2018
11/21

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Entsch warns colleagues: ‘Butt out’ on gay marriage

Liberal MP Warren Entsch says Coalition colleagues have forfeited a right to campaign on marriage equality. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen Liberal MP Warren Entsch says Coalition colleagues have forfeited a right to campaign on marriage equality. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
Nanjing Night Net

Prime Minister Tony Abbott held a press conference late on Tuesday night to indicate the Coalition would support a plebiscite in the next term of parliament. Photo: Andrew Meares

Liberal MP Warren Entsch says Coalition colleagues have forfeited a right to campaign on marriage equality. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

Liberal MP Warren Entsch says Coalition colleagues have forfeited a right to campaign on marriage equality. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

Liberal MP Warren Entsch has warned his Coalition colleagues to “butt out” of the debate about marriage equality after the party rejected the opportunity for a conscience vote on the issue and the Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, supported a plebiscite.

The member for the north Queensland seat of Leichhardt, a long-term advocate for gay rights within the conservative Coalition, said fellow party members should now refrain from campaigning either for or against same-sex marriage.

“We have deferred the decision to the people. Now I am going to say to all of my colleagues: butt out,” he said.

“They have basically forfeited that right by making the decision that has been made. They had the opportunity [to vote] and they said no.”

Mr Entsch said most politicians’ positions on marriage equality were already known, so there was no need for them to speak out publicly on either side. He said he would carefully monitor any Coalition colleagues who sought to influence the public’s decision.

“I will certainly be very critical of anybody that wants to now go out there and champion the cause. I think it’s totally inappropriate,” he said.

“If they wanted to champion the cause they could have done it and we could have had that debate in the parliament. You can’t have it two ways – simple as that.”

Mr Entsch’s co-sponsored marriage equality bill is due to come before the parliament next week but is destined to fail without a conscience vote on the Coalition side.

Although he was disappointed and frustrated with the outcome of Tuesday afternoon’s marathon party room meeting, he said it had facilitated a change in thinking among Coalition MPs, who now accepted that the party’s current policy was “no longer relevant” and would not carry over into the 45th parliament.

“That in itself is a significant shift,” he said.

There had been no final vote adopting a plebiscite, but Mr Entsch said the “very strong view” in the party room was that a public poll should proceed and that the outcome should be enacted in legislation. “It was made very, very clear,” he said.

Mr Entsch would prefer a plebiscite during this term of parliament or at the next election, but conceded that would be “probably difficult” logistically.

He would refrain from public advocacy himself and instead focus his energy internally to ensure the plebiscite’s question was fairly-worded and unambiguous.

“I’m more interested in the voice of the people now. That’s what we’ve asked to happen,” he said.

“[I’m] not interested in the opinions of elected members or senators. They’ve had their opportunity to express a point of a view. The majority decided that we’d defer it to the people. Let’s not try and influence the vote – give them credit and allow them to make their own decisions on this.”

Government MPs Teresa Gambaro, Wyatt Roy, and Dean Smith have vowed to cross the floor to support the marriage equality bill if it comes before parliament. But the joint party room’s decision on Tuesday to deny a conscience vote on the issue means it will fail to win enough votes to pass.

The outcome has also initiated a war of words among frontbenchers, with Attorney-General George Brandis rubbishing the idea of a “referendum” on the matter as unnecessary.

“The way you test public opinion on vexed social issues or important social issues is by plebiscite,” he said.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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