In May this year, Tony Abbott declared that the question of same-sex marriage should be “owned by the Parliament”. A fortnight ago he privately told supporters that he was prepared to use ‘tricky processes’ to ensure that a free parliamentary vote on gay marriage did not happen.
When it became imminent on Tuesday that Warren Entsch would introduce his cross-party bill on same-sex marriage Abbott swung into action. He called a snap Coalition party room meeting and it was agreed that the party’s present stance on marriage would be maintained until the end of the current parliamentary term. He proffered the ‘disposition’ of a plebiscite should he be returned for another term.
Although it is estimated that this approach will cost at least $120 million, it would give him an important advantage. The momentum toward marriage equality would be stalled and there would be time to strategically frame the question that would be put to voters.