The Prime Minister Tony Abbott has made a string of unexpected concessions in the marriage equality debate. Mr Abbott will be allowing a conscience vote when the legislation comes before the parliament next week and will be suspending standing orders today to debate a proposed amendment to the marriage act which would redefine the meaning of the world “conscience” effective immediately.
Mr Abbott told the House of Representatives this morning that it was important that parliament keep pace with public opinion.
“I don’t think that a very obscure judge in a very obscure court case more than a century ago saying that he thinks ‘conscience’ is defined in a particularly way, should be the be all and end all.” said the Prime Minister.
Mr Abbott then went on to outline his envisioned changes to the definition of marriage act. “Just because you’re required to vote along party lines on something, it doesn’t automatically mean that you’re acting in bad conscience. Or that you’re acting unconscionably.
“There is no reason whatsoever. No reason whatsoever why we can’t, as a party, all vote the same way and still vote with our consciences intact.”
The leader of the Opposition Bill Shorten welcomed the announcement from Mr Abbott and indicated that he would read the detail of the proposed change over the weekend, but for the mean time would help Coalition pass the bill through the Senate.