth party room meeting began at 3:15 and went well into the night.
A cross-party marriage equality bill was announced in July and is expected to be introduced to Parliament at some point in the next week. A free conscience vote, however, was always the crucial factor in the bill’s prospects for success.
The decision to include the National Party in today’s party room vote, rather than the usual process of the Liberal Party voting by themselves has, according to The Australian, led some MPs including Christopher Pine to accuse the Prime Minister of ‘branch stacking’ the vote with country MPs in order to delay reform.
Tony Abbott, however, says that he is only following through on his pre-election promise that any debate regarding same-sex marriage would be dealt with “by the Coalition party room in the usual way”.
Fairfax media estimates that at least 60 of Labor’s 80 members will support a change towards marriage equality. Support within the Coalition remains largely unknown, however, an increasing number of Government members have been declaring their support for change in recent months.