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Plan B on plebiscite: do nothing

AAP logoAAP 11/10/2016

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce has signalled the government's plan B for same-sex marriage is to do nothing.

Labor is defending its decision to effectively kill off a national vote on the issue, believing community pressure will force a free vote in parliament.

Mr Joyce says if the opposition wants a change to the Marriage Act, the simple answer is to support a plebiscite.

"It's doomed because Bill Shorten has said that he's decided that he's more important than the Australian people," he told reporters at Parliament House on Wednesday

Mr Joyce noted people were trying to come up with a so-called Plan B, for which he had some suggestions: "Plan B is straighten out the economy. Plan B is build dams. Plan B is to make sure that we get the inland rail built."

The government will keep pushing Labor to support the plebiscite as the parliament's lower house resumes debate on the government's enabling legislation.

"What I think we need to do is, once again, just let the heat come out of this issue a little bit and say 'alright opposition, alright Bill Shorten, can you be a little bit flexible on this?'" Liberal frontebncher Dan Tehan told ABC radio.

"That's a very sensible way for us to go forward."

But Labor Senate leader Penny Wong said asking people who support marriage equality inside the coalition to vote against a public vote was not sustainable.

"Any Liberal senator who is prepared to move a Marriage Equality Bill, I'm up for it," she said.

"I don't think the community are going to accept people continuing to vote not to have a vote."

The Australian Christian Lobby believes Labor's refusal to back a plebiscite has granted it the "gift of time" to continue to build its campaign against same-sex marriage and "win the hearts and minds of millions of Australians".

"We have a plan to win the marriage debate and yesterday Bill Shorten played an important, and helpful, role in that plan," managing director Lyle Shelton wrote in an email to supporters.

Meanwhile, Mr Joyce has counselled his Nationals colleague Andrew Broad, who has threatened to withdraw support for the government should it allow a free vote in this term of parliament.

"I've had a very courteous discussion with Andrew," Mr Joyce said.

"I don't think anyone in Mallee, certainly not in New England or not in Lyne or not in the Riverina want to see a Labor Party government."

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