POLITICS

If The Plebiscite Is Still The Government's Policy, Why Has It Been Cut From The Budget?

The $160 million package has been re-assigned.

19/12/2016 1:34 PM AEDT | Updated 19/12/2016 4:23 PM AEDT
Alex Ellinghausen/Fairfax
Nowhere to be seen... the plebiscite funding has been re-assigned.

CANBERRA -- Just two days after the Prime Minister told The Huffington Post Australia that the same-sex marriage plebiscite was still government policy, the mid year budget update, released Monday, has confirmed the assigned funds have been scrapped.

The Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook (MYEFO) states the "Government will not proceeding with funding of $154 million in 2016-17 to conduct a plebiscite on same-sex marriage in February 2017".

The budget update states the reason for not proceeding with the plebiscite as inability to pass the Bill in parliament to conduct the plebiscite. It was scuttled by Labor in October, when the opposition combined with a majority of the Senate crossbench.

In an end-of-year interview with The Huffington Post Australia conducted last Thursday, Malcolm Turnbull insisted the proposal for a people's vote over a vote from parliamentarians was not a dead policy.

"Well the plebiscite remains the government's policy," Turnbull told HuffPost Australia. "Obviously we were not able to secure support of the senate and that was entirely due to Bill Shorten."

HuffPost Australia asked Turnbull if he, like Liberal MP Tim Wilson, had "discharged" his responsibilities on the plebiscite, but he stood by it as "our policy".

Labor has accused the Prime Minister of being "rolled" by the Treasurer Scott Morrison and the "extreme right" and urged him to move on.

"With the plebiscite dead, buried and cremated, there is now only one path to marriage equality available in the current Parliament – a free vote," said Labor's Mark Dreyfus and Terri Butler in a statement.

The Prime Minister was also asked by HuffPost Australia if he would support moderates in the Liberal Party who are reportedly pushing to bring on a free vote in parliament before the next election, but Turnbull stood firm.

"The party's position, the coalition's position is that the issue should be determined by a plebiscite and that policy remains," he stressed.

"If we thought the Senate would pass it, if Bill; Shorten called and said 'I have changed my mind', of course we would legislate for that."

MYEFO indicates the plebiscite is still a commitment and the parliament could pass legislation for a same sex marriage plebiscite in the future, but confirms the current allocation will be redirected by the government to "repair the budget".



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