Malcolm Turnbull is confident of cementing support for a plebiscite on same-sex marriage at a Liberal partyroom crisis meeting on Monday, The Australian reports.
The Prime Minister is trying to head off a civil war that could threaten his leadership by giving Liberals a forum to demonstrate majority support for the “people’s vote” amid predictions it will gain a “decisive” victory.
Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce will send a warning shot to the Liberals today to back Mr Turnbull, with the Nationals expected to use a partyroom meeting in regional Queensland to endorse the plebiscite.
Plans are firming for a secret ballot among federal Liberal MPs in Canberra at the specially arranged meeting on Monday, as revealed by The Australian yesterday, amid growing frustration that the backbench is turning into a “debating society” when it should make a final decision on the issue.
Liberal MPs including Warren Entsch, Trevor Evans, Tim Wilson and Trent Zimmerman have argued for a conscience vote but Mr Evans may not be able to attend the Monday meeting because of a family funeral.
One Liberal who supports traditional marriage said those pushing for a conscience vote were being “totally and utterly selfish” when the government needed to be talking to voters about its economic agenda.
A Liberal who is neutral on marriage reform expressed surprise at the sudden recall to Canberra because it maximised attention on the dispute rather than assuring voters it would be “business as usual” when parliament resumed on Tuesday.
With the full Coalition partyroom likely to confirm the “people’s vote” on Tuesday morning, the government would stare down any attempt by Labor, crossbenchers or rebel Liberals to move a suspension of standing orders to push through the reform, a tactical move that would need at least 76 votes.
Support for a postal vote on marriage reform appears to be growing although none of the advocates for change has explained whether it could withstand a legal challenge, given it would require legislation to authorise the expenditure.
Labor leader Bill Shorten said a postal vote should be ruled out.
“Why would we spend hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayer money, printing up voting forms, sending out the envelopes, you know, paying for the stamps as they come back in? This is a very expensive way to do nothing,” Mr Shorten said.
Liberals fast-track same-sex marriage showdown (The Australian)
Turnbull confident of plebiscite support (Sky News)