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ACTU Speaks Out in Opposition to Plebiscite


Wednesday, 17th August 2016 at 5:00 pm
Wendy Williams
The Australian Council of Trade Unions has spoken out in favour of same sex marriage for the first time, calling on the prime minister to hold a free parliamentary vote.

Wednesday, 17th August 2016
at 5:00 pm
Wendy Williams


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ACTU Speaks Out in Opposition to Plebiscite
Wednesday, 17th August 2016 at 5:00 pm

The Australian Council of Trade Unions has spoken out in favour of same sex marriage for the first time, calling on the prime minister to hold a free parliamentary vote.

Gay couple holding hands getting married

The ACTU executive, which is meeting in the Northern Territory this week ahead of the 50th anniversary of the Wave Hill walk-off, passed a motion on Tuesday in favour of same sex marriage and opposing the proposed plebiscite.

It marks the first time the peak union body, which represents 46 unions made up of almost two million Australian workers, has taken a stance on the issue, following long-standing opposition from one of its largest members, the Shop Distributive and Allied Employees’ Association.

ACTU secretary Dave Oliver told Pro Bono Australia News the trade union movement had “a proud record of standing up for equality” and believed that principle should be reflected in law.

“The $160 million allocated to a plebiscite could be better spent providing training to young unemployed workers, restoring refuge services for the victims of domestic violence or putting back funding that was stripped out of much-needed community legal services,” Oliver said.

“Moreover, the ACTU believes that a plebiscite will lead to vilification and the ACTU executive has called on the government to have a free vote on this issue.”

The new motion states that “all people in Australia must be treated equally by the law”.

It called on the government to allow a free vote on marriage equality in a bid to avoid, what it called  “a divisive and costly” plebiscite and “provide an opportunity for our elected representatives to ensure equal rights for all couples regardless of their gender”.

The resolution noted the marriage equality plebiscite was non-binding, costly and “would in effect result in significant public vilification of a wide range of people, including the children of same-sex couples, and have no more legal standing than an opinion poll”.

It also cited that the Labor party was committed to marriage equality, that same-sex marriage was supported by 58 per cent of the population, and that the US and UK already allow “the right of same-sex couples to equal recognition of their relationships”.


Wendy Williams  |  Editor  |  @WendyAnWilliams

Wendy Williams is a journalist specialising in the not-for-profit sector and broader social economy. She has been the editor of Pro Bono News since 2018.


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