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This Week, Conservatives Lined Up To Suggest Delaying Same-Sex Marriage

Conservatives lined up each day this week to say, 'Let's not rush same-sex marriage'.

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There are still a few days before Australians discover the results of the same-sex marriage survey — but conservatives have already started lining up to delay legislation in the event of a "yes" vote.

Senator Cory Bernardi hinted at the delay in an interview with ABC Radio two weeks ago, saying he doesn't want to "legislate in haste".

"I would rather make sure that if we're going to make a profound change to one of out great institutions that we're doing it with a great deal of prudence."

On ABC radio on Tuesday Bernardi reiterated the call for a pause, saying the citizenship saga should be dealt with before same-sex marriage.

"It is much more pressing to deal with the composition of the parliament, to establish that it is actually constitutionally allowed to exist in its current status," he said.

But it's not just the renegade Bernardi, who ditched the Liberal Party six months into a six-year term to start his own Australian Conservatives party, calling for a delay.

Government senator Eric Abetz chimed in on Wednesday, telling ABC radio if there's a delay, "so be it".

"In the event of a 'yes' vote, the Australian people would expect the parliament to deal with it an expeditious manner, but also a very thorough manner," he said. "If it means a delay, so be it. We've got to ensure we get this legislation in particular absolutely right."

Abetz said that the fact it is a private members' bill with an individual conscience vote, rather than government legislation, could mean a lengthy passage through the parliament with several speakers.

"My guess is yes, it will be dealt with by Christmas. If it's not, so be it. Let's ensure first and foremost that the legislation is robust. That's what the parliament's first duty is," he said.

Then Liberal MP Kevin Andrews joined the chorus on Thursday, urging that there should be "no rush" on legalising same-sex marriage.

.@kevinandrewsmp says it's not in anyone's interest to 'rush' legislating same sex marriage. #auspol MORE:… https://t.co/HbAxgDWaR3

And finally on Friday, it was Matthew Canavan's turn. He told Sky News: "I think we just need to take as much time as necessary to get it right.

"I have no issue with finalising, or attempting to finalise, this by the end of the year," he said. "But we shouldn’t impose an arbitrary deadline on a matter as important as this, particularly as it involves issues around fundamental human rights."

The calls for delay have come amid significant uncertainty over whether it will be possible for same-sex marriage to pass through a parliament fixated on the citizenship saga.

Prime minister Malcolm Turnbull and opposition leader Bill Shorten have been trying to nut out an agreement over a process to introduce increased transparency measures around citizenship.

The process would include disclosing the place of birth of politicians and their parents, as well as any foreign citizenship currently or previously held.

But the two parties have not reached agreement on the timing. Turnbull wants a 21-day timeline for MPs to get their affairs in order, while Shorten says it should only take five days. Under Turnbull's proposal, extra sitting days in the week before Christmas may be needed to refer politicians to the High Court, but Shorten said he won't support more taxpayer money being spent on the issue.

If a "yes" vote is handed down, Liberal senator Dean Smith plans to introduce his bill as soon as is practicable. This could be as early as Wednesday or Thursday next week, in which only the Senate is sitting.

A rival bill, penned by conservatives led by West Australian MP Ian Goodenough, may also be quickly introduced to the Senate.

But because the bills will be argued on the floor of the parliament, with several speeches and amendments likely, it may take an unusually long time for their passage through both houses of parliament.

If time in the parliament is taken up with citizenship issues, or political manoeuvring as the government fights to maintain a majority without Barnaby Joyce, same-sex marriage could be delayed until after Christmas, or to an extra sitting week just prior to Christmas.

In a letter to Turnbull about the negotiations over the citizenship process, Shorten wrote "I think we are both in agreement that the Parliament needs to address the issues surrounding citizenship before it rises this year.

"As we agreed in the meeting, we are both committed to the passage, before the parliament rises, of legislation to make marriage equality law in Australia. As agreed in the meeting, Labor is willing to support a motion in the parliament to facilitate additional and sufficient time to ensure passage of this legislation."


Lane Sainty is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Sydney, Australia.

Contact Lane Sainty at lane.sainty@buzzfeed.com.

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