So Labor got its platform change, as expected, on same-sex marriage, but the fundamentalists got their conscience vote. Assuming a solid Coalition vote against change -- an assumption that has gone largely unchallenged -- that means legislation to change the marriage laws would be doomed in the present Parliament.

But there has been, finally, a little scrutiny of the Coalition's position. With its own battle out of the way, several senior Labor figures have been needling the opposition on its failure to embrace a conscience vote. Now Simon Birmingham, Liberal senator from South Australia, has urged his party to pay heed, saying that he would support a same-sex marriage bill if given the opportunity.