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Same-sex marriage: Malcolm Turnbull arriving home to another leadership test

ABC News logo ABC News 5 days ago political reporter Jane Norman

Malcolm Turnbull faces a tough time ahead with the results of the survey about to come © Stefan Postles/Getty Images Malcolm Turnbull faces a tough time ahead with the results of the survey about to come Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull will arrive back in Australia ahead of the release of the same-sex marriage survey result, in what is shaping up to be another test of his leadership over a divided Coalition.

Amid expectations the Yes campaign will prevail, a feud has erupted within Government ranks over the shape of the bill to legalise same-sex marriage and how far religious protections should go.

Responding to Liberal James Paterson's bill to amend the Marriage Act, Mr Turnbull warned sweeping religious protections which discriminate against same-sex couples would have "virtually no prospect" of passing Parliament.

"Assuming there is a Yes vote — the pollsters will really be rocked if there isn't — but assuming there is, there will be a Private Members Bill and amendments can be moved and if people want to move an amendment of that kind, well, you know, they can," he said yesterday from the Philippines, where he has been meeting with other leaders at the East Asia Summit.

Mr Turnbull has already nominated Liberal senator Dean Smith's bill as a good starting point, but conservatives in the party have locked in behind Senator Paterson's plan, arguing it contains much stronger religious protections.

Federal Liberal MP Trent Zimmermann helped draft Senator Smith's bill and said, while he was open to considering valid arguments, he did not think there was a "pressing need for significant change".

Predicting a "strong Yes result", Mr Zimmermann also reminded colleagues a win was a win, and Australians would not tolerate any delays in legislating the change.

"There was no provision for a super majority," he said.

More than 77 per cent of Australians have had their say in the $122-million postal survey — a higher voter turnout than the Brexit vote in the UK and Ireland's same-sex marriage referendum.

Mr Zimmermann said, for all of its faults, voters were "clearly excited about the opportunity to be involved in a process which is about making history".

If he is correct, debate on Senator Smith's bill could begin as early as today and crucially, it has been co-signed by members of the Liberal Party, Labor, the Greens and crossbench.

But, given the number of members and Senators wanting to have their say and the number of amendments likely to be debated, do not expect a resolution or a vote any time soon.

It remains unclear what Senator Paterson is planning to do with his bill.

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