Conservative Liberals have rejected suggestions Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull will be rolled if MPs cross the floor of parliament to vote for same-sex marriage.
Cabinet minister Mathias Cormann dismissed reports Mr Turnbull could be replaced by Immigration Minister Peter Dutton if he allowed moderate MPs to break the government’s election promise to hold a plebiscite on gay marriage.
The Daily Telegraph on Tuesday reported unnamed right faction leaders warning the prime minister’s leadership would be “terminal” if MPs were given the green light to cross the floor.
Mr Turnbull on Monday said coalition backbenchers had the right to vote against the government.
Senator Cormann, a key conservative, rejected the report, insisting Mr Turnbull enjoyed the support of cabinet and the party room.
The government’s election promise to hold a plebiscite had not expired and it was now looking at ways to “keep faith” with voters.
The government was still considering how to progress its plebiscite after it was defeated in the Senate and had little hope of getting through the upper house in this parliamentary term.
“We’re getting way ahead of ourselves here – we took a policy to the last election to give the Australian people a say,” Senator Cormann told ABC radio.
Fellow frontbencher and conservative Zed Seselja also denied Mr Turnbull’s leadership was under threat, lashing calls for a parliamentary vote on gay marriage.
That was Labor’s election policy, not the coalition’s. ”I haven’t heard why we should be, one year after the election which we won, adopting Labor’s policy,” he told ABC radio.
A growing number of Liberal MPs including Trevor Evans and Tim Wilson are pressing for a conscience vote on a private bill proposed by Liberal backbencher Dean Smith.