Senate calls for Tony Abbott to allow conscience vote on marriage equality
The Australian Senate has called on Tony Abbott to allow all Coalition members a conscience vote on marriage equality.
The motion proposed by the Greens’ LGBTI spokesperson Senator Sarah Hanson-Young passed today after initial dissent from Liberal Senator George Brandis, who suggested members of the Liberal party were already allowed a conscience vote as long as they were prepared to resign from the frontbench in order to do so.
“There is a sense in which for the Liberal and National parties every vote is a conscience vote in the sense that all members of the Liberal and National parties are always at liberty to vote at variance from their parties' agreed position,” Brandis said. “If they happen to be members of the front bench then they are expected to retire from the front bench if they wish to exercise that right, but that is a right they undoubtedly have.”
“Overwhelmingly Australians believe that their members of parliament should be able to vote freely on the issue of marriage equality. That has been heard loud and clear by many people in this place. I must say that I understand Senator Brandis has to follow Tony Abbott's line on this, but I was just trying to let him free.”
The motion was then passed ‘on the voices’ by the President of the Senate with the Liberals voting against.
Hanson-Young said the move proved the majority of the Senate believe it's time the Prime Minister allowed his members a conscience vote,
“The Senate has told Tony Abbott it’s time he stopped gagging his members and gave them a free vote on marriage equality,” Hanson-Young said.
“Most Australians understand that there is no room for discrimination in Australia and they’re just waiting for Tony Abbott to catch up.
“The Greens are ready to work with anyone from any political party to get marriage equality over the line. In passing this motion, the Senate’s message to the Prime Minister is clear; get on with it and stop delaying this essential reform.”
Australian Marriage Equality national director, Rodney Croome, said the PM had been sent a direct message that a free vote was needed on the issue of marriage equality.
"Before the election he promised the Liberal/National party room would be able to debate a marriage equality free vote and it's high time he fulfilled that promise,” said Croome.
"It borders on the absurd that we have the Liberal and National parties - parties that say they are champions of individual freedom - not allowing a free vote and not even supporting a motion calling for one."
Croome pointed out that if Ireland endorses marriage equality in a referendum in May, Australia will be the only developed, English-speaking country without the reform.