Turnbull says a Coalition election win should force Labor to support a marriage equality plebiscite

CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA – MAY 08: Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull arrives at Parliament House after visiting the Governor General at Government House on May 8, 2016 in Canberra, Australia. Malcolm Turnbull visited the Governor General today to ask for a double dissolution election on 2 July. All 150 House of Representatives seats and 76 Senate seats will be up for election. (Photo by Stefan Postles/Getty Images)

Malcolm Turnbull is claiming a Coalition victory in Saturday’s federal election would be a mandate for a national plebiscite on marriage equality.

The Labor party is opposed to a plebiscite, with opposition leader Bill Shorten arguing it would be a “taxpayer-funded platform for homophobia”. Depending on the make-up of the new parliament, Labor could potentially stymie a bill to hold and fund a national vote on marriage by blocking it in the Senate.

Marriage equality has suddenly come into focus in the final week of the campaign, and Labor’s pledge is to pass legislation on marriage equality in its first 100 days in office should it win government. The Coalition proposes a national vote which, if passed, would be a precursor to legislative change.

In comments to The Australian, Turnbull said:

“I know there are hypothetical questions but I am very confident a plebiscite bill will be passed by the parliament,” he said.

“I think it would be very rash of any political party to deny the Australian people a say on this issue when it is clear a majority do want a say, and particularly when a government is returned on the very clear mandate to do it.”

Coalition MPs would be allowed a free vote on the matter in parliament and Turnbull believes that legislation to change the Marriage Act would “sail through” in a vote on the floor. There has been some questioning of this over recent days after senior ministers including treasurer Scott Morrison refused to commit clearly to voting in favour of a change to the Marriage Act in parliament if the public approves it through a national vote.

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