Cabinet minister Mathias Cormann dismissed reports Turnbull could be replaced by Immigration Minister Peter Dutton if he allowed moderate MPs to break the government’s election promise to hold a plebiscite on gay marriage.
The Daily Telegraph today reported unnamed right faction leaders warning the prime minister’s leadership would be “terminal” if MPs were given the green light to cross the floor.
Turnbull on Monday said Coalition backbenchers had the right to vote against the government.
Cormann, a key conservative, rejected the report, insisting Turnbull enjoyed the support of cabinet and the party room.
The government’s election promise to hold a plebiscite had not expired and it was now looking at ways to “keep faith” with voters.
The government was still considering how to progress its plebiscite after it was defeated in the Senate and had little hope of getting through the upper house in this parliamentary term.
“We’re getting way ahead of ourselves here – we took a policy to the last election to give the Australian people a say,” Cormann told ABC radio.
Fellow frontbencher and conservative Zed Seselja also denied Turnbull’s leadership was under threat, lashing calls for a parliamentary vote on gay marriage.
That was Labor’s election policy, not the Coalition’s.
“I haven’t heard why we should be, one year after the election which we won, adopting Labor’s policy,” he told ABC radio.
Six Liberal backbenchers are prepared to cross the floor to support same sex marriage.
If it happens, Turnbull’s leadership is over #auspol
— Alan Jones (@AlanJones) July 31, 2017
Daily Telegraph front page today pic.twitter.com/q7mCY7ugpF
— Sharri Markson (@SharriMarkson) July 31, 2017
A growing number of Liberal MPs including Trevor Evans and Tim Wilson are pressing for a conscience vote on a private bill proposed by Liberal backbencher Dean Smith.
Evans, who is gay, says it has been six months since the Government’s plebiscite bill was defeated and it is time to consider a private member’s bill.
“The issue now is in a stalemate and it’s distracting away from the government’s real achievements,” he told Brisbane 4BC radio on Monday.
Evans compared the situation to Labor’s blocking of business tax cuts, which the government eventually negotiated with the Senate crossbench.
“When a reform is blocked, you try to find a new path.”
Colleague Tim Wilson, who is also gay, argues Liberal MPs have discharged their responsibility to honour the party’s election promise for a plebiscite.
“I have a personal conflict which torments, frankly, and challenges me on a daily basis and I’d like to see this issue resolved,” he said.
Liberal senator Dean Smith says the issue is putting lead in the party’s saddle bags.
He has a private bill legalising same-sex marriage that he wants put on the Senate notice paper.
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