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PM holds firm on same-sex plebiscite bid

AAP logoAAP 10/10/2016 By Rashida Yosufzai and Roje Adaimy

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce has ruled out a parliamentary free vote on legalising same-sex marriage despite Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull refusing to be drawn on a "Plan B".

But Labor has already kicked off its own motions for a parliamentary vote as debate began on the proposed plebiscite it has effectively doomed to failure.

The Turnbull government is under pressure to reveal if it has other options for marriage equality after Labor formally decided to vote down the enabling bill for a national vote on February 2017.

Labor leader Bill Shorten said he could not in good conscience support the expensive and divisive plebiscite because of the "overwhelming" harm it would cause.

Debating the bill on Tuesday night, Mr Shorten moved to change the plebiscite legislation by seeking to have it withdrawn and redrafted to legislate for marriage equality.

The changes also urge parliament to call on the government to afford all members of parliament a free vote.

"Let's get on with it and make marriage equality a reality," he told parliament.

Earlier Mr Shorten said he believed the prime minister could change his mind.

Mr Turnbull repeatedly refused to be drawn when asked three times whether there could be a free vote.

He's instead accusing the opposition of caring more about politics and less about people.

"The Labor party is not so much interested in same-sex couples being able to marry as they are in wringing every ounce of political gain out of this debate," he told parliament.

However, his deputy was more confident there would be no free vote.

"That was not what we took to the election," Mr Joyce told ABC radio, denying the duo were at odds on the matter.

Mr Joyce said marriage equality was the least of the government's worries amid more pressing issues such as balancing the budget.

It was a discussion driven by Labor to suck up as much oxygen as possible, he added.

The Australian Greens, also opposed to the public vote, are pleading for a compromise and urging both major parties to find a path forward.

Same-sex marriage advocates are urging senators to block the plebiscite bill as soon as possible and get on with a parliamentary vote.

Greens leader Richard Di Natale has also written to both Mr Shorten and Mr Turnbull urging them to meet, while insisting same-sex marriage isn't doomed.

"All three leaders of the main political parties support marriage equality, so let's get this done," he said.

A free vote has already put some coalition members offside: Nationals MP Andrew Broad has threatened to withdraw his support for the government if it proceeded with such a move.

Attorney-General George Brandis said Labor's "cynical decision" meant debate would continue for years without resolve.

"The Labor party has driven a stake through the heart of marriage equality."

In the meantime,, he is appealing to crossbenchers to change their mind on the plebiscite saying it's not too late to back the plebiscite.

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