Abbott lashes out at Pyne as damaging Lib split re-emerges

tim hornibrookMalcolm Turnbull has attempted to hose down divisions within his party over gay marriage, declaring there are “no plans to change” the government’s plebiscite policy.

A damaging split within the Liberal Party has re-emerged as former prime minister Tony Abbott accuses Christopher Pyne of being disloyal and warns any moves to dump the government’s plebiscite policy would be a “breach of faith” with the public.

Mr Pyne, the Defence Industry Minister and one of the Liberal’s most senior moderate MPs, has sparked divisions after reportedly telling colleagues at a federal council after-party that gay marriage would happen “sooner than everyone thinks”.

The Prime Minister, who supports gay marriage and favours a free vote in parliament, adopted the plebiscite policy in a bid to appease conservative MPs when he ousted Mr Abbott.

Legislation to set up the plebiscite was voted down by Labor, the Greens and some independents in November.

“I can understand the disappointment of those who are frustrated that the gay marriage issue has not been resolved but the reason it has not been resolved is because of Bill Shorten,” Mr Turnbull said.

“We took a very straightforward policy to the election, which was there would be a vote on gay marriage in the parliament after the Australian people had voted to support it in a plebiscite. Now, the reason there is not gay marriage lawful in Australia at the moment is because no plebiscite has been held. I believe if a plebiscite had been held it would have been carried but the reason the plebiscite has not been hold is because Bill Shorten blocked it.”

The policy was expected to cost $160 million but legislation to enable a people’s vote was knocked back by the Senate in November.

Mr Turnbull repeatedly blamed the Opposition Leader for the stalemate as he stood by the plebiscite policy, claiming Mr Shorten did not “care whether gay people can get married or not”.

“He is only interested in politics. If he was interested in the issue, he would support the plebiscite as he had before but as on so many other things, he has back flipped and twisted and turned,” Mr Turnbull said.

Mr Pyne’s claim was rejected by Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce and Scott Morrison, who said the government had not “moved away” from a plebiscite, while Mr Abbott used the comments to hit out at “factional string-pulling”.

Abbott lashes out at Pyne as damaging Lib split re-emerges
Christopher Pyne: “We’re going to get it. I think it might even be sooner than everyone thinks”. Picture: AAP

The Australian
2:06PM June 26, 2017
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Rosie Lewis
Reporter
Canberra
@rosieslewis

Malcolm Turnbull has attempted to hose down divisions within his party over gay marriage, declaring there are “no plans to change” the government’s plebiscite policy.

A damaging split within the Liberal Party has re-emerged as former prime minister Tony Abbott accuses Christopher Pyne of being disloyal and warns any moves to dump the government’s plebiscite policy would be a “breach of faith” with the public.

Mr Pyne, the Defence Industry Minister and one of the Liberal’s most senior moderate MPs, has sparked divisions after reportedly telling colleagues at a federal council after-party that gay marriage would happen “sooner than everyone thinks”.

• CHRIS KENNY: The jig is up
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The Prime Minister, who supports gay marriage and favours a free vote in parliament, adopted the plebiscite policy in a bid to appease conservative MPs when he ousted Mr Abbott.

Legislation to set up the plebiscite was voted down by Labor, the Greens and some independents in November.

“I can understand the disappointment of those who are frustrated that the gay marriage issue has not been resolved but the reason it has not been resolved is because of Bill Shorten,” Mr Turnbull said.

“We took a very straightforward policy to the election, which was there would be a vote on gay marriage in the parliament after the Australian people had voted to support it in a plebiscite. Now, the reason there is not gay marriage lawful in Australia at the moment is because no plebiscite has been held. I believe if a plebiscite had been held it would have been carried but the reason the plebiscite has not been hold is because Bill Shorten blocked it.”

The policy was expected to cost $160 million but legislation to enable a people’s vote was knocked back by the Senate in November.

Mr Turnbull repeatedly blamed the Opposition Leader for the stalemate as he stood by the plebiscite policy, claiming Mr Shorten did not “care whether gay people can get married or not”.

“He is only interested in politics. If he was interested in the issue, he would support the plebiscite as he had before but as on so many other things, he has back flipped and twisted and turned,” Mr Turnbull said.

Mr Pyne’s claim was rejected by Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce and Scott Morrison, who said the government had not “moved away” from a plebiscite, while Mr Abbott used the comments to hit out at “factional string-pulling”.

“On this question of same-sex marriage, which I gather was very much a part of (Mr Pyne’s) speech, we took a policy to the election, it was a very clear policy that there would be no change without a plebiscite,” Mr Abbott told 2GB radio.

“To dump the plebiscite, to do anything without a plebiscite would be a breach of faith with the people.”

In divisive comments leaked to Sky News host and News Corp Australia columnist Andrew Bolt, Mr Pyne reportedly told members of the Left on Friday night that the moderate faction was “in the winner’s circle” but had to “deliver a couple of things”.

“One of those we’ve got to deliver before too long is marriage equality in this country,” Mr Pyne said.

“We’re going to get it. I think it might even be sooner than everyone thinks. And your friends in Canberra are working on that outcome.”

Mr Pyne also reportedly celebrated the success of the Liberal Party’s Left faction.

“Two years ago … Malcolm Turnbull was the communications minister and now he’s the Prime Minister,” he said. “I would say that our fortunes are pretty good at the moment. And most of your senior cabinet ministers — George Brandis, Marise Payne, yours truly — quite a few of us are very senior ministers in a Turnbull government.

“Now there was a time when people said it wouldn’t happen, but George and I kept the faith. We voted for Malcolm Turnbull in every ballot he’s ever been in.”

Bolt says he will air the full recording on his Sky News show at 7pm tonight.

Mr Abbott seized on Mr Pyne’s “confession” that he had backed Mr Turnbull all the way, saying it appeared that “one of our number has been caught out”.

“If you are a member of the cabinet, you’ve got to be loyal. Christopher Pyne was not just a member of my cabinet, he was actually in the leadership team and it’s important you show loyalty. If he’s to be believed on Friday night that loyalty was never there, which is incredibly disappointing,” Mr Abbott said.

“You’ve got to be fair dinkum with the Australian people and it looks like that’s not been true of Christopher.”

Shorten: lets work together

Bill Shorten, who was supportive of a plebiscite in 2013, called on Mr Turnbull to “fix” the impasse on gay marriage and put the issue to a vote in parliament when it next meets in August.

“Why do we need to have a divisive opinion poll funded by taxpayers when we are already there already? Surely this nation could use $170m better than trying to placate the right wing of the Liberal Party?” the Opposition Leader said.

“I understand Mr Turnbull has got disagreements in his own party but I don’t think he should come out and just bag everyone else. Let’s just work together. People are sick and tired of the he-said, she-said, the bickering going on in the parliament. Marriage equality is a very good example where we can reclaim some faith in Australian politics by us just having a vote in the parliament. It is literally as simple as that.”

‘No plans to alter policy’

Several moderate Liberal MPs have attempted to find a way forward to legislate gay marriage following the stalemate within their party.

Outspoken Liberal MP Warren Entsch recently told The Australian he expected the Coalition party room to discuss the issue “very shortly”.

The Treasurer insisted the government was not “talking” about gay marriage and was focused on Australians’ power prices, passing the budget and schools funding “going up by $23 billion”.

“To the extent that it’s (gay marriage) on the agenda it is our policy which is the plebiscite. There is no move away from the plebiscite policy,” Mr Morrison told Seven’s Sunrise program.

“We have a policy. We took it to the last election, that’s the policy we’ve honoured in this parliament. The only party standing in the way of people having their say on this issue is the Labor Party.”

Speaking from London, Mr Joyce said he was concentrating on issues that helped voters “get the best return back through the farm gate”.

“I’ll continue to focus on that and what happens at dinners in other parts of Sydney is of no real consequence to me,” he said.

Mr Pyne did not deny he had made the comments but in a statement this morning clarified that the government had “no plans to alter the policy” of a plebiscite.

“I support marriage equality and if Labor had supported the plebiscite, marriage equality would be a reality now,” he said.

‘Maybe his comments were aspirational’

Mr Entsch, the government’s most outspoken supporter of gay marriage, said he had not discussed the issue with Mr Pyne.

“I can only guess that maybe his comments were aspirational and not necessarily based in reality,” Mr Entsch told The Australian.

“He’s entitled to his opinion. I’m not changing my advocacy; I just continue to work on it. I’m not working to any time frame that’s been established by Christopher.”

Mr Entsch wants the Coalition party room to discuss its plebiscite policy “sooner rather than later” as a “first step” towards resolving the issue.

Mr Pyne was recorded at a reception held at The Star casino’s Cherry Bar. Attorney-General George Brandis, powerbroker Michael Photios and Liberal MP Trent Zimmerman were reportedly in attendance.

Asked about the speech, Mr Pyne’s spokesman denied there were imminent plans to legalise gay marriage.

“The Minister did not say action on marriage equality was imminent,” he said. “The Minister said that while marriage equality had failed to materialise over the last two years it would become­ a reality­ eventually­.”

‘See comments in context’

NSW Liberal backbencher Craig Kelly said Mr Pyne’s comments needed to be seen in the context of late night bar room conversations.

“I remember the quote from Jack Gibson, the legendary football rugby league coach, he used to tell his players that guys nothing ever good happens in a bar after midnight. I think that applies to politicians as well,” he told The Australian.

“They weren’t public statements. It all needs to be…put in that context.”

Mr Kelly said a free vote would be a breach of an election promise, but it could be that Mr Pyne is in new negotiations with crossbenchers over a plebiscite.

“The words he used were the issue will be settled sooner than you think. Remember that also could be. That he’s in some type of discussion with the senate crossbench and remember we’ve been able to get a lot of legislation through the Senate crossbench that a lot of people said we’d never get through,” he said.

Abetz hits out at Pyne

Tasmanian backbench Senator Eric Abetz has pointedly rebuked Mr Pyne for suggesting he supported Mr Turnbull rather than Mr Abbott when he was prime minister.

“I simply encourage Cabinet Ministers to live up to the responsibilities that come with the privilege of being in Cabinet,” Mr Abetz said in a statement to The Australian.

Mr Abetz, who is not in favour of legalising same sex marriage, said he was pleased Mr Turnbull had confirmed a plebiscite was still the party’s policy.

“I’m pleased the Prime Minister has reaffirmed the Government’s clear position that we support marriage but will allow a plebiscite for people to have their say.”

source : theaustralian.com.au

 
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