Australian PM Malcolm Turnbull has been accused of trying to kick same-sex marriage into the long grass again – by refusing to clarify a timetable for a public vote.

Even though a majority of MPs are in favour of equality, Coalition PM Malcolm Turnbull has refused to allow a free Parliamentary vote – instead calling for a public ‘plebiscite’ which will stall the issue until after the next election.

The government’s Attorney General George Brandis appeared to confirm over the weekend that the marriage vote would be held “before the end of this year”, adding: “If there were to be a Yes vote, the government would legislate with effect to the wishes of the people.”

Asked to clarify whether he could confirm the plebiscite will be before the end of the year, he added: “That is what we have in mind to do, yes.”

However, the comments have been contradicted by Prime Minister Turnbull, who poured cold water on his own minister’s timetabling.

A spokesperson for Mr Turnbull declined to commit to the vote being this year, adding that it would be held “as soon after the election as can be done”.

Rodney Croome of the Australian Marriage Equality said: “If the government allowed a free vote in parliament we could have marriage equality next week rather than delaying until the end of the year by putting the issue to an expensive and unnecessary plebiscite.

“But if there is to be a plebiscite the result should automatically change the law and not return to parliament for further debate and delays.”