AUSTRALIA: PM Tony Abbott Calls Meeting To Discuss Free Vote On Same-Sex Marriage Bill UPDATE: Free Vote Rejected

The Sydney Morning Herald reports:

Coalition MPs are holed up at Parliament House in a marathon meeting to debate same-sex marriage. Prime Minister Tony Abbott called a special joint Liberal-National parties meeting on Tuesday afternoon so government MPs could discuss whether they should have a free vote on the reform. However the decision to include National MPs – who are more conservative as a group – in the discussion, has concerned some supporters of same-sex marriage who believe it will sway the Coalition against a free vote. So far, MPs report that about 75 per cent of the speakers have been against a free vote and same-sex marriage. A senior Liberal source predicted there would be backlash against the Prime Minister’s leadership because of the joint party room move.

More from the Australian:

Tony Abbott is defending his handling of the same-sex marriage debate against criticism from his own colleagues about his leadership, as a fight on social policy turns into a test of his leadership. The Prime Minister has angered his Liberal backbenchers by forcing them to debate gay marriage in a sudden meeting with the Nationals on the matter designed to defeat the advocates for change. As of 5pm, there had been 30 speakers in the party room debate, with many more expected to speak into the night. Backbenchers have been invited to speak first and ministers last. Twenty-six MPs had spoken in favour of maintaining the Liberal Party’s existing policy, while four speakers – Warren Entsch, Teresa Gambaro, Sarah Henderson and Fiona Scott – had spoken in favour of adopting a neutral position, The Australian has been told. The conservative voices argued against changing the party’s policy midway through the parliamentary term, saying their constituents feel betrayed by the arrogant suggestion that the Coalition could change its approach. It is unclear whether the meeting will conclude with a vote or if the Prime Minister will summarise the mood of the room, as usually occurs.

UPDATE: From the Guardian:

The push for same-sex marriage to be legalised in Australia has suffered a setback after the governing Coalition decided against allowing its members a free vote in parliament. Tony Abbott, who firmly opposes same-sex marriage, called a combined meeting of the Liberals and Nationals in Canberra on Tuesday afternoon to discuss the Coalition’s stance ahead of the introduction of a cross-party bill. The prime minister’s decision to include the Nationals – who are more deeply opposed to same-sex marriage – angered numerous Liberals, including the leader of the house, Christopher Pyne, who reportedly likened it to “branch stacking”. Coalition members thrashed out the issue for more than five hours, with a half-hour interruption for a new senator’s first speech.

Not surprising, but still disappointing.

  • OrliJoe in Fla

    Major cop out – stacking the deck is play right out of the GOP playbook.

  • Gene

    I suspect he will pay for it in some manner…although the Australian electorate, especially in his coalition, is rather conservative. this was a tricky way to give the appearance (and in truth, an actual) debate, but in such a manner that the open vote (unline here in the US, members of parties are sometimes told to “vote the party line” and actually HAVE to) will not occur with this parliament. If, as mentioned at the end of the article, he does just “summarize” the mood of the room, he can say “we discussed it, and decided it was not the time to do it” this will please the rural vote of the nationals, and much of his own parties rank and file. lots of fundys and uber catholics down there.
    Long and vote on Marriage Quality anytime soon.
    Australia…the laggard. For now. not permenantly…just for now.

  • JT
  • Gigi

    This isn’t leadership. I wonder if he’s got Stephen Harper, our Canadian PM, on speed dial.

    • gaymex

      Leadership…remember when that word meant something?

    • Michael Rush

      or does Stephen Harper have a telegraph or know morse code ?

    • bambinoitaliano

      Thank the unicorn that Stephen Harper was not at the helm when the same sex marriage law proposal was brought to the parliament. This Ted Cruz lite need to be exile to US! Oops sorry my American friends. You guys have higher tolerance of douche bag than we can. Please take him 🙂

      • Gigi

        Maybe not but he was PM when conservatives tried to revisit the idea of same-sex marriage our Douche-in-Chief said no.

        • bambinoitaliano

          I remember that . He was sticking his finger in the air to see which way the wind will blow. And the country was not in the mood for it. Now he is trying to play the terrorism angle to whip the nation into fear American style. Hopefully the voters can smell his out of date bs fear mongering tactic and kick him out for good.

          • Gigi

            Canadians are just as easy to scare as Americans when it comes to the threat of terrorist attacks. Although Harper & Co. have been caught more than once trying to frighten the life out of the average Canadian. A few weeks after an alleged terrorist attack was uncovered and thwarted the Conservatives put this on their home page: “If just a handful of Mujahedeen fighters could bring Kenya to a complete standstill for nearly a week, then imagine . . . if such an attack was to occur in . . . the West Edmonton Mall in Canada.’’ Be afraid. Be very afraid. Only we – The Harper Government – can keep you safe.

      • Herald

        Only if you take back Cruz

  • Shane Gowland

    He stacked the deck with a joint-party vote. Of course.

    Abbott’s an asshole, but he’s a very competent politician.

    • lezhow

      Wouldnt expect anything less from this…. – fill in the blanks!

  • StraightGrandmother

    Australia Marriage Equality Tweets out that there will be no Free Vote (Conscience Vote) so everyone will have to vote the Party Line.
    Freedom & Liberty just died a little bit in Australia.
    I’m sure our Rainbow Alliance in Australia will come back again though.
    That Beotch former PM what was her name (?) Julian something, she is the one who held it up for so long also.

    • lezhow

      Not sure how much longer Tony Abbott will be around, hopefully not too much longer. The man belongs in the 1950s and is one dispicable SOB – i dont know how his sister stays civil to him.

      • Nexus1

        Considering the state of the Australian economy and their dollar as well as other screw ups, I think he will either be gone via his party losing enough seats or he will be ousted just as Gillard was when it looks inevitable that Labor will win a majority next year. I have no doubt that within the first 3 to 6 months of a new government Australia will have Marriage Equality. It’s a shame that they will have to wait at least a year to get it because Abbott will do everything within his power to keep it from happening, but it is inevitable, just as inevitable as it was in the U.S. He and the conservatives in Parliament are simply tilting at windmills.

        • Gene

          agreed. the economy will be the undoing of him. they overdid the dependency on Chinese demand for raw materials, and they will pay for it.

          • Nexus1

            The drop in the value of the Australian dollar the past 2 years has been shocking honestly. Sadly it will only get worse with the devaluation of the Yuan and China’s economy slowing down. I remember when the Australian dollar was worth a few cents more then the American and when we where basically below or at parity with them for well over a year. It’s been such a shattering fall over the last couple of years.

          • douglas

            Just like PM Harper did here in Canada. He ignored all other aspects of the economy and now we are in recession.

        • Jack M.

          Could you explain something to me? I read last week that Labour (ALP) held their party conference and voted to require a party-line vote in favor of marriage equality. However, there was a compromise of some sort and the party-line vote requirement would not come into effect until 2 elections had passed. So wouldn’t that mean that if there’s an election next year and the ALP wins and then there’s a vote on marriage, the ALP will still consider it a free vote? If the ALP continues to treat it as a free vote and the Liberals continue to require a party-line vote against, then we’ll still lose. It will be just like the vote held a few years ago, although the margin of defeat might be a little better. We would have to wait until the next election in 2019 and then hope that the ALP wins and only then would Australia get marriage equality, probably in 2020. If the Liberals came back in 2019, then we’d have to wait until 2022.

          Am I correct in reading it this way? Because if so, then Australia is truly a fucked up country, where huge majorities in poll after poll favor marriage equality but you can’t get either of the major parties to reflect the view of that super-majority.

          • Nexus1

            I’m not Australian, I just happen to be in love with one. lol Seriously though if Labour wins next year I’m pretty certain that Abbott will not be the leader of the Liberals. If Labour wins with Shortens promise to bring Marriage Equality to Australia than it will be in the Liberals best interest to allow a free vote and to get this issue off the table. The main stumbling block is the Liberals and their refusal to allow a free/conscience vote and Abbott is the main reason for that. Even if Labour keeps that policy there are still enough votes in Parliament now to pass Marriage Equality with a free vote from LNP. It really doesn’t matter if Labour has a free vote or not because they can’t pass it without the LNP either way because Labour won’t win enough seats to pass the measure by themselves without LNP votes.

            So in the end the the best strategy for Marriage Equality at the moment is to get as many Labour MP’s in parliament and to get the Libs out of the majority and Abbott will be out in the process. I can’t see them allowing him to remain leader of the party after the disaster of a PM that he has been. Heck they’ve already had a confidence vote on him this year. If they are trailing big time in the polls next year than he could experience the same fate as Gillard and be kicked out as the PM before the election even happens. There is also the chance that whoever would supplant and ousted Abbott would call for a free vote on Marriage as a last ditch effort to possibly salvage the Liberal party’s hold on the government. All sorts of things can happen between now and the middle/end of next year. The dynamics might change entirely in just a few months time. Considering all the maneuvering I’ve seen within Australian politics in just the last 3 years I feel pretty certain that the scenario you posted will not play out. We’ll just have to watch it unfold from the distance, sadly.

          • Jack M.

            Nexus, thanks for the response. Australia has some very fine looking men, so if you’ve got one, good on ya and don’t let him go! I suppose if it is a free vote on both sides, then we would win. Back when Gillard ran the ALP, I think we would have lost under a universal free vote, b/c a lot of ALP MPs felt obligated to vote with her so as not to embarrass her. (I hate her so much!) But now, we would get most of Labour and maybe 1/3 of the Liberals so perhaps that would be enough.

            One other twist: I read that Abbott endorsed the idea of a referendum if the Liberals win the next election. That is his way of saying “Even if you support marriage equality, you can vote us back in and still get what you want.” But Abbott wouldn’t say whether such a popular vote should be a plebiscite, which would only require a majority of all voters to win, or a referendum, which would require a majority in each state. It’s frustrating as hell that there should be so many obstacles when public opinion is on our side.

    • Harlan92

      Well, technically the Coalition can vote against the party line, so who knows what will happen? Chances are they won’t, since it will mean problems internally.

    • HoneyBoySmith

      You’re thinking of Julia Gillard.

    • Neil

      Julia Gillard. If you lived here and saw how mercilessly the Murdoch media (hugely dominant here) hammered her govt., a knife edge minority one at that, you might see how she was wedged on this issue. It was sad but predictable. The real blame for holding up SSM is with the former Howard Govt. which instituted new language into the Marriage Act in 2004 to specifically exclude same sec couples and even rule out the possibility of States to bring in their own reforms.

      Gillard’s fault was political timidity in not pushing the matter in her term. However, she not only had a hostile media to face but major disloyalty within her own party, leading to her replacement before her term was done. Ironically, it was exactly the same disloyalty she benefited from at the end of her predecessor’s term, the very same guy who came back to replace her. The political mess the party made ensured Tony Abbott’s success. They cut down their own leader twice over. Gillard made a poor job of dealing with SSM but in the circumstances it would take a rare political creature to have done better.

  • lezhow
  • Mark

    I don’t think these knuckleheads get it how ignorant they appear when they intentionally bastardize civil rights for their own agendas.

    • gaymex

      Sadly, they’re too ignorant to know they’re ignorant and they don’t give a fuck anyway.

  • gaymex

    Once again a bunch of straight, christian men voting on whether they can continue to ignore people who want only equality.. It’s disgusting that this is even a question anywhere in the world. I’ve given up on the social evolution of man. We are ruled by fratboys and apes.

    • TampaZeke

      How does the “once again, straight, white, men” meme explain how the previous Labor government, led by an atheist woman refused to pass marriage equality? How does it explain how Penny Wong, a gay, Asian, woman (who is now presenting herself as a marriage equality hero) toed the Labor Party line spoke out AGAINST marriage equality when her voice counted most?

      • Neil

        In Gillard’s case, a minority govt. getting constantly hammered by tabloids and shock jocks playing to marginal electoral interests. In Wong’s, she’s always been a public advocate for SSM but as a member of cabinet, had to toe the party line. Even when doing that, she’d still make public statements defending SSM. Wong chose the option to fight her case from within cabinet rather from without and she’s contributed significantly to the Labor Party’s turn around on the issue.

        • TampaZeke

          Excuses are like assholes. Everybody has one and no one wants to admit that theirs stinks! Those would be piss poor excuses, even if they were 100% true, and they’re not even completely accurate.

  • Harlan92

    And there will be no free vote… 66 to 33 in favour of keeping the status quo.

  • Desmond Rutherford

    I’m appalled but not surprised that the Abbott LNP government will not grant its members a conscientious vote on marriage equality. Too many of the electorate do not understand the urgency and significance of the connection with human rights and marriage equality.

  • Ninja0980

    Sad to say but there will be no free votes, everyone has to vote the party line.
    Fuck you Abbott, I hope your sister spits in your face.
    And also, fuck you Julia Gillard, we wouldn’t be dealing with this asshole if you hadn’t thrown same sex couples in Australia under the bus.

    • TampaZeke

      And fuck Penny Wong as she now tries to act like she’s always been an advocate of justice and equality when in fact she screwed us by speaking out against marriage equality when her voice mattered most.

      • Ninja0980

        Indeed, she chose power over everything else.

      • Neil

        She never spoke out against marriage equality. She chose the political course of remaining a member of the party cabinet, which means she has to support the party line in Parliament and not directly contradict it. Here she is speaking in 2012 when still a government minister (from the 1:25 mark). Please tell me how this is speaking out against marriage equality.

        • TampaZeke

          2010, in an interview on Channel 10, “On the issue of marriage, I think the reality is there is a cultural, religious and historical view around that which we have to
          respect. The party’s position is very clear and that is an
          institution between a man a woman,” she said. Adding: “I do respect the fact that’s how people view the institution.”

  • VodkaAndPolitics

    If I had a nickel for every time I was “holed up at Parliament House”

    • olandp

      Hopefully the accommodations are nicer “down under” than on the Orange Blossom Trail.

  • lezhow

    This is what we are dealing with; “He said the issue of marriage equality was a “deeply personal” experience, and not an “especially complex piece of policy”.”

    He being Tony Abbott!

  • JustSayin’

    Tony will be needing a new job soon

  • Stev84

    Abbott thinks he’s a Catholic priest like he always wanted to be.

  • Mark_in_MN

    Every vote should be a “free vote.”

    • Daffyd

      It can actually work in our favor sometimes. Parties like the NDP or the Bloq Quebecois expect their MP’s to vote along party lines… If you’re a member of that party, and were elected based on certain views, you need to vote like the party expects you to vote. Many times this can be a good thing.

      If I had voted NDP in Canada, and my MP had voted against Marriage Equality in a free vote, I would have been furious. If I remember correctly, there were some Liberals who wanted to vote against Marriage Equality, but were forced to support it like the rest of the MPs.

      On the other hand, Abbott is just continuing the tradition of Australian governments forcing hatred on everyone.

      • Reality.Bites

        No, it was a whipped vote only for cabinet, but Liberal backbenchers were free to vote as they chose. There were few if any surprises in how they voted, so the government knew the bill would pass comfortably.

        In reality, of course, a free vote is an illusion. While Harper held a free vote on marriage because he promised one during an election campaign, and years earlier Mulroney held one on capital punishment for the same reason, neither one of them had any intention of “winning” the vote and would have applied whatever pressure was needed to ensure they didn’t. Harper also hedged his bets by making the bill not on the definition of marriage, but merely on whether or not to discuss the definition of marriage again.

  • KnownDonorDad

    Never would have thought the U.S. would beat Australia to the punch on marriage equality. Thanks, Australia and Northern Ireland, for saving us from being dead last in the so-called Anglosphere. Now get yourselves sorted out.

    • Jeff

      Merkel’s Germany is really disappointing me. You would think their would be some sense of remorse for the pink-triangle gays and lesbians of the holocaust. We’re still just second class citizens in the de facto EU queen’s capital state. I loved having a female ranked as the 2nd most powerful person in the world, but her bigotry is just pissing me off.

  • Raising_Rlyeh

    I hope this hurts Abbott and his party come the next election. Australia did nothing to deserve Abbott and his party basically running things how they like. Another year and hopefully enough lose their seats so that Abbott is no longer PM.

  • James

    He’s a perfect example of someone who shouldn’t be in a position of power: he’s imposing his will on the majority of Australians who support marriage equality. He must really hate his sister. Prick.

  • billbear1961

    Why are you so afraid of a free vote? Because you know you are in the WRONG! The people overwhelmingly support M.E., and you shamefully oppose their will!

    Liberal MPs, DEFY ABBOTT!

    Vote for M.E.!!

    If your numbers are big enough, there’s little the contemptible, snivelling bully and COWARD can do or would DARE do to punish you for doing what’s right!

    Stand up for equality, and show Abbott what democracy MEANS!!

    Come on, Australia–the world is watching!!