Tony Abbott dismisses idea of marriage equality referendum

The Australian Prime Minister has dismissed the idea of his country holding a referendum on same-sex marriage after Ireland’s historic vote on 23 May.

Tony Abbott acknowledged it was important to millions of Australians and said he was taking the matter seriously, but marriage equality would be dealt with by the Federal Parliament.

‘Referendums are held in this country where there’s a proposal to change the constitution,‘ he told reporters in Brisbane this morning.

‘I don’t think anyone is suggesting the constitution needs to be changed in this respect.’

Abbott said the question of same-sex marriage had been answered ‘fairly decisively’ in the last Parliament, when it was defeated in 2012, but he said he did not know whether the issue would be coming before the Parliament again – and if so, when.

‘There are a range of views inside the Parliament; there are a range of views inside my party room; frankly there’s a range of views inside my family,’ he said.

‘Inside the Abbott family I’m probably the last holdout for the traditional position.’

He did not want to ‘underestimate the feelings that people have’, whether they support gay marriage or not, Abbot said, but it was not his priority as Prime Minister.

Opposition leader Bill Shorten, calling Abbott ‘an obstacle to equality’ according to the Independent, also ruled out a referendum but said Parliament needed to legislate on the matter.

He told ABC News: ‘Most places in the world are dealing with marriage equality, why is Tony Abbott stopping Australia becoming a more modern nation?‘