Can the PM find a way out of his plebiscite quagmire?


News Corp publications are reporting that Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is considering a Plan B in light of the growing likelihood his plebiscite plan won’t get up.

The Prime Minister’s Office is still declaring that the plebiscite plan is the government ‘s official policy,but the newspaper has reported that their sources have said that the Prime Minister is trying to work out if the party room would accept allowing a free vote in parliament after the next election.

It’s understood that keeping the plebiscite proposal put forward by former Prime Minister Tony Abbott was a key agreement Turnbull may have made to gain support from colleagues when he took over the Liberal party leadership in 2015. The coalition agreement between The Nationals and The Liberals may also hinge on maintaining the commitment to the plebiscite.

The stalemate between the government and the Labor party has kept the issue of marriage equality in the news for the weeks on end and has overshadowed the government’s attempts to discuss other issues.

The Prime Minister has been roundly criticised from both those who advocate for marriage equality and those who want to see marriage remain strictly between opposite genders.

Coalition backbencher Warren Entsch, who vocally supports marriage equality, told The Australian yesterday that despite polls showing most Australians now want the issue to be settled by politicians – getting support from the Labor party is still the best way forward.

“The fact is that if Malcolm Turnbull scrapped the plebiscite, it would be labelled a captain’s pick,” Mr Entsch said.

“Were he to take it to the partyroom, most would argue that it was an election commitment. Even if the partyroom agreed to a parliamentary vote, a broad section of the public might approve, but do you think for one moment that the media, the Christian lobby, Labor or the Greens would applaud?

“It would be slammed as a ­broken promise, a capitulation to opposition demands.”

News columnist Andrew Bolt, an opponent of marriage equality, suggested on his SKY News program The Bolt Report, that Turnbull may not have been giving the plebiscite his full support.

“If Turnbull is selling their not buying,” Andrew Bolt told his viewers last night. Bolt said the reason support for the plebiscite has plummeted in recent weeks was not because of the arguments put forward by the Labor party, but because the Prime Minister had not sold the benefits of the plebiscite to the people.

“It’s more because Turnbull is doing a lousy job arguing for his plebiscite, its almost like he doesn’t want it either, like he’d rather make a deal with Labor himself to allow same sex marriage.” Bolt said.

The outspoken columnist said the Prime Minister should give Labor and ultimatum, the plebiscite or nothing. Andrew Bolt said the PM was leaving himself “wiggle room” to make a deal.

The issue appears to have developed in to being a lose-lose option for the Prime Minister. On one side there are left wing critics saying the PM should so some leadership and tell his backbench MPs to get behind a free vote, while his right wing critics say Turnbull should so some leadership and tell Labor to get behind the plebiscite.

Graeme Watson





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