Liberal Senator Dean Smith has said a free vote on marriage equality should be held in the federal parliament in August, on the two year anniversary of the government’s defeated plebiscite.
“I think the evidence is very, very clear. It will be hard to readopt the plebiscite,” he told HuffPost Australia on Monday.
“We’re coming up to the two-year anniversary of when we adopted the plebiscite in August. (The plebiscite) having … been defeated, I think there is a natural symmetry about re-examining our policy at that particular point in time.
“I personally believe that this term of parliament, this parliament, the 45th parliament there should be a free vote on the issue of marriage. Most definitely.
“One free vote in the 45th parliament on the issue of marriage? Not much to ask for.”
Fairfax Media reported on Tuesday that supportive Liberal MPs Smith and Trent Zimmerman are working on a private members’ bill they hope will be presented to Parliament to legalise marriage equality through a free vote as soon as August. Parliament resumes on August 8.
But Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said the government would not be abandoning the plebiscite, legislation for which was blocked in the Senate last November.
“We are not going to change our policy,” he told radio station 3AW on Tuesday.
“The party’s policy and the Government’s policy is clear. We will not support a vote on gay marriage in the Parliament until there has been a plebiscite.
“We made a commitment at the last election that we would have a plebiscite. All the polls would suggest there is a strong majority in favour of gay marriage.
“If [Opposition Leader Bill Shorten] had supported the plebiscite, it would have been voted on, approved and passed into law by now.”
Debate was reignited on Monday when News Corp reported senior Liberal Christopher Pyne had been recorded telling colleagues that marriage equality could be legislated in Australia “sooner than everyone thinks” and that MPs are “working on that outcome.”
But Pyne later tweeted: “I support marriage equality and if Labor had supported the plebiscite, it would now be a reality. The government has no plans to alter the policy.”
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said it would take five minutes for he and Turnbull to set up the free vote in the parliament.
“Together we can make marriage equality a reality. Let’s do it the next time parliament meets,” he said.
Just.equal spokesperson Rodney Croome praised Senator Smith for publicly calling for the August vote.
“I congratulate Senator Smith for saying what millions of Australians are thinking, the Government needs to ditch the plebiscite idea and pass marriage equality as soon as possible,” he said.