MARRIAGE equality advocates are calling on Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to ditch the $160 million plebiscite after it was placed in the budget contingency fund.

“It’s absurd that after harping on for years about a so-called budget emergency the Liberals are progressing with a $160 million plebiscite on marriage equality,” Australian Greens Senator Robert Simms said.

“Now for the first time we are seeing this costly plebiscite factored into the budget. Australians want marriage equality and they want to see this matter dealt with by the parliament.

“Mr Turnbull could easily inject $160 million back into the budget bottom line by dropping the plebiscite and allowing his members a free vote in the parliament. Public money should not be used to facilitate a hate campaign against the LGBTI community.”

Australian Marriage Equality (AME) national director Rodney Croome said equality should not cost Australians anything.

“The Budget has confirmed just how costly a plebiscite will be, and how wasteful given Parliament could pass marriage equality tomorrow. Corporate, political and religious leaders, and mental health experts, have all raised concerns about a plebiscite,” he said.

“We call on the Government to drop its plan for an expensive and unnecessary plebiscite and spend this money on essential services instead.

“Regardless of who wins the next election we need to build support in the community and parliament, and in the lead up to the next election.”

Croome said the AME will be running campaigns in more than 30 seats across Australia to convince candidates and communities to support marriage equality.

“If the Coalition remains committed to a plebiscite and is returned to government we will run a ‘yes’ campaign that unites Australians behind a reform that reflects our nations’ values of fairness and equality,” he said.

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