Senior Liberal moderate Christopher Pyne has upset the right-wing of the Liberal party by saying that marriage equality might be achieved “sooner than everyone thinks.”
The Defence Industry Minister was addressing a meeting of moderate Liberals on Friday night in Sydney when he made the remarks. Reportedly in attendance were Attorney General George Brandis, openly gay Liberal MP Trent Zimmerman and Tony Abbott’s lesbian sister, Liberal councillor Christine Forster (Abbott).
A recording of the speech was leaked to conservative News Corp columnist and Sky News host, Andrew Bolt, who reported the tape on Monday and played it in full on air on Monday night.
Pyne reportedly said of the moderate faction of the party, “Friends, we are in the winner’s circle but we have to deliver a couple of things and one of those we’ve got to deliver before too long is marriage equality in this country.”
Of the fight for marriage equality he said, “And see Christine Abbott here, she is working on it as well, she would have been here two years ago when we last said we were going to get it. We are going to get it, I think it might even be sooner than everyone thinks. And your people, your friends in Canberra are working for that outcome.”
Tony Abbott responded to reports of the speech by attacking Pyne on radio 2GB on Monday and warning the party not to change its policy. “On this question of same-sex marriage, which I gather was very much a part of (Mr Pyne’s) speech, we took a policy to the election, it was a very clear policy that there would be no change without a plebiscite.”
“To dump the plebiscite, to do anything without a plebiscite would be a breach of faith with the people.”
Right wing ex-Liberal Senator and leader of the new Australian Conservatives party, Corey Bernardi, told Andrew Bolt on Monday night that “I think we are right to be suspicious … I do know that the same people who betrayed Tony Abbott are the people that are running the show under the Turnbull government.”
“I think they are cooking up something to try and get same-sex marriage off the agenda but the price of that will be it will destroy the Liberal party."
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who supports marriage equality and a free vote in parliament but has stood by Abbott’s plebiscite policy, went into damage control. “I can understand the disappointment of those who are frustrated that the gay marriage issue has not been resolved but the reason it has not been resolved is because of Bill Shorten,” he said.
“Our policy is clear and we have no plans to change it.”
Christopher Pyne was forced to deny that the government had listened to the majority of Australians, the LGBTQ community and health professionals who warn against a harmful plebiscite and changed its policy on marriage equality.
Opposition leader Bill Shorten urged Malcolm Turnbull to hurry up and make marriage equality a reality when parliament returns in a few weeks.
“I don’t doubt Malcolm Turnbull supports marriage equality and I certainly do as well,” he said.
"We should just have a vote in parliament."