AUSTRALIA has voted "yes" to gay marriage, senior Turnbull Government insiders last night predicted ahead of the official outcome to be released today.
As key frontbenchers and backbenchers expressed unofficial cautious jubilation, several conservatives against gay equality were last night planning tactics to "help save" traditional marriage.
It comes as Queenslander Cabinet Minister Matt Canavan told The Courier-Mail yesterday he was not convinced traditional marriage proponents had lost the debate and was last night hoping for a no vote.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics will release the outcome of the eight million votes at 9am Queensland time, breaking the vote down to electorate level, meaning parliamentarians will face pressure to mirror their constituents' wishes when a private member's bill is introduced today.
West Australian Senator Dean Smith yesterday gave notice he would move for his private member's Bill on gay marriage to be introduced today and debated from tomorrow.
It is understood the Government, which does not support a rival bill with further protections for those against gay marriage, wants potential amendments to Senator Smith's Bill put forward in the Senate - so it can be ticked and flicked in the House of Representative within the next fortnight.
Conservative and former Abbott minister Eric Abetz said extra protection was needed.
"The unfortunate history in the United Kingdom and elsewhere is, and we've got to real life example, with a Jewish girls school in the United Kingdom having its registration threatened because it was not willing to teach to primary school girls the homosexual agenda and the transgender agenda that the government thought was now appropriate given that same-sex marriage had been legislated in the United Kingdom,'' Senator Abetz told Sky News yesterday.
"And to suggest that it won't happen, with respect, is to ignore history, the recent events in a very similar country and constituency like our own namely the United Kingdom.
"A definite example that cannot be pushed aside and we've got to protect against this and if Senator (Simon) Birmingham is of that view (that is a false premise), he will have no difficulty in supporting Senator (James) Paterson's legislation, which would guarantee that which he promises.
Malcolm Turnbull, who has returned to Australia after overseas summits, said yesterday there was no need for extra safeguards that would embolden discrimination against gay Australians.
"I don't believe Australians would welcome, and certainly the government would not countenance the making legal discrimination that is unlawful today," Mr Turnbull said.
"The fact is that assuming there is a Yes vote - the pollsters will really be rocked if there isn't - but assuming there is there will be a private-member's bill and amendments could be moved and if people want to move an amendment of that kind, well they can."
"It is under my Prime Ministership that all Australians have been given a say on this issue and if the answer is Yes then, as I promised, there will be a free vote and that means that you will have members of my party taking different views to members of the same party and ditto on the Labor side. That is what a free vote means," he said.
Shana Engelhart and Tania Veivers will be waiting with bated breath this morning, hoping to hear one word that could change their lives forever - yes.
The same-sex couple have been together more than two years and say the triumph of the yes vote would mean the world to them.
"Marriage is definitely on the cards if it's a yes," Ms Veivers said.
"I'm pretty excited about the result. I'm feeling very optimistic."
Shana and Tania met during a cycling course in Brisbane more than two years ago and now share a home in Nundah with their black Labrador Alex.
"I love everything about (Shana)," Ms Veivers said.
"She's strong and giving and extremely caring and I love her to bits.
"We have spoken about getting married."
Ms Veivers said it would be life-changing to see same-sex marriage become legal in Australia.
"We just want to be entitled to have what everyone else takes for granted," she said.
Ms Engelhart said she hoped a yes vote would lead to wider acceptance of the LGBTI community.
"It's not just so much the right to get married," she said.
"It's one step forward in erasing that discrimination which I think all of us from the LGBTI community have experienced.