back to top

Did This Senator Contradict Himself On Marriage Equality?

"I will respect the outcome of that vote."

Posted on

Liberal conservative senator for the ACT Zed Seselja has been caught contradicting himself on same-sex marriage – telling his constituents he'd support the public's decision, but telling the media he'd abstain from the vote to legalise marriage equality.

On Tuesday, Seselja told ABC Radio he would sit out any vote on same-sex marriage.

Mick Tsikas / AAPIMAGE

Seselja told Canberra 666 Breakfast that if a plebiscite on same-sex marriage delivered a "yes" result, he would abstain from the subsequent parliamentary vote to legalise same-sex marriage.

Seselja: What I've said is I certainly won't frustrate it. My position, Phil, is clear that I don't support same-sex marriage.

Phillip Clarke: No, no, I'm aware of that.

Seselja: I've taken that to the election, so obviously I would reserve the right to abstain.

Phillip Clarke: So you would abstain?

Seselja: That would be a very likely scenario in those circumstances.

But that seems to contradict what Seselja told 27-year-old Canberra voter Anthony Feint in an email in May.

Mick Tsikas / AAPIMAGE

Feint got in touch with the senator to ask where he stood on marriage equality and how he would vote in parliament.

Seselja replied that his views against allowing same-sex couples to marry are "well known and on the record", however if there was a plebiscite he would "respect the outcome" of the people's vote.

"I believe there is a place for preserving the unique nature of marriage as between a man and a woman as something that has stood the test of time and been an important part of the growth and development of many cultures and communities across the world," he wrote.

"I’ve also made it clear I support our party’s policy to put the question of marriage to the people in a plebiscite after the election and, while noting that the specifics of the plebiscite question and process are still to be determined, I will respect the outcome of that vote."

Last week, prime minister Malcolm Turnbull confirmed not even cabinet members would be bound to vote to legalise same-sex marriage if the plebiscite returned a “yes” vote.

Stefan Postles / Getty Images

Since then, treasurer Scott Morrison has also said he would “respect the plebiscite”, but stopped short of guaranteeing he will vote in favour if it passes.

He told ABC Radio National’s Breakfast program that “if the plebiscite carries, the legislation should pass”, but he won't say whether he will vote for it.

Labor MP Andrew Leigh said Senator Seselja's comments proved he was not interested in listening to the views of Australians.

Stefan Postles / Getty Images

"Zed wants Australians to pay $160 million for a divisive plebiscite he will ignore. ‘Abstaining” is a peculiar way of “respecting” a Yes vote. This is simply a way of trying to duck and weave from ensuring equality for many Australians," he told BuzzFeed News.

BuzzFeed News asked Seselja what it would mean to "respect the outcome" of a plebiscite, but he's yet to respond.

Alice Workman is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Canberra.

Contact Alice Workman at alice.workman@buzzfeed.com.

Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.