The Conscience Voters

Warren Entsch / Australian Marriage Equality

Warren Entsch / Australian Marriage Equality

Which members of the Coalition argued for a free vote on Entsch’s cross-party marriage equality bill?

On Monday Warren Entsch will introduce the cross party marriage equality bill, despite failing to secure a conscience vote of his colleagues. The government will probably prevent it from coming to a vote, but if they don’t, we already know that Wyatt Roy, Teresa Gambaro, and Warren himself will defy Tony Abbott and cross the floor.

And there may be more. Kelly O’Dwyer is in a particularly difficult position, caught between keeping her job as Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer, and defending her seat against gay footballer Jason Ball for the Greens, and gay half-brother to Bob, Carl Katter for Labor, at the election.

This may all be moot: a plethora of other options are being suggested. Malcolm Turnbull has floated the idea of a marriage equality bill to be passed now, containing a trigger clause requiring it to be approved by a post-election plebiscite before it became law. Scott Morrison wants a full-blown referendum. George Brandis has told him not to be silly. And according to AAP there’s now also a Greens plebiscite bill coming up:

Crossbench senators have rallied to support a bill that will require a plebiscite on same-sex marriage to be held at the next federal election.

The Greens private members bill, which has the support of senators Ricky Muir, Jacquie Lambie, Nick Xenophon, Glenn Lazarus and David Leyonhjelm, would require Australians to cast a vote on gay marriage at the same time they go to the polls for the election.

Greens Leader Richard Di Natale told reporters in Canberra that the bill will require the plebiscite question to come from parliament rather than the prime minister.

So far there is no word on whether this bill requires the incoming government to actually enact the result within a set timeframe (100 days, anyone?) – plebiscites are “normally” only advisory. Otherwise things could stall again, possibly for years. The plebiscite that chose “Advance Australia Fair” was in 1977, but “God Save The Queen” wasn’t retired till 1984.

So who were the Coalition party room rebels who might be expected to support one of these options?

I have now obtained the list of everyone who supported a conscience vote on Entsch’s cross-party bill. Bear in mind that not everyone supports equal marriage. But all wanted the party to remain true to its core principle, that every member has the right to vote in accordance with their conscience, and that right should not be curtailed.

It is the trashing of this principle that is causing LGBTI party members and their friends and supporters to cancel donation cheques and fundraising events, cut up their membership cards and post the pictures on social media. Furious male parliamentary staffers have taken to wearing brightly coloured socks in protest. But I digress.

It will interesting to see how many of these MPs put their money where their mouths are and actually cross the floor to support Entsch, or the Greens bill, and what creative excuses they find for not doing so.

(I think I will give Turnbull a pass for now, if only because the loony righties are hoping this will indeed force him to resign. Unless of course he takes all his pro-marriage colleagues across the floor and out of cabinet with him.)

The Conscience Voters are as follows: watch their actions closely.

  1. Birmingham
  2. Brandis
  3. Broadbent
  4. Brough
  5. Chester
  6. Ciobo
  7. Colbeck
  8. Dean Smith
  9. Entsch
  10. Fletcher
  11. Frydenburg
  12. Gambaro
  13. Griggs
  14. Henderson
  15. Hogan
  16. Hunt
  17. Jones
  18. Keenan
  19. Laming
  20. MacFarlane
  21. McDonald
  22. McGrath
  23. O’Dwyer
  24. Porter
  25. Prentice
  26. Pyne
  27. Ramsay
  28. Ryan
  29. Scott
  30. Sinodinos
  31. Turnbull
  32. Wood

About the author

Veteran gay writer and speaker, Doug was one of the founders of the UKs pioneering GLBTI newspaper Gay News (1972) , and of the second, Gay Week, and is a former Features Editor of Him International. He presented news and current affairs on JOY 94.9 FM Melbourne for more than ten years. "Doug is revered, feared and reviled in equal quantities, at times dividing people with his journalistic wrath. Yet there is no doubt this grandpa-esque bear keeps everyone abreast of anything and everything LGBT across the globe." (Daniel Witthaus, "Beyond Priscilla", Clouds of Magellan, Melbourne, 2014)