Marriage equality remains a point of contention between the two major parties. In the lead up to Saturday’s Federal Election, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has said he is confident that MPs will vote in favour of same-sex marriage if the public vote ‘yes’ in the proposed plebiscite. But the Opposition says the PM’s proposed plebiscite is a “taxpayer-funded platform for homophobia”.
In March, Prime Minister Turnbull refused to endorse Attorney-General George Brandis’ promise to hold a same-sex marriage plebiscite and change the Marriage Act “by the end of the year”. However, following pressure from the public, a $160 million national vote will be held.
The Government is yet to outline any details about when the plebiscite would take place, though it may occur as early as the end of this year. A public vote in favour of same-sex marriage is not binding, however, and any change to the Marriage Act would need Senate approval.
Mr Turnbull expects that the public will support same-sex marriage and that the issue will “see an overwhelming majority of MPs and senators voting for it.” He has said, however, that he will allow Coalition MPs to have a conscience vote in Parliament.
Despite being opposed to same-sex marriage, Treasurer Scott Morrison, along with Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce, have both promised to back same-sex marriage if the plebiscite vote is in favour.
“I’m happy to respect the decision that the country makes on this. If the plebiscite carries, then the legislation should pass. That’s my view. If the plebiscite does not carry, then I would expect that would be the end of the matter.” Mr Morrison said.
“I will follow the instructions of the Australian people,” Mr Joyce said on radio on Tuesday morning.
It may not be a done deal, however, with Mr Turnbull accused of downplaying concerns on the plebiscite by saying he was confident that if the public votes in favour, so would Parliament. “It will sail through, absolutely sail through,” he said.
Conservative Liberal senators Cory Bernardi, Eric Abetz and Zed Seselja are firmly against same-sex marriage, indicating that they will vote to keep the traditional definition of marriage as ‘between a man and a woman’, regardless of the plebiscite outcome.
Deputy Labor leader Tanya Plibersek has called the Coalition’s bluff, saying Mr Turnbull’s plebiscite was a pointless “taxpayer-funded platform for homophobia”.
“Why are we spending $160 million on an opinion poll that the Government is going to ignore?” she asked.
She promised that if Labor won on Saturday, legislation to legalise same-sex marriage would be introduced within 100 days of its winning.
Ms Plibersek’s sentiments were echoed by Greens leader Adam Bandt when he tweeted, “PM now says #equalmarriage plebiscite won’t even bind his MPs & they’ll have free vote. So why not just ditch plebiscite & vote on bill now?”
On Monday night, Tony Abbott’s former chief of staff Peta Credlin predicted that the “schism” in the Coalition over its same-sex marriage plebiscite could hurt Mr Turnbull’s chances of maintaining his prime ministership.
“I think it will be a very big schism inside the Liberal Party going back to territory of 2009,” she said.
She also pointed out that the Government has failed to announce “any plan B” if the plebiscite fails to pass.
“The Government might claim a mandate but if Labor block it and the Greens block it in the upper house, what is plan B?
“All you hear from government ministers is ‘we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it’,” she said.
What do you think? Is a Coalition government likely to vote in favour of same-sex marriage if the plebiscite passes? Would you like to see a public vote happen? Do you think we should save the $160 million and simply have Parliament do what its paid to do and vote on the same-sex marriage bill?