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(image via @fillinthegaps)

The strategy of the marriage equality opponents in the Coalition is to retain the conservative status quo at all costs, says Dr Martin Hirst.

THE OPPONENTS of marriage equality came a step closer to blocking the popular move yesterday when Liberal Party MPs decided by an overwhelming majority to stick to a policy of deflecting, pretending and ignoring good sense and common sense.

Good sense should have informed them that bringing the matter forward for a free conscience vote in both houses of Parliament is what the vast majority of Australians want them to do.

Common sense should have told them that sticking to the time-wasting and false "promise" of an expensive, but non-binding plebiscite on the issue would make Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull look weak, embolden his conservative opponents in the party and proven – once again – that the Liberals are a party of reaction, blocking and bigotry, not the hopeful, social progressives Malcolm desperately wants his dwindling band of supporters to believe in.

The position adopted 28 to 7 in the Liberals’ party room was to put the non-binding plebiscite position to the Senate again with the Plan B option being an even less legitimate non-compulsory and non-binding postal vote.

This strategy seems like a rotten compromise. It is. It represents Malcolm the Appeaser at his unprincipled worst. It is a terrible plan that has the fulsome support of all the opponents of same sex union. They are the real winners; everyone else, including Turnbull, is a loser.

Just take a moment to really think through what the Liberals endorsed last night:

  • Plan A represents an idea to the Senate that it has already rejected as unworkable, unnecessary and stupid, and which the ALP, the Greens and enough cross-benchers to sink it have already said they will block.
  • Plan B is to threaten a really awful Plan B – the postal vote – in an attempt to force reluctant senators to back Plan A ‘or else’.

It’s like holding a gun to your own head during a bank robbery while high on crack cocaine and threatening to shoot the puppy unless the bank-teller gives you all the five-cent pieces. And the bank-teller be like Mate, here’s all the rolls of zacs I’ve got. It comes to seven dollars, go buy an ice cream.

On what planet does that even begin to make sense? Only on planet KeepMyJobAtAnyPrice where Malcolm is king. Turnbull is so embarrassed by what happened last night he couldn’t even face the news media to tell them the truth — that his prime ministership is in desperate caretaker mode and that he is as weak as wizz.

According to media reports of the party room discussion, it was (no surprise) former PM Tony Abbott who led the argument that the Government should stick to its plebiscite policy. His reasoning was simple: the Liberals had taken the plebiscite "promise" to the last election and it must keep faith with the electorate and hold the line.

No, stop laughing. This is what he said – you can read details of his party room speech for yourself. For good measure, Abbott also accused Opposition Leader Bill Shorten of hypocrisy on the issue because Shorten once said, in passing, that a plebiscite wasn’t a bad idea.

As you can imagine, lots of people have been pointing out to Tony that he holds the Australian record for broken election commitments and when you open a dictionary in search of a working definition of "hypocrisy" the entry reads: See Abbott, A.

Abbott and his supporters, probably including the conservative rump still inside the Liberal Party, were the real winners of last night’s party room vote.

The outcome is consistent with Abbott’s only political modus operandi — hunt, kill, destroy. He doesn’t know how to build, develop an inclusive policy, or progress an issue. His whole political life has been based on wrecking and tearing down. Like many hardened far right-wingers, he only knows what he is against; he has no ideas about what kind of society he wants.

All he knows is that hate is effective in uniting the unthinking in support of the unthinkable.

The strategy of the marriage equality opponents in the Coalition is now clear: it has four legs and the hoped-for end result is to retain the conservative status quo at all costs.

Hold the line against a vote in Parliament that they can’t win. Flog the dead horse of the non-binding plebiscite and force the Senate to vote it down. Proceed to an illegitimate non-compulsory, nonbinding postal vote, which the anti-equality forces are geared up for and many people will boycott in disgust.

Claim a "No" vote as legitimate, even though it will be anything but and then try to kill off marriage equality until well after the next election.

Here’s a word to the wise for these hateful bigots. You are on the wrong side of history. Just stop it and get out of our way.

You can follow political editor Dr Martin Hirst on Twitter @ethicalmartini.

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