Following weeks of contention, the Liberal Party has finally made an official decision on same sex marriage, announcing today that it would uphold the plebiscite policy which it maintained as its official stance in the lead up to the 2016 Federal Election. The announcement comes following an emergency party room meeting held today, in which Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull purportedly negotiated with Liberal Party MP’s about potentially back flipping on their pre-election policy, and legislating to change the marriage act in order to include same sex couples.
Today’s announcement will put to rest rumours that the party was planning on changing its position on same sex marriage, with the Liberal Party instead deciding to return to the senate with their plebiscite legislation, which was already rejected by senators in November of last year. Finance Minister Mathias Cormann announced the outcome of the meeting in a press conference just after 6PM in Canberra, outlining how the Liberal Party would instead commission a “non-legislative voluntary postal plebiscite”, if the senate rejects the legislation a second time. A postal plebiscite would not require the prior approval of the senate, and would allow the Liberal Party to effectively bypass the upper house, whilst also evading the compulsory voting provisions which would be attached to a plebiscite which the senate approved.
Unrest continues to grow in the Liberal Party, both amongst members of parliament as well as within the party’s rank and file, as Malcolm Turnbull’s increasingly divisive leadership has effectively alienated the conservative base which the party once relied on for support. Only time will tell if Turnbull’s dysfunctional government is able to survive in the longer term, with conservative voters likely to abandon the party in droves before the next federal election.