Australia equal marriage vote could cost country ‘billions’
Experts say the vote would cost at least half a billion dollars.
A public vote on same-sex marriage would cost Australia $A525m (£275.5m; $396m), according to a new report.
Australia’s government intends to hold a non-binding plebiscite on whether to allow same-sex marriage – although a date is yet to be scheduled.
The Australian Electoral Commission previously estimated the cost of running the plebiscite at A$158m.
However, research conducted by accounting firm PwC said this figure was far too low, as it did not allow for “total economic costs”.
The report also claims that a stand-alone plebiscite on a Saturday would cost Australia’s economy $A280m in lost productivity.
In addition, the impact the vote and its result would have on the “mental health and wellbeing of Australian citizens” would cost at least $A20m.
Funding the campaigns for and against the proposal would cost a further $A66m, it said.
“The real costs to government, the economy and members of the community to hold a standalone plebiscite are more than three times higher than the numbers commonly quoted,” PwC Australia CEO Luke Sayers said in a statement.
“Total economic costs have not been considered before and should be part of the debate on the best way to achieve a resolution to this issue.”
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An alternative option would be to hold the plebiscite at the same time as the general election, before next January, as it would cost much less at $113 million, or a vote in Parliament which would cost $77 million.
Experts have also pointed to similar campaigns in California – which cost more than $6 per voter – arguing that the money could be reallocated to other key areas.
Previous Prime Minister Tony Abbott had insisted that Coalition MPs would not have a free vote on the issue, and that a plebiscite was the only way to settle it.
However when Malcolm Turnbull took over as Prime Minister in November when Abbott was ousted, he maintained that a plebiscite would take place.
This is all despite a majority of politicians in Australia now saying they would vote in favour of legislation for equal marriage.