Tony Abbott Calls For Joint Party Room Meeting On Marriage Equality.

Following the five and a half hour joint party room meeting which was called at short notice yesterday in Canberra, the Coalition party room voted 66 to 33 against having a free vote on the issue of marriage equality. However a plebiscite or a constitutional referendum could be held in order to pose the question to the nation instead of the parliament.

Mr Abbott has said that the issue would be “put to the people”, in the next term of parliament. However, the constitution states that the current parliament can make laws in regards to marriage, which means a referendum is unessential and a non-binding plebiscite more likely. The meeting was called when Liberal MP Warren Entsch told the party he would move to introduce a cross-party bill, which would be sponsored by both the Labor Party and the Independents.  Prime Minister Tony Abbott then called a special joint-party room meeting for 3:15pm yesterday, in order to discuss the issue. The inclusion of National party MPs, who are considered a more conservative group, was seen as a strategy by Mr Abbott to gain support against a free vote.

The debate has caused tensions amongst Liberals with both Deputy and Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop, and Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull criticising the way the debate was conducted. Reports have emerged that Scott Morrison, Julie Bishop and Malcolm Turnbull pushed for a referendum on the issue after the next election. According to a leak from the meeting, Mr Abbott began his speech by explaining why he believed that change was not necessary, whilst also hinting at a non-binding nation plebiscite in the future.