MEMBER for Mallee Andrew Broad has criticised Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull for poor leadership with his handling of the same-sex marriage bill.
Mr Broad, who was in Horsham on Wednesday, said Mr Turnbull could have been a unifying voice, but had instead failed to lead effectively.
“I had a conversation with the Prime Minister a while ago, and I said, ‘In the event the yes vote gets up – which I expected it would – have you got a bill that has brought Eric Abetz, Andrew Hastie and those on the one side, and Dean Smith and those on the other side together in a room to think through the issues?” he said
“I said, ‘How do you be a unifying voice, and recognise the Australian people have spoken and given a very clear direction that they want same-sex marriage to be legal, but also listen to the concerns of those who voted no and acknowledge that?’
“And he said, 'Ah no there's no need for that'.
"I said, 'This will be your undoing mate if you're not careful. You haven't read the politics – don't be dismissive of this idea, because our job is to become a unifying voice’.
"The three things people raise with me are, one, that a person does have a right to hold a view and express it – that's a basic right of being an Australian I think.
"The second thing is that it's a parent's right to decide how they bring up their child. So if there's something that's flagged to be taught in schools that parents don't want their child exposed to at that time, they should have the right to do that. That's fair and reasonable.
"Thirdly, is that if individuals put their hand in the pocket and donate to build something, such as a church, they should have the final say on what takes place in that facility.
"I think they are pretty basic freedoms that we should value.
"I think the Prime Minister could have been a unifying voice in this.”
Mr Broad said Wimmera and Mallee voters had given a clear direction on same-sex marriage and he would honour the results of the postal survey by voting for the bill when it is introduced to the House of Representatives next week.
However Mr Broad said he would also give voice to the concerns of the 46 per cent of those who did not vote yes.
"Unfortunately the way the process has gone is that instead of it being a bill that has brought people together, you've got a private members bill brought into the Senate without any consultation with the Nationals or some of the other Liberal members, and any attempts for amendments to address concerns people might have had have been railroaded,” he said.
"I think it's really poor leadership on the Prime Minister's part, and it doesn't unite Australians.
"It makes some people happy – but I'm not even sure that it makes all the people on the yes side happy.
"Some of those people also hold these freedoms.
“Some think the bill will just go through, we'll go to Christmas and it will all be forgotten.
“I think the bill will go through – and I’ll be voting for it – but I think a lot of people feel let down by the process.
"I think we're heading for an electoral landslide if we continue like that."
Mr Broad would not be drawn on whether Mr Turnbull was the right person to be Prime Minister.
"That's a decision for the Liberal party," he said.
"It's not even smart politics. Seven million people voted for same-sex marriage, and four million voted against.
"If 80 per cent of those seven million voted conservative at the next election, that's still not enough to win government.
"You have to be a unifying voice to win government.
"Australian people are very fair-minded and tolerant, and people in the Mallee are the same – what we want is to give voice to legitimate concerns but also uphold the decision as determined by the people."
The government has no formal position on the private member's bill, but has outlined an expectation that the law be changed by the end of the year.
The amendments put forward by various Coalition MPs – intended to strengthen religious exemptions – were knocked off by a grouping of Labor, Greens, crossbench and Liberal senators.
In September, Mr Turnbull said the legislation would contain protections for religious freedoms but the parliament would be charged with debating and amending it.
Mr Broad’s attack on the Prime Minister comes as Nationals MPs agitate for a commission of inquiry into the banking sector, a move that would risk destabilising the Turnbull government, which continues to resist an inquiry.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.