Pledge to hold marriage equality vote in Australia this year downplayed by PM

The country's Attorney-General earlier suggested a plebiscite would be held before the end of 2016

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Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. Image: Carolyn Kaster / AP/Press Association Images

The Australian prime minister has moved to distance himself from a pledge that the country would hold a public vote on marriage equality this year.

Speaking to Sky News earlier, Australian Attorney-General George Brandis said the government will be heading into an upcoming federal election "promising a plebiscite before the end of the year".

Depending on the outcome of the vote, Mr Brandis added that the government would also plan to legislate for any changes to marriage law before the end of 2016.

However, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has now moved to downplay the pledge to hold a plebiscite in 2016.

While reiterating the government's intention to hold a vote on marriage equality, a spokesperson for prime minister said it would happen 'as soon after the election as can be done.'

The country's Labor party leader criticised the 'division' in the government over a potential timeline, suggesting that "this is a new land speed record for a broken promise - made over breakfast and gone before dinner".

It comes only a day after Mr Turnbull became the first sitting prime minister to attend Sydney Mardi Gras, where Panti Bliss represented Ireland.

Opinion polls have suggested that more than 70% of Australians are in favour of legalising same-sex marriage.