Pressure Mounts to Drop Plebiscite
Monday, 12th September 2016 at 2:46 pm
Pressure on the government to drop the marriage equality plebiscite is mounting as the opposition leader has introduced a private member’s bill to the lower house calling on the parliament to put the question of same-sex marriage to a vote.
Bill Shorten warned, as he introduced the bill on Monday, young, gay Australians could commit suicide over the plebiscite as they see the “legitimacy of their identity debated on the national stage”.
“A No campaign would be emotional torment for gay teenagers,” Shorten said.
“And if one child commits suicide over the plebiscite – then that is one too many, Mr Speaker.”
He said the true cost of a plebiscite was far greater than $160 million and it could cause “real harm”.
“Putting the question of marriage equality to a national vote, risks providing a platform for prejudice and a megaphone for hate-speech,” he said.
Shorten also warned delaying marriage equality left Australia lagging behind other countries.
“We are not just falling behind the rest of the world – 21 countries who we consider our legal, cultural and social peers – have already moved ahead of us,” he said.
“We are falling short of our national sense of self – the country we want to see in the mirror, the Australia we tell our children to believe in.
“How can we call ourselves the land of the fair go if we discriminate against our citizens on the basis of who they are and who they love.”
Shorten’s speech was followed by the introduction of a separate marriage equality bill by Greens MP Adam Bandt, co-sponsored by crossbenchers Cathy McGowan and Andrew Wilkie.
It comes as a new split has emerged within the Coalition over whether taxpayers should fund the Yes and No campaigns.
Conservative backbencher Senator Eric Abetz declared on Sunday that the Prime Minister had promised public funding for the respective campaigns and the plebiscite vote would not be “proper” if money was withheld.
Listen to Not for Podcast’s Purpose of Plebiscite to hear Senator Abetz and other politicians, academics, and advocates debate the issue of a plebiscite versus a free parliamentary vote.
He wants the government to spend at least $10 million for each case and said denying public money would breach the plebiscite deal the Coalition cut last year.
However Attorney-General George Brandis said there was no guarantee there would be funding provided.
Liberal MP Warren Entsch said any suggestion it was a decision made in the party room was “absolutely wrong”.
“There’s only one side of the debate calling for public funding (the No campaign)… this is the same side of the debate that has actually influenced a decision to have a plebiscite,” Entsch told ABC radio.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Brandis have said if there is government funding, each side would get the same amount.
Meanwhile, Australian Marriage Equality and campaign group GetUp have gathered more than 55,000 signatures for their petition calling for a free vote in parliament on same-sex marriage.
The petition, presented to the government in Canberra on Monday, criticised the “procedurally unnecessary” plebiscite but warned the longer marriage equality was put off, the more a message was sent that LGBTI people do not have equal rights.