Abbott, Coalition say ‘no’ to marriage conscience as Rudd’s sister dumps Labor
Federal Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has got his way on same-sex marriage, after shadow Cabinet yesterday decided to back Abbott’s opposition to a conscience vote on the issue, leaving marriage equality advocates disappointed but nevertheless quietly confident that the decision will be revisited in the near future.
The Coalition’s position on the issue comes as Loree Rudd, the sister of Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd, revealed today that she had handed in her Labor membership following the ALP’s recent decision to make marriage equality part of its policy platform.
Abbott’s position has angered some senior Coalition MPs who claim their leader ruled out a conscience vote during a national television interview on Sunday only days after suggesting otherwise to them in private messages, the Sydney Morning Herald reports.
High-profile Liberal MPs Malcolm Turnbull, George Brandis, Christopher Pyne were all said to be in shock after Abbott had earlier signalled to them that while the Coalition would not change its official policy on marriage equality that he would allow a free vote on the issue when a private member’s bill is introduced into Federal Parliament next year.
During yesterday’s Cabinet meeting, Joe Hockey, Bruce Billson, Greg Hunt and Nigel Scullion also gave their support for a conscience vote to be held.
Abbott said that his continued opposition to a conscience vote rests with promises that every Coalition MP made before the last election to keep marriage between a man and a woman, The Age reports.
“The point is that the ultimate obligation of politicians is to maintain their commitments to the electorate. The greatest question of political integrity is to honour your promises to the electorate,” Abbott said.
“Now, all of us promised before the election that this was a question of Coalition policy and it would be a pretty weak, I think pretty conscienceless opposition if we were to say one thing before the election and say a different thing after the election. I’ll leave that kind of trickiness to the government.”
Despite making recent overtures of support for marriage equality, Turnbull, one of the Liberal Party’s leading moderates, told The Age that he would now abide by the decision.
“As a member of the shadow cabinet you can assume that I will vote in accordance with the collective decision of the shadow cabinet,” he said.
Australian Marriage Equality convener Alex Greenwich said that the Coalition’s opposition to a conscience vote would most likely be revisited, particularly given the climate of support marriage equality enjoys in the wider community.
“It was only a few backs when the Labor Party had the same position as Mr Abbott, and we have seen the impact the unstoppable momentum towards reform has had there,” Greenwich said.
“Granting a conscience vote allows Mr Abbott to maintain his opposition to reform, while preventing the tensions and protracted debate that plagued Labor for years to get to that point.”
Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young called upon Abbott to show that he is not out of touch with ordinary Australians and said that his decision to veto a conscience vote was “swimming against the tide of public opinion”.
“The latest Nielsen poll out today has support for a conscience vote backed 81 per cent of respondents. Last week, Australian Marriage Equality released a Galaxy poll survey showing ... 76 per cent of Coalition supporters want their representatives to have a free vote,” Hanson-Young said.
“Mr Abbott should not impede that, otherwise many Liberals will cross the floor, as they have done in the past.”
Meanwhile, Loree Rudd, the sister of former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, today revealed that she had come good on her threat earlier this year to tear up her Labor membership should the ALP make same-sex marriage a part of its official policy.
Rudd told Brisbane Times that while her brother “did not necessarily approve” of her decision, she could no longer belong to a party that “supports homosexuals” marrying.
“I don't believe gay marriage is good for the community. Homosexuals should be loved and treated right and they should not be discriminated against.
“It is a horrible thing for them to be discriminated against and that's why my brother introduced laws so they are not discriminated against,” Rudd said.
“But to make that huge leap from their rights to breaking a commandment of Moses, to say homosexuals’ relationships is marriage, is utter nonsense.”
Rudd made headlines in July when she suggested that the "global gay Gestapo" were behind the campaign for marriage equality.