Surprise, surprise. The MPs who are forcing a $160 million plebiscite on the Australian public because they don’t want it to pass through parliament on a free vote are pushing to delay the marriage equality plebiscite until 2017, according to a report in the Christian-themed Eternity magazine.

The very MPs who have thrust the unpopular — according to Galaxy and PFLAG polling — plebiscite on Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull as a delaying tactic to end the discrimination against gay couples are now seeking to force the PM to delay it even longer.

Eternity magazine’s August issue reports that according to a “senior Coalition source”, Coalition backbenchers are “fighting to ensure that the plebiscite on same-sex marriage is put back to 2017” on the grounds that conservative Coalition MPs want more time for the case against marriage equality, and that the mysterious group Marriage Alliance — currently in trouble with the Information Commissioner for obtaining Liberal party email databases without permission — backs this delay.

The magazine argues that the few sitting weeks left in 2016 will be filled with a Senate inquiry into the plebiscite legislation, and the drafting of the cases for and against marriage equality.

Conservative Coalition politicians such as Eric Abetz and Cory Bernardi are already signalling that they back a delay, but Attorney-General George Brandis and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull have said it could be held this year, if the plebiscite legislation passes the Senate. Labor leader Bill Shorten has said that Labor would need to see the legislation before deciding whether to block it, but Labor plans to introduce a private members bill into the 45th parliament when it resumes at the end of this month in an attempt to bring on a free vote.

Long-time marriage equality campaigner Rodney Croome — as flagged by Crikey earlier this week — left his director position at Australian Marriage Equality to campaign full-time against the plebiscite, said in an opinion piece in Guardian Australia this week that only four or five Coalition politicians would need to back the legislation in order for marriage equality to pass the parliament.

Peter Fray

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