'Grow a pair' Abbott's same-sex marriage warning
TONY Abbott has issued a warning against a postal vote on same-sex marriage as the coalition was urged to "grow a pair" on the controversial issue.
In an interview with 2GB's Ray Hadley, Mr Abbott said giving Australians a say on gay marriage via the post would be a better alternative to a parliamentary vote.
But the former prime minister queried how much real authority a postal plebiscite would have.
His federal Liberal colleague Peter Dutton has pushed the case for a postal plebiscite, saying he would like the issue resolved in this term of parliament.
"I certainly think that will be better, much better, than just trying to ram this thing through the parliament," Mr Abbott told 2GB.
Having a vote in parliament - as Labor wants - would be a breach of faith with voters because the Coalition didn't agree to one before the 2016 election, he said.
Mr Abbott conceded a postal plebiscite was an alternative given Labor's unwillingness to hold a formal poll.
"Here you have Bill Shorten yesterday demanding a referendum on four-year (federal) terms but is unwilling to let the people have their say on any change to the Marriage Act," he said.
A move to four-year terms requires a change to the constitution through a referendum.
Mr Abbott's comments came as Labor frontbencher Jason Clare said he agreed with Mr Dutton that the issue needed to be settled in this term of parliament.
"I'd like to see that happen, but the only way it will be resolved is if there is a vote in the parliament, so I'd urge members of the Liberal Party, grow a backbone and just vote when the parliament goes back to work, put it in the parliament and let's have a vote," Mr Clare told Sky News.
"Otherwise I think Malcolm Turnbull risks happening to him what happened to John Howard a decade ago.
"John Howard refused to apologise to the stolen generation and when Labor was elected Kevin Rudd came in and the first thing we did was to make that apology.
"If the Libs keep fighting among themselves on this, then what's going to happen is the opportunity will pass, we will be elected, and within 100 days we'll pass this legislation and Malcolm Turnbull will look like a man who didn't take the opportunity, didn't grasp the mettle and make this happen."
Mr Clare argued the issue should not be resolved through a postal vote.
"We were elected to parliament to make this decision," he said.
"We can make this decision. It just depends upon whether members of the Liberal Party have got the courage of their convictions to vote their conscience.
"You've got half the members of the Liberal Party who don't want this to happen, and that's why they've argued for a plebiscite, and then the other half of the Liberal Party who are terrified of telling their electorates that they actually support doing this.
"Just grow a pair. Put the legislation into the parliament and let's bloody well vote for it."
Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce echoed Mr Abbott's view, insisting the issue could have been off the agenda if Labor had agreed to a policy the coalition successfully took to the election.
"If people want a discussion about a postal plebiscite, I'm happy to have that discussion," he told reporters in Canberra.
But Mr Joyce said while it matters to a section of the community, the issue was not being discussed between the vast majority of Australians.