Infuriated Liberal MP Warren Entsch has hit out at what he says are “veiled threats” in the media, as the Coalition’s split on same-sex marriage widens amid claims MPs are being “intimidated” in an effort to stop them crossing the floor.
Mr Entsch is one of a group of Liberals calling for the Coalition to allow a conscience vote on same-sex marriage when Parliament resumes next week.
In response to that push, Queensland LNP president Gary Spence has written to party members saying he is “disappointed that views that do not accord with the party’s policy have been aired publicly”.
“I am equally disappointed that members elected under the LNP banner have chosen to take a position that defies LNP policy and the wishes of the LNP’s membership,” Mr Spence said.
That has infuriated Mr Entsch, who phoned Mr Spence last night and told him he would not be silenced.
“I have every right to be able to express a view,” he said.
“I have every right to vote according to my conscience.
“I am not going to be dictated to. If they don’t like it — as I said to the president last night – disendorse me.
“I am not making threats, they are the ones making threats against me.
“I just said to him, mate don’t threaten me — do it, pull it on, bring it on.”
Mr Entsch is also angry because he says anonymous threats have been made in the media against people, including himself, who support changing the law to allow same-sex couples to marry.
He said some people would declare any change to be “the end of the world and we are all the anti-Christ”.
He defended his Liberal colleague Trevor Evans, who has also advocated for same-sex marriage.
“Veiled threats have clearly been made by anonymous sources,” he said.
“If you are going to make those sort of threats, put your name to it and have the courage to stand up for what you claim to believe in.”
Mr Entsch said he told Mr Spence of his real “disappointment and anger that this was also targeted at first-term members in an effort to intimidate them”.
“Members should not be intimidated one way or other in relation to how they do their job,” he said.
“They do it as they deem it to be appropriate.”
The long-serving Liberal MP declared that the pressure would not work.
“It is not going to distract or deter people that are committed to making this happen,” Mr Entsch said.
“We are being honest about this, there has been no surprise. I have been working on this issue now for well over a decade.
“I am proud to say that I am doing it. I am not going to back off on it.”
Mr Entsch again rejected the LNP policy which is for a plebiscite, or national ballot.
“If we are going to start this, why on earth have we got a Parliament?” he asked.
“We just shut the place down and we do everything by plebiscite. It is just a nonsense.”
Mr Entsch predicted there would be a robust discussion on the issue in the party room when MPs return to Canberra next week.
Despite Mr Entsch pushing for the conscience vote, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull insisted this morning the Coalition remains committed to a plebiscite.
“That is the commitment that we took to the election and that remains our policy,” he told Triple M Albany.