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PM to return in time for same sex marriage vote

Australia will learn the result of the same-sex marriage postal survey today.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has declared a Yes vote in the same-sex marriage survey will have people see “Parliament at its best” as he seeks to play down divisions among his MPs over new religious protections.

Arguing that a conservative attempt to override State anti-discrimination laws would have “virtually no prospect of getting through the Parliament”, Mr Turnbull said the public skirmish over new same-sex marriage laws was a normal part of a free vote.

“I’m sure you will all applaud the authenticity and the passion that will come into the different views,” Mr Turnbull said.

But he shot down changes proposed by Victorian senator James Paterson to allow people such as cake-makers and florists to refuse to take part in same-sex marriage ceremonies.

Malcolm Turnbull, far left, with leaders from Japan, South Korea, Russia, Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand at the 31st ASEAN Summit.
Malcolm Turnbull, far left, with leaders from Japan, South Korea, Russia, Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand at the 31st ASEAN Summit.Picture: AP

“I don’t believe Australians would welcome, and certainly the Government … would not countenance making legal, discrimination that is illegal, that is unlawful today,” he said.

A private member’s Bill co-sponsored by WA Liberal senator Dean Smith, Labor, Greens and crossbench senators will be introduced into the Senate today in what is expected to be the foundation for changes to the Marriage Act.

Debate on the Bill begins tomorrow and resumes when Parliament returns in the last week of this month. The Bill could then be referred to the House of Representatives for final sign-off in the first week of next month.

Australia's Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
Australia’s Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.Picture: AAPIMAGE

Conservatives who backed the Paterson Bill are now shifting their focus to amendments on the Smith Bill, in recognition they do not have the numbers in Parliament.

Mr Turnbull will arrive back in Australia after a week-long visit to South-East Asia, in time for the Australian Bureau of Statistics to declare the result of the postal survey at 10am this morning, Canberra time.

Mr Turnbull rejected suggestions that the bickering among moderate and conservative MPs in his party reflected a lack of leadership on his part.

“You know what leadership is? It’s keeping your promises. It’s delivering,” he said.

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