AUSTRALIAN Marriage Equality (AME) have urged Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to reconsider his support for a marriage equality plebiscite after a Senate report published today that states marriage equality should be resolved “urgently” by a vote in Federal Parliament.
The Senate report, which was produced after an inquiry last week that saw cross-party senators gather to hear from several groups for and against marriage equality, also stated that a public vote of any kind on amending the federal Marriage Act to enable marriage equality is unnecessary.
[showads ad=MREC]“Whether the definition of marriage should be changed to encompass the union of two people, regardless of sex, is a matter which is squarely within the Parliament’s power to legislate,” the report reads.
The report concludes with: “The committee recommends that a bill to amend the definition of marriage in the Marriage Act 1961 to allow for the marriage between two people regardless of their sex is introduced into the Parliament as a matter of urgency, with all parliamentarians being allowed a conscience vote.”
The report also included comments by Coalition senators involved in last week’s inquiry who believe a “compulsory plebiscite” would be the “most democratic course of action in settling the marriage equality debate”, while also acknowledging it could be costly.
Victorian Greens Senator Janet Rice, who initiated the inquiry, backed the majority of the report, but said if there must be a plebiscite then parliament should strongly consider how it would be run and all aspects of conduct.
She also said it should be held at the next federal election.
“We firmly believe that appropriate parameters must be established around public advertising for the plebiscite and regulation of the media, including social media, appropriate limitations on campaigning, including the period of time under which campaigning is allowed, and really taking into account what the impact of campaigning could be on vulnerable people,” Rice told the Senate.
Just before the inquiry was held, the Victorian and NSW gay and lesbian rights lobbies released the results of a joint survey that confirmed 70 per cent of respondents were against a plebiscite.
The Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) has also said holding a plebiscite after the next election would cost $158.4 million, not including the public funding for either pro or against sides of the campaign. If it were to be during the election, the AEC estimated it would cost $44 million.
However, AME national director Rodney Croome has said the “Senate report makes it clear that the quickest, cheapest, least divisive and most appropriate way to deal with marriage equality is through a cross-party free vote on the floor of parliament”.
“In the light of this report, we call on Mr Turnbull to reconsider his support for a plebiscite after the election,” Croome added.
Croome said AME would continue to seek a meeting with Turnbull to put the case for him to act on marriage equality in this term of government.
“Should Mr Turnbull not shift position, we will focus our attention on making marriage equality a key issue at the next election, and ensuring that the next parliament supports marriage equality regardless of which party wins power,” Croome said.
Earlier this week, Turnbull confirmed that the Coalition under his leadership would continue to support a plebiscite on marriage equality, despite being a vocal supporter of the issue. He also previously stated his support for the Liberals to adopt a conscience vote in the lead-up to the Coalition party room meeting in August that rejected it.
To read the Senate report in full, click here.