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Election rivals of Australian Liberals and Nationals to allow free vote on gay marriage

The leaders of two new Australian political parties that may be placed to steal seats from the Liberal and National parties say they will allow their MPs a conscience vote on gay marriage – unlike Opposition leader Tony Abbott
Katter's Australia Party leader Bob Katter

The leaders of the Katter’s Australia Party and Palmer United Party told the National Press Club today that they would allow any MPs or senators they had elected to vote with their conscience on the issue of same-marriage.

Two of Katter’s Australia Party leader Bob Katter’s candidates have gone public over their support for same-sex marriage while others had quit the party after Katter refused to disendorse them.

Today Katter praised his Queensland and ACT senate candidates James Blundell and Steven Bailey as being ‘courageous’ for announcing their position and said they had the right to argue their case on the issue – though Katter himself is an opponent who has said the issue is 'irrevelant.'

‘We don't want to be fooling around with irrelevancies,’ Katter said at the National Press Club in Canberra.

‘If you join our party this is what we've got to do,' Katter said, refering to his party's policy manifesto.

Palmer United leader Clive Palmer, who is bankrolling his party’s campaign with his personal fortune, said his MPs would be free to vote with their consciences on any social issue.

‘We don't believe you should compel people to vote against their deeply-held religious or other feelings one way or the other,’ Palmer said, adding that if elected he would not reveal how he intended to vote on any conscience issue ahead of time to avoid intimidating his party colleagues into thinking they had to vote a particular way.

Australian advocates for same-sex marriage welcomed Katter and Palmer’s comments, saying it increases pressure on the Coalition to do the same.

The Katter’s Australia Party is likely to suck votes away from the Nationals while the Palmer United Party is likely to take votes away from the Liberals.

‘Katter and Palmer Party conscience votes show the extent of support for marriage equality across the political spectrum,’ Australian Marriage Equality national director Rodney Croome said.

‘I’m confident that if a marriage equality supporter is elected from one of those parties that they will be free to vote for the reform in a way that Liberal and National MPs and senators currently can’t.’

However Croome said people should check where individual candidates stood on the issue before deciding who to vote for.

‘Not everyone in the Palmer or Katter’s Australia parties support marriage equality,’ Croome said.

‘If people want to vote for Palmer or Katter candidates I’d urge them to vote for candidates that support marriage equality and on our Vote 4 Love website you can see which candidates have indicated their support.’

Croome said he was hopeful that if the Katter’s Australia Party’s James Blundell was to find himself in the balance of power in the Senate that he would vote for the reform.

Croome said the Coalition under Opposition leader Tony Abbott should rethink its stance against a conscience vote.

‘With parties to the right of the Coalition supporting a marriage equality conscience vote, the Coalition has no excuses for continuing its blanket opposition to reform,’ Croome said.

‘By allowing a conscience vote, the Coalition will not lose votes to Katter or Palmer, and will pick up votes in inner-city seats where Liberals support marriage equality but currently can't vote for it in parliament.’

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