POLITICS

Mental Health 'Alarm' As The Major Parties Move On Postal Vote Hate Speech

Almost time to vote in the same-sex marriage survey, but where are the rules?

11/09/2017 10:38 AM AEST | Updated 14/09/2017 11:24 AM AEST
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A vote "Yes" mural supporting same-sex marriage adorns the side of a building in Sydney.

CANBERRA -- The usual rules covering elections don't apply to the non-binding, non-compulsory same-sex marriage postal vote being run by the Australian Bureau of Statistics -- and don't we already know it.

The campaign is on in earnest, but there have been TV advertisements with dubious, even erroneous claims and hateful, false posters appearing around Melbourne. And the ballots have not even arrived yet for the 16 million, or so, registered voters so they can have their say on Australia's Marriage Act.

Even on Monday, One Nation leader Pauline Hanson went unchallenged on Channel Seven's Sunrise program when she falsely raised the prospect of multiple marriages being the "next thing" parliament could implement.

What's happened so far is so concerning to the National Mental Health Commission that, on Monday, it released a statement expressing "alarm" at the detrimental mental health impacts of the marriage equality debate, particularly "damaging, emotive mistruths" being spread about (LGBTQ) people.

"LGBTIQ people have been experiencing damaging behavior in their workplaces, communities and in social and traditional media," the Commission's co-chair, Professor Allan Fels stated.

"The mistruths being expressed around marriage equality are making some people feel anxious and depressed," the Commission's co-chair Lucy Brogden said.

The key here is that this postal survey is not a normal election or referendum, hence the need for special legal safeguards.

With ballots due to be sent out from Tuesday, the Government and Opposition have spent the weekend -- and intend to finalise on Monday -- a deal to legislate to limit hate speech, intimidation and threats during the campaign.

Well, that is what Labor wants and the Shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus has told RN Breakfast he believes the Government will agree.

The acting Special Minister of State, Mathias Cormann, stated on Monday there should be measures to ensure there's "no misleading of Australians". He said "yes" and "no" advertisements would have to be properly authorised so voters know where it comes from.

"We want to provide fair opportunity for both sides of the argument through broadcasters to get their views heard," Cormann told Sky News.

"We want to ensure that there are no misleading of Australian in terms of how to fill out their survey form. A range of other provisions that would normally apply during election periods."

Both Cormann and Dreyfus expect legislation to be finalised by the end of the day and for it to be passed in both houses before the end of the week.

The campaigning is frustrating some in parliament, particularly those who want top be talking about anything else.

Deputy Prime Minister and Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce is not happy about the tone of the same-sex marriage campaign, telling reporters, "I don't want people standing at the corner yelling at me, telling me that if I don't agree with them, then I'm somehow less human than them. Just get out of my face".

But Nationals senator Matt Canavan has advised people not to be "delicate little flowers" over the marriage equality debate, telling Sky News, "Can we just all grow a spine and grow up? The debate has not been that bad".

"Indeed, if there is any complaints to be had, it is from those who advocate 'yes'. Some of the vile tweets and statements we've heard is from the 'yes' campaign. I can ignore that. Let's all stop being delicate little flowers and have a proper debate."

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