Labor and the Greens have called on Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to abandon plans for a plebiscite to decide the issue of same-sex marriage after a Liberal senator insisted today that Coalition MPs would not be bound by the result.
Conservative senator Eric Abetz told Guardian Australia that every member of Parliament will make up their own mind on the issue, regardless of whether the public have their say in a plebiscite.
"I would need to determine whether [the plebiscite] really is an accurate reflection, whether it is all above board or whether the question is stacked, whether all sides received public funding," he said.
The dumped cabinet minister says every member of Parliament will make up their own mind after the plebiscite and that some will not support the outcome, regardless of which way it went.
Shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus said Abetz had made a joke of the government’s promise to “let the people decide” on legalising same-sex marriage.
“Eric Abetz has let the cat out of the bag, admitting the Liberals are not planning to take any notice of the expressed will of the Australian people," Dreyfus said.
"This absurd notion makes a complete joke of our democratic process and renders a $160 million national plebiscite totally pointless."
Greens senator Robert Simms said it is "ironic" Abetz doesn't want a conscience vote on the issue of marriage equality in federal Parliament, but does want one when it comes to implementing the outcome of any plebiscite.
"He wants some sort of veto power if he doesn't like the outcome,” Senator Simms said.
"This just demonstrates what a complete nonsense this plebiscite is. Why should Australians be exposed to a costly and divisive plebiscite if conservative MPs aren't even bound to accept the outcome?"
Both Labor an the Greens reiterated calls for Parliament to decide the matter and for the PM to grant his members a conscience vote.
"Why should the views of Eric Abetz and Tony Abbott be more valuable than the views of other members of the government?" Simms said.
Government frontbencher Steve Ciobo said Senator Abetz was entitled to his view but insisted it would be "passing strange" for any politician to ignore the wishes of the Australian people.
"Any politician, any member of Parliament, would really have to think twice before they snub their nose at the view of a majority of Australians," he told Sky News.
The Australia Electoral Commission estimated the cost of a plebiscite on same-sex marriage to be nearly $160 million.