POLITICS

Marriage Equality Proponents Are Considering A Boycott Which Would Let The 'No' Case Win

The 'yes' people are considering saying 'no' to the postal plebiscite.

10/08/2017 10:26 AM AEST | Updated 10/08/2017 12:39 PM AEST
Alex Ellinghausen/Fairfax
Labor Senator Sam Dastyari gives a kiss to Senator Derryn Hinch over a marriage equality themed cake.

CANBERRA -- The arguments against a postal plebiscite have been heard -- non-binding, wasteful, voluntary, non-representative and likely to lead to harmful campaigning. There's also an active constitutional question mark hanging over its $122 million head.

And now, marriage equality proponents are actively considering a boycott, an idea one Liberal MP has called a "spit in the eye" for democracy.

Labor's Senate Leader Penny Wong has on Thursday dismissed the postal plebiscite, to be funded through and run by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) using the mail-out services of Australia Post, as just a "postal survey".

And Labor's Sam Dastyari, who brought a marriage equality themed "Mr & Mr" rainbow cake to parliament on Thursday, is calling for young people to get involved before it is too late.

Instead of a free vote in parliament, a postal vote is now it is in play after the Wednesday's second defeat of the original plebiscite. At least one High Court challenge is being filed on Thursday. There may be more and advocates are canvassing a boycott should they fail. And it is a live option for the Greens to back them in that attempt to nobble the vote.

"It is something we have been discussing with stakeholders," Greens senator Peter Whish-Wilson told reporters in Canberra.

"I think it is very sad that we are seeing the LGBTI community so divided over the issue. I wonder whether this was part of the grand plan, part of the strategy, to divide and conquer the community.

"It is very important that they have this discussion. We won't be making any decision on this until we have actually consulted with them on it."

HuffPost Australia has also spoken to the office of Greens Leader Richard Di Natale to confirm the party's position.

Marriage equality advocates have not ruled out a boycott, but the voices are growing in its favour.

Describing it as a 'Mickey Mouse" proposal, former High Court judge Michael Kirby plans to boycott the postal vote with his partner of 50 years, Johan van Vloten.

It would be a rejection of the view, if you don't vote, they win.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull rejects any notion of a boycott.

"I encourage every Australian to exercise their right to vote on this matter," he said.

"It's an important question. Everyone will get an opportunity to have their say. We encourage everyone to have their say."

A disappointed Liberal MP Andrew Laming is urging everyone to vote in the post.

"For Australians to see that kind of conduct, a spit in the eye from the yes campaign is incredibly disappointing," he said.

"I will be urging Australians to vote however you feel on this issue, but not to boycott a plebiscite.

"If you find opening an envelope, filling out a form, putting a mark on it, sealing the envelope and posting it back as offensive, then I question whether you fully understand how democracy works."

HuffPost Australia asked Whish-Wilson is he was comfortable with a boycott leading to a "no" result.

"I won't comment on that. I think we will just leave it to the community and we will see where it goes," the Senator responded.

"But they know they have in the Greens Party, and always have had, complete and utter support to make sure we give them the chance to be just like any other Australian.

"Love is love. This is discrimination no matter what you call it, no matter your political, cultural or religious bent is on this, this is discrimination and absolutely in this day and age we need to fix it."

Independent senator and marriage equality supporter Derryn Hinch is urging the Greens not go through with a boycott.

"Even Mark Dreyfus has now started to say, 'We've lost this battle let's not lose the war'," he told reporters in Canberra.

"I hope the Greens don't tell people to boycott it."

He's not a fan of the postal vote by any means.

"The postal vote is rubbish. A lot of young people don't know what a letterbox is, or a mailbox. They deal on Twitter, they deal on text messages, they deal on Snapchat, they deal on emails," he said.

"If you are going to do this genuinely for all Australians they should put the postal vote on email, 'cause that is what heaps of people do."

Labor's Sam Dastyari is not backing a boycott.

"We will fight for equality in any forum in any way in any shape and any form," he told reporters in Canberra.

He is also concerned about young people being left disenfranchised.

"Frankly, this is a shit idea that increasingly gets shitter," he told reporters while handing out slices of cake.

"If we are going to go through this bad, dumb idea of a proposal, two questions that I want to ask is; Why on earth are we not allowing online voting? And secondly, why is this limited to people over 18?"

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