Brisbane Liberal MP Trevor Evans (pictured) is at the forefront of a new push to get a free vote in parliament for same-sex marriage legislation.
It is unlikely to happen – but at the same time a potential second bid to get the same-sex marriage plebiscite bill through parliament appears doomed.
Five Liberal MPs have reignited the push to pass the reforms, which have been in limbo since Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s “people’s vote” was rejected by parliament last year.
That vote in the Senate was lost 33-29, as Labor sided with the Greens, the Nick Xenophon Team and crossbencher Derryn Hinch to defeat it.
Liberal backbenchers who expressed their willingness to cross the floor on the divisive issue include Evans, Tim Wilson, Warren Entsch, Trent Zimmerman and Jason Wood.
A private member’s bill drafted by Western Australian Senator Dean Smith is expected to have bipartisan support from Labor and the Greens.
Yesterday, Mr Turnbull said that Liberal backbenchers “had the right to cross the floor”.
“It’s always been a fundamental principle in the Liberal Party, and indeed the National Party. So it’s a very different political culture to the very authoritarian and centrally controlled culture of the Labor Party,” he said.
Liberal MP Craig Kelly, Queensland Nationals Senator Barry O’Sullivan, Tasmanian senator Eric Abetz and Victorian MP Kevin Andrews have condemned the “rogue” backbenchers’ actions, saying it undermines Mr Turnbull’s election promise to hold a plebiscite on marriage equality.
With the plebiscite blocked in the Upper House, some in the Coalition argue there should be a postal vote, which would not need legislation.
But Mr Turnbull and his predecessor Tony Abbott have both argued the government cannot put the matter to a parliamentary vote in which the Liberals would be given a free vote this term because it would break an election promise.
The coalition joint party room will next meet on August 8, when parliament returns from the winter break.