Dumped cabinet minister Eric Abetz, who opposes changing the Marriage Act, believes it would be up to each member of parliament to decide whether a plebiscite reflected the view of the people.
“I would need to determine whether (the plebiscite) really is an accurate reflection, whether it is all above board or whether the question is stacked, whether all sides received public funding,” he told The Guardian Australia.
His view is at odds with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who told parliament in October the government would abide by the people’s verdict.
“When the Australian people make their decision, that decision will stick,” he said.
“It will be decisive. It will be respected by this government and by this parliament and this nation.”
Turnbull agreed to honour a promise by his predecessor Tony Abbott to hold a plebiscite following the next election, due later this year.
The former prime minister had made the pledge after a marathon party-room meeting last August.
Government frontbencher Steve Ciobo said Abetz was entitled to his view but insisted it would be “passing strange” for any politician to ignore the wishes of the Australian people.
“Any politician, any member of parliament, would really have to think twice before they snub their nose at the view of a majority of Australians,” he told Sky News.
Liberal MP Warren Entsch, an advocate for same-sex marriage, described Abetz’s comments as “bizarre” and “extraordinary”.
“It will be a very brave individual – either in the House of Representatives or the Senate – who seeks to challenge the views of the Australian people,” he told Fairfax Media.
Shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus said Abetz has made a joke of the government’s promise to let voters decide.
“Eric Abetz has let the cat out of the bag, admitting the Liberals are not planning to take any notice of the expressed will of the Australian people,” he said in a statement.
“This absurd notion makes a complete joke of our democratic process and renders a $160 million national plebiscite totally pointless.”
Labor has promised to introduce legislation for marriage equality within its first 100 days of winning government.
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