Australian PM claims he can’t pass equal marriage because he’s ‘not a dictator’

Malcolm Turnbull

Australian PM Malcolm Turnbull has insisted he can’t just hold a Parliamentary vote on equal marriage because he’s not a “dictator”.

The country’s current right-wing Coalition government is deeply divided on marriage equality, despite overwhelming public support.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull plans to hold a plebiscite (public vote) on the issue after the upcoming federal election – a compromise designed to avoid a rift with some of his own ultra-conservative MPs.

The opposition Labor Party says  the move is expensive and pointless – as the government could simply allow a free vote in Parliament given the majority of MPs back equality, which would resolve the issue without the cost.

But when challenged this week, Turnbull claimed that he couldn’t resolve the issue through a free vote in Parliament because he’s not a “dictator”.

During a Q&A, a woman asked: “The $160 million plebiscite money is better spent treating depression, alcoholism, drugs and suicide prevention.

“Why are you not amending the law within the Marriage Act? It is a parliamentary process. We elect representatives into parliament. Just show me some leadership by doing your job.”

Turnbull replied: “You make a powerful point very eloquently. From a legal and constitutional point of view, you’re right. Parliament could amend the Marriage Act without the support, without the consultation, of a plebiscite.”

But he insisted: “I am the prime minister but I’m not the dictator. Some people like the idea of prime ministers that ignore their colleagues. I don’t agree with that.

“I’m a strong believer in traditional cabinet government. And that means compromise.

“That means listening to your colleagues. That means being the first among equals and respecting the views of those in your cabinet and in your party room that you may not agree with.”