Australian Prime Minster Tony Abbott has been defeated in a leadership vote within the last few minutes.Malcolm Turnbull ousted Abbott, with the Liberal Party voting 54-44 in favor of the new Prime Minister.
Prior to the vote, Turnbull said if he wins, he would allow MPs a conscience vote on marriage equality.
Abbott has been one of the major road-blocks to same-sex marriage in the country which is supported by around 70% of the population – including 88% of under-25s and 55% of over 55-year-olds.
Despite this, Abbott refused to allow his MPs a free vote on the issue – his only concession was to agree to a plebiscite or referendum after the next general election.
This would have cost millions of dollars and delayed the first marriages until 2017 or beyond.
Now Turnbull is likely to allow that free vote.
The nation’s leading campaign on the issue, Australian Marriage Equality, is to ask Turnbull for an early meeting to discuss a way forward.
‘Our preferred path forward remains a free vote in parliament this year,’ said Rodney Croome, the campaign’s director.
The gay marriage issue has become an ongoing challenge to the Liberal Party under Abbott and does seem to have an influence in today’s leadership vote.
But Turnbull’s approach to the economy, support for carbon trading schemes and leadership style appear to have been the key issues.
Abbott has faced months of bad opinion polls and came close to losing the leadership in February. And his conservative party, the Liberals, is not the only one plagued by leadership challenges. Both the last two Labour prime ministers, Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard, were ousted before the end of their term.