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Time to seal the deal on SSM, Turnbull

COMMENT: MALCOLM Turnbull has never had such as good time to take back authority over his party and the Parliament and stamp it on an important national advance.

That advance, as identified by a bumper majority of voters, is legislation to allow same-sex marriage.

The simple reality is no Australian Prime Minister has ever received such overwhelming permission to enact a major social change, certainly not an issue of this magnitude.

Whatever his protestations when criticised, Mr Turnbull is seen as a leader who sheds principles when they are contested - climate change, a republic. It's time he established he can stand up to foes, within his party and external to it.

And the time could not be better for this demonstration.

Members of Parliament are elected on the 50 per cent plus-one vote equation. That means 133 of the 150 MPs in the House of Representatives exercise it in the aftermath of this remarkably national survey.

That 133 figure is the total number of seats in which the Yes case prevailed.

And the sweep includes you Tony Abbott (Warringah 75 per cent Yes) and you Kevin Andrews (Menzies 57 per cent Yes) and you George Christensen (Dawson 55.1 per cent Yes).

Mr Turnbull should seal this opportunity quickly, before the end of the year, to prevent it being weakened or disappearing.

Were he to allow that to happen he would never be forgiven, and he would have a perception of political impotence reinforced.

 

He has had a big win on a momentous issue where his advocacy was thoughtful, powerful and genuine, and which has left many millions of Australians feeling proud.

And he has the backing of 12.7 million Australians. Use it, Prime Minister.

Any cringing before churlish political delaying tactics or threats to his standing as Prime Minister would see that new-found authority evaporate.

Despite the numbers, Mr Turnbull's work will not be without obstacles.

Mr Abbott was quick to acknowledge the imperative delivered by the survey result should be respected, although he is expected to join arguments at the margins of the primary issue and without direct connection to the notion of marriage equality.

Mr Andrews today said the No case folk such as himself should be "quite gracious" about the result.

But he continued to raise quibbles on religious freedom, at one point on Sky News reduced to insisting a gay baker could be excused from making a cake for a Christian heterosexual marriage.

That is the flimsy end of the debate, as weight-free as assertions the postal ballot was about school education and freedom of speech. In the national glow of the ballot survey, many look quite silly.

The Law Council today reminded MPs: "Australians have voted for marriage equality, they have not voted to erode anti-discrimination protections."

But they will continue to be pushed and Mr Turnbull will want to resist them or see his newly-granted authority overtaken by the sideshow of the debate.

Finally Mr Andrews said that while he would vote against it he expected the preferred draft legislation will pass. Not that nearly 60 per cent of the voters of Menzies, where Mr Andrews was elected with just 51 per cent of the vote last year.

Meanwhile, other opponents of SSM have emerged enhanced, at the top of the list Finance Minister Mathias Cormann who managed the ballot itself.

To the credit of him and the ABS it came out $22 million under budget and an unprecedented voice for 80 per cent of voters.

Topics:  editors picks marriage equality same sex marriage

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