Malcolm Turnbull - Australia’s Communication Minister and leader of the Liberal Party while in Opposition from 2008 to 2009 - has said he believes his party room will allow a conscience vote on same-sex marriage.
However he told Network Ten TV that he does not know whether there are the numbers in the parliament for a bill to pass.
However the MP for what is considered Australia’s gayest electorate said he did not know whether there were enough supporters in the Australian Parliament for a bill to pass.
‘As to whether there would be a majority in favour of same-sex marriage in the House of Representatives and the Senate, I don't know,’ he told Network Ten.
Turnbull also denied there had been enough votes in the previous parliament for a bill to pass if Liberal leader Tony Abbott had allowed a conscience vote despite the then ruling Labor Party allowing its members a conscience vote and having same-sex marriage in its platform.
‘There nonetheless would not have been the numbers to get it passed,’ Turnbull said.
Turnbull’s comments come as the campaign for the legalization of same-sex marriage in Australia vows to continue campaigning despite Australia electing same-sex marriage opponent Tony Abbott as prime minister.
Abbott has said his party room would reconsider its position on same-sex marriage after the election and several of his key ministers are supportive of a conscience vote.
Australian Marriage Equality national director Rodney Croome said he was encouraged by Turnbull's comments as Liberal Party MPs not being able to vote freely with their consciences has been the major barrier to reform.
‘We share Mr Turnbull's view that a Coalition conscience vote is achievable, and will be meeting with Coalition MPs, old and new, to gain their support,’ Croome said.
‘Given the election of a number of federal Coalition MPs who support marriage equality, plus polls showing almost 80% support among Coalition voters for a conscience vote, allowing such a vote is the right thing to do.
‘We have two main aims before the end of the year - laying the foundation for a cross-party working group and introducing new MPs to key voices in the debate including clergy, psychologists and parents who support reform.
‘Marriage equality was achieved in Britain and New Zealand through cross-party co-operation and through the compelling personal stories of everyday families. Australia will be no different.’
Turnbull is still considered a popular leadership contender among progressive Liberals but has ruled out challenging for the party’s leadership again.