AUSTRALIA: Prime Minister Tony Abbott Threatens To Fire Party Leaders Who Vote For Same-Sex Marriage

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott today threatened to fire party leaders who “break ranks” and vote for same-sex marriage.

Nine News reports: The Prime Minister was responding to a potential vote on the legalisation of same-sex marriage, if MP Warren Entsch were to successfully introduce a cross-party bill to parliament this morning. “It is … the standard position of our party that if a frontbencher cannot support the party’s policy, that person has to leave the frontbench,” Mr Abbott told ABC radio this morning. Last night the Coalition has ruled out whether to have a conscience vote regarding the legalisation of same-sex marriage. Following a meeting lasting almost six hours, the Coalition party room, made up of Liberal and National MPs, voted 66 to 33 against having a free vote on marriage equality. “Obviously our backbenchers are entitled to vote in the end, whichever way they want,” said Mr Abbott. “I would be disappointed if they went against the party position but nevertheless we have always accepted that in the end all votes in our party room for backbenchers at least are conscience votes.” Mr Abbott said he accepts people may be disappointed over the Coalition’s decision to reject a free vote on same-sex marriage but says the government has to keep faith with the public.

Abbott has promised a public referendum on marriage should his coalition be reelected. The Associated Press reports:

Abbott extended an olive branch to marriage equality advocates, offering to allow the public to vote on gay marriage in a plebiscite if his government retains power at the next election. Currently the governing coalition trails the opposition Labor Party in opinion polls. “The only way to successfully and satisfactorily settle this matter, given that it is so personal and given that so many people have strong feelings on either side of this — the only way to settle it with the least rancor, if you like, is to ask the people to make a choice,” Abbott told reporters. “That means that going into the next election, you’ll have the Labor Party which wants it to go to a Parliamentary vote and you’ve got the coalition that wants it to go to a people’s vote,” he said. Abbott has changed his position since May when he ruled out an Australian popular vote after an Irish referendum in which 62 percent of voters called for their constitution to be changed to allow same-sex marriage.