Penny Wong's electric speech as Abbott calls for 'No' vote
AUSTRALIA will now get a postal vote on gay marriage after the government's second attempt to hold a traditional plebiscite was killed off in the Senate today.
Labor, the Greens and crossbench senators from the Nick Xenophon Team voted to block the plebiscite, which failed on a tie at 31 votes to 31.
Before the vote, Labor Senator Penny Wong gave a heartfelt personal speech about what a public debate on same-sex marriage will be like for LGBTI Australians.
The fired-up Labor senator blasted the Coalition over its bid to have a plebiscite, or even a postal plebsicte, in Parliament today saying it was nothing but an expensive stunt which would hurt the gay community.
Meanwhile, former Prime Minister Tony Abbott's sister Christine Forster has hit back at his call for the public to vote 'No' to protect religious freedoms and "stop political correctness in its tracks".
"Have a read of some of the things which are said about us and our families and then come back here and tell us this is a unifying moment," Senator Wong said.
"The Australian Christian Lobby described our children as 'the stolen generation'.
"We love our children, and I object - as does every person who cares about children and as do all those same-sex couples in this country who have kids - to being told that our children are a 'stolen generation'."
"You talk about unifying moments? That's not a unifying moment.
"It's exposing our children to that kind of hatred."
Senator Wong said the plebiscite was simply a stunt for conservative Liberals to delay a vote in Parliament because the could "never countenance people like me, and others, being equal".
Her comments come after Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull yesterday insisted Australia could have a respectful debate while announcing the government planned to hold a postal vote if its second attempt at a plebiscite failed.
ABBOTT FAMILY CLASH
Tony Abbott's sister Christine Forster has hit back at his call for Australians to vote 'No' to protect free speech, religious freedom and "stop political correctness in its tracks".
The former prime minister fired the first shot this morning in what will be a fierce public battle over coming weeks as Australia prepares to vote on whether to make same-sex marriage legal.
"Obviously I will be voting no, but in the end this is not about the politicians, this is about the people, it's about your view," Mr Abbott told reporters outside Parliament this morning.
"And I say to you if you don't like same-sex marriage, vote 'No,'" he said.
"If you're worried about religious freedom and freedom of speech, vote 'No', and if you don't like political correctness, vote 'No' because voting 'No' will help to stop political correctness in its tracks."
Ms Forster responded by urging Australians to vote 'Yes' if they valued mutual respect.
"If you value mutual respect: vote yes. If you want all Australians to be equal: vote yes. If you believe in free speech: vote yes," she wrote on Twitter.
Ms Forster, who has been engaged to her partner Virginia Edwards since 2013, also said: "If you want the person you love to be in every sense a part of your family: vote yes."
It comes after Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull yesterday announced a postal plebiscite would be held from September to November, if the government was unable to secure a traditional plebiscite in Parliament this week.
Assistant Minister for Immigration Alex Hawke echoed Mr Abbott's concerns about religious freedoms today.
"This view overseas, this degeneration we've seen, where people are suing people for their lifelong religious beliefs is part of political correctness gone crazy - we don't want to see that here," Mr Hawke told Sky News.
But if the public voted overwhelmingly to legalise gay marriage, Mr Abbott said he would respect the result.
"The whole point of going to a people's vote rather than just a politicians' vote is to get an absolutely authoritative result and that is, I believe, what we will get, an absolutely authoritative result which will decide this matter once and for all."
Marriage equality lobbyist Tiernan Brady, executive director of The Equality Campaign, said Mr Abbott's comments were designed to deliberately deceive the public.
"When you know the Australian people don't agree with you, you try to deceive them about what the issue is," Mr Brady said.
He confirmed marriage equality lobbyists were seeking advice on whether the Coalition's postal plebiscite plan was legal.
Mr Abbott praised the Turnbull Government for ensuring the public would get to have their say, whether through a compulsory plebiscite or a postal vote.
Former Prime Minister John Howard also said last night the government had "done the right thing" by proposing a postal plebiscite.
A postal vote on gay marriage is all but certain to go ahead next month but the Turnbull Government will make a last-ditch effort today to hold a compulsory plebiscite.
Finance Minister and Acting Special Minister of State Mathias Cormann will reintroduce a bill for the traditional plebiscite to the Senate but it is not expected to pass.
Labor, the Greens and most crossbench senators have signalled they will block the bill for a second time after quashing the plebiscite initially in November.
Ballots are expected to start arriving in mailboxes across Australia by September 12 for the postal vote if the traditional plebiscite option fails.
Attorney-General George Brandis last night said he expected gay marriage would be legal by Christmas.