The Courier-Mail

GAY WEDDINGS DEBATE

Afternoon proposal has a bad ring to it

- DENNIS ATKINS

TONY Abbott doesn’t like losing but the cost might be great.

After having been forced to shoehorn his ally Bronwyn Bishop out of the Speaker’s chair and having to accept Tony Smith as her replacemen­t against his wishes, Abbott wasn’t about to let marriage equality advocates have a win.

When the issue was unexpected­ly pushed at the Liberal Party meeting, Abbott worked to head it off. He floated the idea it could be decided by a joint meeting of Liberals and Nationals and senators.

Many MPs were not happy, but what they didn’t expect was a lunchtime ambush when those opposing marriage equality – led by Abbott – hatched a plot for a midafterno­on debate of MPs from both Coalition parties.

Abbott has said he will do whatever it takes to stop the push from the Liberal/Labor/ Green/Independen­t group for change. While the numbers supporting a conscience vote in Liberal ranks might be close, the anti-change forces gather great strength if Nationals MPs are in the room.

This was Abbott’s gamble. Those opposed to change pushed back with a long string of speakers to draw out debate in the party room and apply pressure to their colleagues.

Getting his way in the party room and locking in a vote against marriage equality achieves Abbott’s short-term goal, but he’s stirred renewed questionin­g of his leadership.

What was supposed to be a week of focus on jobs and growth has descended into another obsession with holding back the tide of modernity.

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