Plebiscite ‘Back from the Dead?’
Thursday, 11th May 2017 at 8:51 am
The allocation of funding in Tuesday’s federal budget for the controversial marriage equality plebiscite – killed off by the Senate last year – has raised eyebrows and concerns among advocacy groups.
Co-chair of Australian Marriage Equality, Alex Greenwich said: “The budget allocation of $170 million in contingency funds for a rejected plebiscite is a waste of taxpayers money when the Parliament has already said ‘no’. [The government] has the power to allow marriage equality now.
“The majority of the nation and the majority of MPs support marriage equality. It is a straightforward reform that takes from no one but ensures every Australian is afforded the same dignity and respect.
“A vote in the Parliament has the added bonus of being free and at no cost to the Australian people while extending civil marriage to all Australians.”
In November 2016 the plebiscite proposal was voted down in the Senate with Labor, the Greens, the Nick Xenophon Team and Derryn Hinch joining to defeat the bill with 33 votes to 29.
The result came amid warnings from Attorney-General George Brandis that voting against the plebiscite would delay same-sex marriage in Australia for years to come.
He called Labor’s decision to vote against the plebiscite “one of the more cynical exercises in politics” that he had ever seen.
Budget Paper No 1 released on Tuesday said: “The Australian government remains committed to a plebiscite in relation to same-sex marriage, despite the Senate not supporting the Plebiscite (Same-Sex Marriage) Bill 2016. To this end, the Australian government will provide $170 million to conduct a same-sex marriage plebiscite as soon as the necessary legislation is enacted by the Parliament.”
Executive director of the Equality Campaign, Tiernan Brady said: “Despite a note in the budget papers the plebiscite is still dead – Parliament killed it.
“Marriage equality supporters in Parliament have confirmed that their position is not changing.”
However, the federal opposition warned that the government had brought the marriage equality plebiscite “back from the dead”.
“Despite explicitly banking more than $100 million in savings for not proceeding with the marriage equality plebiscite in last year’s mid-year economic and fiscal update, $170 million in funding for the marriage equality plebiscite has reappeared in the 2017-18 budget as a contingency measure,” deputy opposition leader Tanya Plibersek said.
“The marriage equality plebiscite was always a terrible idea, which was met with strong opposition from the LGBTI community, the majority of Australians, and Australian Labor. It was comprehensively defeated in the Senate.
“Prime Minister Turnbull needs to explain why the government has made a screeching reversal on its funding allocation for a plebiscite.”
A spokesperson for Brandis told Pro Bono News the plebiscite on marriage equality was a coalition policy that went to an election but was voted down by the Senate.
“It is still, in essence, a policy of the government and the funding is there as a contingency,” the spokesperson said.