OUTSPOKEN Coalition MP for Bowman Andrew Laming has responded to criticisms of his electorate-wide postal survey on marriage equality, which he plans to use to determine his position in the event a free vote is granted to Coalition MPs.
Laming has offered a firm commitment around the survey result, saying on social media: “If a conscience vote on same-sex marriage is secured, I commit to voting in Parliament according to the verdict in this survey.”
Voters in the seat took to Laming’s Facebook page, some to express their support and some their disapproval of his idea, and to vent frustration at perceived problems with the survey.
Speaking to the Star Observer, the one-time vocal critic of prime minister Tony Abbott said that he wanted to take the “important” issue of same-sex marriage to his electorate because of its nature as a matter of conscience.
“This is the first time I’ve so clearly committed with the will of my electorate… if people choose not to compete the poll it’s their problem, and those who care enough will complete it,” Laming said.
“It’s a personal conscience issue and not a party political one, so [the difference] about same-sex marriage is that I’m prepared to reflect my electorate’s conscience whatever the outcome of the survey.”
Critics on social media and at a recent pro-marriage equality rally in Brisbane have questioned why Laming didn’t form his opinion based on numerous opinion polls over the past few years indicating growing public support for same-sex marriage.
“None of those polls are focused directly on my electorate — I’ve held previous surveys on the issue in Bowman and the opposing votes have narrowly won,” he said.
“Self evidently the views in bowman aren’t the same in Australia.”
Those same critics have questioned Laming’s use of physical paper ballots rather than phone polling to gather community feedback, arguing that it disadvantages younger voters, and that the style of the survey resembles “junk mail” and may have been subsequently thrown out.
“Phone polls can skew results based on the organisations conducting it because of the potential political bias in the questioning,” Laming said.
“The mail-out poll has no political bias as it’s a very simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to whether someone is in favour of same-sex marriage.
“We chose the option of a paper ballot option that to ensure that it will go to every household.”
Another major criticism of the survey is that only one paper form is mailed out to a single address, with some arguing that it doesn’t provide an accurate representation of multi-person households.
Laming said that mailing out one form per address was a financial decision based on feasibility.
“If you conduct single surveys the costs become $90,000 cost to send out, and that obviously doubles with postage-paid return,” he said.
“That just would have been too much.”
Laming apologised for publishing a photo of some returned polls on his Facebook page, which indicated a running tally.
One person responded, accusing him of potentially influencing the poll’s outcome.
“Mate, you are correct. I only just noticed. We wont be doing progress scores from now on,” Laming wrote in response.
Over 100 Bowman and Brisbane residents attended a pro-marriage equality rally held last Saturday along with state and federal political representatives from Labor and the Greens. Laming was scheduled to appear but cancelled, citing work commitments.
“There was disappointment in the crowd that Andrew Laming was unable to attend at the last minute due to work commitments,” Rally organiser Adele Fisher told the media.
Fisher urged voters in Bowman to fill out Laming’s survey to ensure that those in support of same-sex marriage are able to share their views with the MP.
“Statistically speaking, the majority of Australians support marriage equality so I can’t see why Redlands would be any different,” she said.
Some voters reported on Laming’s social media of not yet receiving a copy of the survey but the MP assured the survey was being gradually rolled out across all suburbs within Bowman and asked those who felt they missed out to contact his office.
The electorate of Bowman comprises the suburbs to the east of Brisbane, including Capalaba, Cleveland, Redland Bay, Birkdale, Thorneside, Alexandra Hills, Thornlands, Mount Cotton, Cornubia, Ormiston, Wellington Point and Victoria Point.