Same sex marriage is a 10th order issue and it is amazing that self-interested parliamentarians are prioritising it above more pressing matters that affect the wealth of this country. But those Coalition MPs who are now pushing for a parliamentary vote are acting with bad faith and should hang their heads in shame.
The Coalition’s policy on same sex marriage is clear: that there be a national plebiscite. All of the dissembling about whether a plebiscite would traumatise people, or be costly, or be contrary to a Westminter system are wrong.
Plebiscites and referenda are time-honoured methods of resolving matters that voters hold dear. There are many issues which the electorate do not wish to have their representatives vote upon. And they should be subject to rigorous debate – to argue that someone’s feelings might be hurt is irrelevant. If you want to change the status quo, you must accept a thorough debate and should not be demanding the change to be rammed through without debate. As Ireland proved, the debate can be raucous but at the end of the day the result is accepted (in that case, same sex marriage was adopted).
As for these Coalition MPs – by voting in favour of a parliamentary resolution on same sex marriage they will be lying to their voters.
Game theory is quite clear on this. If your promise is that you will support a plebiscite there is no get out of jail when the plebiscite option is voted down in the Parliament. If these MPs indicated (directly or indirectly) that they would vote for SSM once the plebiscite option had been voted down, they would have emboldened those who opposed a plebiscite. The plebiscite option requires a credible pre-commitment that the only way SSM would be legislated is through a plebiscite. By emboldening those opposed to a plebiscite those MPs acted in bad faith.