Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has agreed to demands from his religious right to ensure the promised plebiscite maintains the ban on equal marriage. And the Nationals are adding to the pressure , threatening to leave the coalition if the ban is not maintained.
The idea came from Andrew Hastie (the man who won’t take his uniform off), the Liberal member for the West Australian seat of Canning. He said he would not be bound by the plebiscite as a whole, but only by the way his electorate voted. Hastie is a devout evangelical Christian, as well as a former soldier.
When it comes to politics, I will be guided by the people of Canning. For example, on the issue of gay marriage, I personally don’t support it, but I do support Australian men and women deciding it rather than politicians. This means that if the plebiscite comes back and the people of Canning have supported it, I will vote accordingly.
Erica Betz and the rest of the religious right have been insisting that every Coalition MP must be free to decide how to cast their parliamentary vote on same-sex marriage, regardless of the plebiscite outcome. But now they have found a way to rig the plebiscite so as to secure the outcome they want, by adopting the Hastie model.
A well-placed source has told the stirrer that the Abbott rump, including Hastie and Abetz, have secured a pledge from Malcolm Turnbull that the plebiscite on equal marriage will be decided electorate by electorate, and not on the global total of votes.
This means that, even if the total of Yes votes exceeds the total of No votes, unless the Yes vote also prevails in a majority of electorates, marriage equality will be defeated.
To counter claims that the plebiscite, being non-binding on MPs would be a waste of time, MPs would be bound to vote as their electorate voted, and not according to their consciences. This would break with all historical precedent and tradition, with any such legislation could be open to legal challenge, which it would be unlikely to survive.
However, it would be a brave MP who voted Yes in Parliament, if a majority of his electorate had voted No, or vice versa.
This is the reason that we have not yet seen the enabling legislation for the plebiscite, which was allegedly ready to put before Cabinet before the election was called.
Other LNP sources deny any such deal, although they do admit that the lunar right are making all sorts of impossible demands in an attempt to cruel the vote, including a threat by the Nationals to leave the Coalition unless the marriage ban is maintained.
I asked a source very close to senior liberal strategists if they were aware of any such deal. They were not, but could not discount the story, telling the stirrer:
That wouldn’t surprise me – the religious right has Turnbull over a barrel – even the Nationals have made the ban on gay marriage a condition of continued coalition government.
It appears that Australian Marriage Equality may have made a major miscalculation in running virtually dead during the election, expecting a narrow Turnbull win. The aim was to conserve their resources to fight the plebiscite. A plebiscite which, it now appears, may be rigged to ensure we cannot win.
All of which may, in the end be moot. The LNPs private polling is predicting a minority Shorten government. And the Senate may refuse to pass the plebiscite bill.
See also What Is A Plebiscite ?