30/06/2016 3:13 PM AEST | Updated 15/07/2016 12:56 PM AEST

What The Major Parties Have Promised For Marriage Equality

Plebiscite or not to plebiscite.

Getty Images
Do the major parties agree?

Marriage equality has dominated the last week of the election with a Bill Shorten backflip and Malcolm Turnbull using his final address to pledge his support after a week of confusion.

So to clear a few things up, let's break down the commitment each party is vowing to keep if elected on Saturday.

There's basically three options they're choosing from. A conscience vote in Parliament, a plebiscite or a referendum.

A plebiscite and referendum are both options costing millions to get a national poll from the Australian people. The only difference between the two is the outcome of a referendum forces legislative change, while the plebiscite doesn't.

A conscience vote allows every politician in Parliament to vote individually, and the majority vote creates legislative change.

There's been very little talk of a referendum this election, with the major parties arguing over the plebiscite and conscience vote.

The Coalition

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is vowing to have a plebiscite if re-elected. This will cost $160 million in taxpayer funds, and last week it was revealed there was a "secret push" among conservative MPs and senators in the Coalition to allow politicians to vote in favour of the sentiment in their electorate over the national poll.

This sparked further debate over the issue. Turnbull has confirmed politicians are able to vote freely and are not bound by the plebiscite but it hasn't stopped journalists asking Coalition ministers whether they will vote in favour of the plebiscite outcome.

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce said he will vote in favour of the plebiscite outcome over his electorate, while Treasurer Scott Morrison said he would "respect" the vote, not clarifying whether this meant he would actually vote in favour of the national poll. This led to an extraordinary exchange between Morrison and Leigh Sales on the 7:30 Report (which you can read all about here).

But the Prime Minister has been very clear he and Lucy will vote for marriage equality in the plebiscite. Turnbull said he is confident the plebiscite will be in favour of marriage equality and the following conscience vote in Parliament will pass.

The Prime Minister has been criticised for bowing down to the right of his party, but Turnbull has refuted these suggestions for the entire campaign and in a final address at the National Press Club on Thursday delivered a thinly-veiled smackdown to anti-marriage equality conservatives (which you can read all about here).

"Lucy and I have been married for more than 36 years and.. we have no doubt that if same-sex couples were able to describe or formalise their relationship as a marriage, we have no doubt that would not undermine or affect in any way adverse way our relationship, our marriage," Turnbull said.

"The truth of the matter is that the key to marriage is commitment. The threat to marriage is obviously lack of commitment, cruelty, desertion, all of those things."

So with the Coalition, you get a plebiscite and then a conscience vote in Parliament.


Labor leader Bill Shorten has been vowing to get a same sex marriage bill through Parliament in the first 100 days if Labor are elected.

Shorten was open to a plebiscite during the 2013 election, which The Australian revealed this week. The Labor leader said his change of heart occurred after seeing the hate speech against LGBTI people in Ireland during the marriage equality referendum in 2015, and now believes taxpayer funds are better spent elsewhere.

"Why don't we just get parliament to get on and do their job, rather than kicking $160 million taxpayer funded [plebiscite]," Shorten said on the Today Show.

Shorten put a marriage equality bill to Parliament in May 2015.

So with Labor, you get a vote in Parliament.

The Greens

The Greens have long been advocates of marriage equality, and this election is no different.

Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young first put a marriage equality bill to Parliament in 2008, and the party has been campaigning for same-sex marriage since then.

So with The Greens, you get a vote in Parliament.

An Important Point To Note

This week Tony Abbott's former chief-of-staff said if the Coalition were re-elected, they would struggle to get the first bill enabling a plebiscite through Parliament. Credlin said the Greens and Labor could easily block it.

Now there is no way to tell what will happen, and it really comes down to how much the other parties want same-sex marriage legalised -- even if it's not exactly the way they wanted it to play out.

But that's politics. Compromise.