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.
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.
The message to the government was clear – just get on with a free vote. Don’t put LGBTI Australians through a painful, unnecessary and expensive plebiscite.
Prime Minister Turnbull needs to explain why the government has made a screeching reversal on its funding allocation for a plebiscite – is he planning on proceeding with Peter Dutton’s ridiculous idea of a postal vote plebiscite? If not, why bring the funding back to the budget?
Bringing back funding for the plebiscite also confirms that Prime Minister Turnbull and Senator Brandis have no idea what the Australian people want on marriage equality. They ditched the idea of a plebiscite long ago – the government should too.
Labor went to the last election with a clear and unambiguous policy that if elected, we would introduce legislation to make marriage equality a reality across our nation within the first one hundred days of government.
After listening to concerns from the LGBTI community about the harm that could be done by a plebiscite, Labor voted it down, while continuing to lobby for a free vote on marriage equality in the Parliament.
Labor remains committed to a parliamentary vote on marriage equality, and we will continue to advocate for a free vote.
A recent consensus report on proposed marriage equality legislation, agreed to by Coalition, Greens, Nick Xenophon Team and Labor Senators, has paved the way for marriage equality.
The Senate Select Committee on the Exposure Draft of the Marriage Amendment (Same-Sex Marriage) Bill, chaired by Liberal Senator David Fawcett, reached agreement on several difficult issues, including:
Ministers of religion should be able to refuse to marry same-sex couples;
Civil celebrants should be required to uphold the law and marry same-sex couples if marriage equality is legalised in Australia;
A separate category of “Religious Marriage Celebrant” should be created to allow marriage celebrants performing religious ceremonies to refuse to marry same-sex couples; and
That any exemptions for religious bodies and organisations in relation to same-sex weddings should be precisely defined.
The achievement of agreement on difficult issues such as exemptions for religious ministers opens the way for bipartisan legislation to be put to Parliament so that we can finally have marriage equality in Australia.
This consensus report was welcomed by Australians for Equality (A4E) & Australian Marriage Equality (AME).
This report brings marriage equality a step closer. All that is needed now is for new legislation to be drafted, taking into account the committee’s recommendations, and introduced to Parliament with a free vote.
Labor is willing to work with the government to make this happen. It is time to get on with making marriage equality a reality in Australia.