Same-sex marriage plebiscite was a ‘shitty political deal’ between Liberal factions: Christine Forster

Christine Forster is a member of the City of Sydney council. Photo: Brook MitchellTony Abbott’s sister Christine Forster has described the stalled same-sex marriage plebiscite as a “shitty political deal” struck as an agreement between the Liberal Party’s conservative and moderate factions.
Nanjing Night Net

The Liberal councillor and same-sex marriage advocate made the startlingly frank admission during a heated debate of Sydney City Council on Monday night.

On Tuesday, Ms Forster told Fairfax Media she stood by her comments but stressed she was not suggesting the plebiscite was cooked up in a cross-factional “deal where Tony sat down with Malcolm, or Eric Abetz sat down with Simon Birmingham”.

“I’m saying it was a shitty deal because it was. From my point of view, it was a bad deal because I never wanted a plebiscite; I wanted a free vote in Parliament,” she said.

“But we got a plebiscite as policy and that’s the only way I see this progressing now, at least for the next few years.

“What I said [at council] was a plebiscite was a compromise agreement because it provided a way forward on same sex marriage for both the Left and the Right of the Liberal Party.”

Ms Forster – who wants to marry her long-term partner, Virginia Edwards – called on Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull earlier this year to hold a free vote. She then backed a plebiscite when it became clear it was the only path to reforming the Marriage Act in the current term of Parliament.

But her claim in an open council meeting that a plebiscite was a political deal will be a blow to Mr Turnbull, who has maintained that it was a “legitimate and democratic” way forward, rather than part of the price he paid in taking the leadership from Mr Abbott, a strident opponent of same-sex marriage.

In August last year, Cabinet Minister Christopher Pyne complained that the party room meeting that resulted in the plebiscite compromise was effectively “branch stacked” because of the inclusion of socially conservative Nationals MPs and senators.

Mr Turnbull has conceded that a plebiscite was part of the Coalition agreement with the Nationals, but never acknowledged any deal with conservative Liberals on the matter.

Labor councillor Linda Scott said Ms Forster had belled the cat on the Liberal Party’s real motivation.

“Mr Turnbull had repeatedly said that his was a principled position on holding a plebiscite. Now Cr Forster has revealed the truth about her party’s position – the plebiscite was a political deal, trading the rights of people and their families,” she said.

Ms Forster’s comments were made as council debated a motion in support of marriage equality.

She voted against a motion that congratulated Labor for opposing the plebiscite but backed a compromise motion authored by councillor Kerryn Phelps which commended the work of marriage equality campaigners, the LGTBI community and mental health professionals in raising awareness “about the real possibility of a potentially divisive and hate-filled campaign against marriage equality”.

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