POLITICS

Same-Sex Marriage: Where The Hell Is It At?

The Turnbull Government has now committed to a parliamentary vote this year.

08/08/2017 11:40 AM AEST | Updated 08/08/2017 12:58 PM AEST

CANBERRA -- The Turnbull Government has laid out a path for a parliamentary vote on marriage equality this year after the options of a plebiscite and a postal plebiscite have been expended. And it is likely to cost $122 million.

"Strong leaders keep their promises, weak leaders break them. I am a strong leader," Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said announcing the renewed effort towards a people's vote.

At a joint government party room meeting on Tuesday, the Liberals and National MPs and Senators were advised that the government has set November 25th as the new date for a compulsory plebiscite.

Essential enabling legislation will be be submitted for a second time to the senate this week. Liberal MP Warren Entsch told HuffPost Australia that public finding for the "yes" and "no" campaigns will be taken out.

It will fail and then voting will start in five weeks on legally questionable postal plebiscite with ballots to be returned by November 7.

Turnbull said the pursuit of the plebiscite as government policy was about trust.

"Fundamental to political leadership is integrity and trust," he told reporters in Canberra. "We all know what happens to governments that break their promises. We all remember Julia Gillard's "There will be no carbon tax under the government I lead" and how she broke that promise and what followed. Now, we've made a very clear commitment here and we are sticking with it."

When the legislation fails, as those who opposed it last November, Labor, the Greens and Senators Derryn Hinch, Nick Xenophon and Jacqui Lambie, have not changed their minds, the government will move to the option of a postal plebiscite.

It would be run by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) at an estimated cost of $122 million.

This will be backed by a free vote in parliament by the end of 2017.

"If there's a "yes" vote recorded in the postal vote then we will facilitate the introduction of a private members bill to legalise same-sex marriage," Turnbull said. "And if there is a no vote we will not."

Legal advice obtained by marriage equality advocates insist a postal plebiscite is unconstitutional as it requires, like the original plebiscite proposal, enabling legislation to fund it. They describe it as a "truly ridiculous idea".

But the Prime Minister said on Tuesday he was confident that a postal plebiscite would withstand any legal challenge, "We are confident. We have legal advice."

Ballots will soon be sent out, with the last day for the return of ballots being November 7. This will then facilitate a follow up free vote in parliament.

The pressure is now on the Senate.

The government is going through the motions, insisting it is keeping a 2016 election promise despite many other promises broken, by trying a second time to get the enabling legislation for a plebiscite through parliament.

What is wrong with a popular vote when it is all about the people having a say? It is viewed as non-binding, non-compulsory, non-representative, wasteful (a cost of $170 million) and the expected heated "yes" and "no" campaigns could cause serious harm to the well-being of LGBTQ people.

Contentious, emotionally charged issues like euthanasia and abortion have not gone to a popular vote. Advocates, like Liberal Senator Dean Smith, insist using a plebiscite sets a dangerous precedent in removing parliament from the responsibility of dealing with important issues.

What is wrong with a postal plebiscite, when it is all about the people having a say? All of the above plus it could be unconstitutional and will be slapped with a legal challenge as soon as it is launched. As well young people are expected to be unlikely to not use the post. Warren Entsch expects the turnout to be 30 to 40 per cent.

There are still few details on what a postal plebiscite will entail.

The legal advice the government has sought over a postal plebiscite has, as yet, not been released.

If a legal challenge fails, what happens next? Will advocates refuse to campaign?

What happens if not everyone receives a ballot?

Is there ever an end to this?

Conservative MP and Assistant Treasurer Michael Sukkar expects a "no" vote to be returned in a postal plebiscite and he wants parliament bound by that outcome.

Sukkar has described a plebiscite as the "only way forward" and the "middle ground". Liberal MP Andrew Laming also expects a "no" vote as far more likely.

But marriage quality advocates, like Alex Greenwich the Co-Chair of Australian Marriage Equality, just want parliamentarians to do their job.

"I thinks Australians are disappointed by the government's response. It was not a response to resolve marriage equality," he told HuffPost Australia. "The only way to resolve it is vote in parliament. That is what we are going to redouble our efforts to seek to achieve."

Greenwich said some in the government just want to "delay, delay, delay," but he is urging them to consult properly with the Australian community which overwhelmingly supports same-sex marriage.

"At some point in their term are they actually going to do their job or are they going to continue to weaken the role of parliament by keeping on coming up with desperate policies on the run like plebiscites," he said.

"For ten years polls have shown a majority, the only way to achieve it is a vote in parliament. It is time for the government to do its job."

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