Would you believe it? You could sift flour in this government, it’s that much of a sieve. How else to explain satirist Ben Pobjie unearthing yet another exclusive? This time, he’s produced a party room transcript in which the Liberal Party professes its eternal commitment to irresolution on the issue of marriage equality, till death them part …
Transcript of Proceedings, Liberal Party Room Meeting, 7/8/17
MR TURNBULL: Good afternoon, everyone. We’ve all come together to discuss our party’s policy regarding a way forward on same-sex marriage. That’s right, isn’t it Peter?
MR DUTTON: Yes, Malcolm. Very good.
MR TURNBULL: Can I start the meeting now?
MR DUTTON: Yes, Malcolm, you may.
MR TURNBULL: Thank you sir. Now, I understand some of you wish to abandon our policy of holding a plebiscite on the question of same-sex marriage.
MR ENTSCH: On behalf of those who argue for a free vote on the issue, I would ask my fellow members, is not voting on legislation what we were elected to do?
(General uncertain murmurs)
MR TURNBULL: Can we get confirmation on whether that is, in fact, what we were elected to do?
MR BRANDIS: I think I have a book on this. I’ll look it up.
MR TURNBULL: Thank you, George. Now you were saying, Warren?
MR ENTSCH: I was saying, we’ve had enough dilly-dallying on this issue —
(Cries from the crowd of “no we haven’t”)
MR ENTSCH: … so why not simply hold the vote and put an end to the matter so we can get on with more important things.
MR TURNBULL: Are there more important things?
MR ENTSCH: Of course, there is the economy, for example.
MR MORRISON: Honestly, if you want to keep the focus off that for now, I’m good.
MR ENTSCH: I’m sure Mr Dutton would like to be able to focus on other issues rather than this debate.
MR DUTTON: Look, I have no problem debating the rights of Australians while eliminating the rights of non-Australians. If there’s one thing I’m good at, it’s multi-tasking.
MR TURNBULL: You’re fantastic. But look, speaking as the leader of this party —
(general laughter, whistling etc)
MR TURNBULL: My concern is that if you allow MPs to vote with their conscience, they might do it. And voting according to our deeply held beliefs is a precedent that I think we should be wary of setting.
MR ABBOTT: If I may, Malcolm, I’d like to speak up in favour of the current plebiscite policy. As co-prime minister …
MR TURNBULL: You’re not.
MR ABBOTT: Let’s not quibble over titles. As the People’s PM, I think it’s vital we keep faith with the people by sticking to the policy that we promised we would enact.
MR ENTSCH: But they don’t want it.
MR ABBOTT: That is irrelevant. Nothing breaks trust with the people more than breaking a promise to them for no reason other than the fact they want you to. How will we get the voters to respect us if we go changing our policy based on popular opinion? Let us adhere to the Abbott Doctrine: only change policy based on unpopular opinion.
MR ENTSCH: I have the support of the majority of voters when I say, we want marriage equality and we want it now. For me this is a matter of principle.
(hysterical laughter for several minutes)
MR TURNBULL: Thanks for that Warren, I think we needed something to lighten the mood. Now, I think we’re all agreed that we’re going to give the plebiscite another go.
MR ENTSCH: We are not!
MR WILSON: No, we are not!
MR TURNBULL: As I said, I think we’re all agreed. Aren’t we Peter?
MR DUTTON: We are, Malcolm. And if the plebiscite is voted down again, there’s always MY idea.
MR TURNBULL: Napalm strikes?
MR DUTTON: No, I mean my idea about marriage equality: a postal plebiscite! As I see it, a lot of people have a problem with a costly, non-binding poll. My suggestion is to compromise, by implementing a costly, non-binding poll that is also voluntary, thereby ensuring the absolute minimum of participation. Then if the result of the postal plebiscite is “Yes”, we can have a parliamentary vote in which we can vote “No”. And if the result of the postal plebiscite is “No”, we can have no parliamentary vote. I think that is a compromise that should please at least one side of this debate.
MR ABBOTT: That’s a terrible idea. If the plebiscite gets voted down again, we should just vote on it again.
MR DUTTON: What if it gets voted down a third time?
MR ABBOTT: We vote on it again.
MR DUTTON: And if it gets voted down again?
MR ABBOTT: You don’t get it, do you? I have a LOT of time on my hands.
MR DUTTON: I think we shouldn’t pay too close attention to former leaders — let’s pay more attention to future leaders.
MR TURNBULL: Peter, thank you.
MR SMITH: Look, we could get it all over and done with in one day — just have a vote!
MR TURNBULL: Quiet! Peter has spoken! I think his postal plebiscite idea is brilliant: who doesn’t enjoy getting mail? It’s fun, it’s novel, I think people are going to go for this in a big way. OK guys, good talk: anyone else have anything to say?
(general commotion, yelling, sound of scuffling and furniture being overturned)
MR TURNBULL: Great! So, let’s move ahead with this new pivot to the existing policy. Peter, may I be excused?