“Tone” is the product of a representative democracy. The people who voted at the last federal election want gay marriage (apparently), but the people they voted (the Coalition MPs we voted for) do not. Abbott holds his power because of the people that we voted for.; those Coalition MPs that we elected. And, btw, many of the ALP members of parliament are not in favour of Gay marriage either. Instead of relying on the votes of these people (and the ALP members in the political opposition) to determine whether we get Gay marriage, Abbott has offered a nation wide plebiscite.
A nation wide plebiscite is a good thing, because instead of waiting for further political machinations (like the bill the greens introduced in 2009 that was rejected by the senate in 2010, or the bill introduced by the ALP in June 2015; both designed to embarrass the party in power at the time), we will get an answer to whether the voting population want gay marriage or not. And it will be binding..
A nation wide plebiscite is a bad thing, because despite protestations to the contrary, gay Marriage may not in fact be the vote winner that activists think it is. For example, the break down of submissions to the Joint Parliamentary Inquiry into the Marriage Equality Amendment Bill 2012 and the Marriage Amendment Bill 2012, had 177,663 respondents in favour of changing the law to recognise same-sex marriage, and 98,164 were opposed — A majority, for sure, but not quite the overwhelming support that activists would suggest. And it will be binding.
FWIW, my opinion is that marriage is an out dated institution designed around notions of patriarchy and religious control of how we live our lives. I don’t think the government should have any more control over it than it does over any other enforceable contract.