Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull will reportedly use a secret ballot to canvass the opinions of his partyroom on marriage reform.
Mr Turnbull may use a ballot of MPs at next week’s partyroom meeting to find out where the majority stand, and to stop infighting over the issue that threatens his leadership, The Australian reports on Thursday.
The vote could be used to deter moderates from crossing the floor of the lower house in support of same-sex marriage, with the prime minister told just one in five MPs support the reform advocates.
It comes as former prime minister Tony Abbott issued a stern warning that Liberal MPs crossing the floor would be engaging in a “serious attack” on Mr Turnbull’s authority.
West Australian senator Dean Smith is working on a marriage equality bill while his lower house colleagues Trevor Evans, Tim Wilson and Warren Entsch have flagged crossing the floor to support it.
With the bill to enable a plebiscite failing to pass parliament last year, some Liberals want the bill re-committed to parliament, while others say a voluntary postal ballot could achieve the same aim without the need for legislation.
Mr Abbott said the coalition should take its existing policy of a plebiscite to the next election and stand by it now.
MPs pushing for marriage equality argue they have discharged their duty to support a plebiscite and it’s not their fault the Senate blocked the legislation.
But Minister Zed Seselja said that argument was nonsense, pointing to the government’s persistence over workplace relations laws.