Australian PM Tony Abbott plotting to delay same-sex marriage with public vote?

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott is reportedly plotting to kick the issue of same-sex marriage into the long grass – by planning for a public ballot taking place after the next election.

Two bills are set to come before the Australian Parliament next month on the issue, and after the opposition Labor party cemented plans to allow its MPs a free vote, Mr Abbott’s Coalition is facing a strain to do the same.

However, according to some reports the PM Tony Abbott – who is a strong opponent of same-sex marriage – is mulling the idea of a plebiscite (referendum) on the issue instead.

Activists say that a public vote – which likely wouldn’t take place until after the next election in 2017 – would lead to an unacceptable delay on the issue, when it has overwhelming clear public support and could be resolved by Parliament in 2015.

Australian Marriage Equality national director Rodney Croome said: “A plebiscite would delay marriage equality until at least 2017, and possibly much longer given the result would not be binding, when we know it can be achieved this year through parliament.

“Australians are tired of debating marriage equality, and of other countries moving ahead of us, and want it enacted as soon as possible.”

“A plebiscite would be seen as the Prime Minister spending millions to deny parliament the right to vote because he knows marriage equality could pass if there is a Coalition free vote.”

A plebiscite has not been held in the country since 1977, when people went to the polls over the national anthem.

Mr Croome continued: “A plebiscite outcome would not be binding so even when Australia voted for marriage equality the issue would still return to parliament and face the same set of opponents it does now.”

“We are also concerned about the poor rules governing plebiscites including the fact the government can set the question without parliament’s approval, as well as how potentially divisive and polarising a plebiscite campaign could be.”

MPs from opposing parties have already faced off over the issue in Parliament this week.