Australian PM will ‘never’ allow equal marriage, opponent claims

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Australia’s opposition leader Bill Shorten has reacted angrily, after government MPs were banned from voting for same-sex marriage.

A number same-sex marriage bills are heading to the Australian Parliament this month, and Mr Shorten’s Labor MPs have been granted a conscience vote.

However, Liberal Prime Minister Tony Abbott – a strong opponent of same-sex marriage – did not step in to afford his own MPs a conscience vote.

It was confirmed yesterday that his ruling coalition voted by 66 to 33 in favour of banning MPs from voting for equality – ordering them to follow party line and oppose same-sex marriage. The decision means the measure is now nearly impossible to pass, unless large numbers of MPs openly defy their own party.

Mr Shorten reacted: “Millions of Australians will have woken up this morning bitterly disappointed with Tony Abbott.”

“The choice in this country is clear – you either have Tony Abbott or you have marriage equality, you can’t have both.”

Meanwhile, Abbott insisted he would take the issue to a public vote after the next election – a clearly redundant measure, given polling puts support for same-sex marriage upwards of 70 percent.

He claimed: The only way to successfully and satisfactorily settle this matter, given that it is so personal and given that so many people have strong feelings on either side of this – the only way to settle it with the least rancor, if you like, is to ask the people to make a choice.

“That means that going into the next election, you’ll have the Labor Party which wants it to go to a Parliamentary vote and you’ve got the coalition that wants it to go to a people’s vote.”

A public vote on the issue is likely to delay the first weddings for several years – potentially leaving loving couples banned from marrying until as late as 2020.

By contrast, if Abbott had forced a free vote, the first weddings could have begun by the end of the year.