Could same sex marriage be the issue that rolls Abbott?

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Prime Minister Tony Abbott during a visit to Penrith

Opinion by Troy Dodds

Tony Abbott is losing his grip on power and his standing in the community is on shaky ground after his handling of the same sex marriage issue proved that he’s struggling to maintain a positive connection with the Australian people.

I point out from the top that I am in no way suggesting Bill Shorten is a better alternative.

Truth is there is very little to love about our political leaders at present.

Talking of love, it seems that same sex marriage is set to be a defining issue over the next 12 months.

This topic has constantly bubbled away in our federal political sphere over recent years but until now, it has never threatened to decide an election.

On the back of the expenses scandal that Mr Abbott handled poorly, it was clear that he needed to come out of the latest round of the same sex marriage debate looking like a true leader with his troops proudly behind him.

It hasn’t happened and Mr Abbott is in huge political trouble.

I’ve written before that I am a supporter of same sex marriage. I personally think it’s ludicrous that in 2015 we don’t allow two consenting adults who love each other to get married.

However, I’ve always maintained that those against changing our marriage laws in Australia are not evil monsters determined to ruin other people’s lives, and hence shouldn’t be battered from pillar to post.

Their opinion is no more or less valid than somebody who supports making a change.

That said, it seems that overwhelmingly there is support for a change to be made.

From a political point of view I believe Mr Abbott has misread the feelings of the Australian people on this issue and has, over the last week, only drifted further away from public confidence.

Tony Abbott with his daughters
Tony Abbott with his daughters

Take for example this comment last week: “I think I can say arising out of today is that if you support the existing definition of marriage between a man and a woman, the Coalition is absolutely on your side but if you would like to see change at some time in the future, the Coalition is prepared to make that potentially possible,” he said.

In other words: “Maybe”.

The above comment is, in my opinion, an attempt to play both sides of the argument in the hope that the issue will simply be put on the backburner again and get out of the headlines.

And what about these comments from the Prime Minister?

“There was a strong view in the party room today that if we were to drop the policy, even if we were to adjust the policy to the extent of having a free vote, a lot of people who voted for us were going to feel dudded.”

OK, so are we now declaring that election promises and policies are rock solid, can’t and won’t be broken and are locked in concrete for a government’s full term?

Hallelujah!

Same sex marriage in Australia is inevitable.

And I believe there is enormous potential for the man or woman who is Prime Minister at the time to be remembered in decades and centuries to come as somebody who led an historic and socially important change in this country.

For Mr Abbott, that ship has sailed. Even if same sex marriage does pass under his leadership, we all know he would have been dragged kicking and screaming to give his stamp of approval.

So where to from here?

My gut tells me that the same sex marriage debate will not go away, and could very well haunt the rest of Mr Abbott’s leadership.

The question is, how long will that leadership last? There is a school of thought that this issue could well be the catalyst for bringing down a Prime Minister. I tend to think that may well be the case.

Enter Malcolm Turnbull.

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