Public vote is the ‘only way’ for equal marriage to be introduced in Australia: Attorney General
Australia’s Attorney General has said the “only way” the issue of same-sex marriage will be resolved is through a public vote or plebiscite.
Attorney General George Brandis has said the Electoral Commission will begin to consider the timing of a same-sex marriage plebiscite.
Senator Brandis said it would be preferable for the plebiscite to be held before the end of the year.
He said: “There is going to be a plebiscite and the only way that in this Parliament this issue can be progressed is through a plebiscite,” Senator Brandis told Insiders.
“If it can’t be done before the end of this year, it will certainly be done in the early part of next year.”
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Australia’s Labor party has accused the public vote, which was the idea of previous Prime Minister Tony Abbott, and carried through by his replacement Malcolm Turnbull, as a “taxpayer-funded platform for homophobia”.
Labor leader Bill Shorten, who had vowed to legislate for equal marriage within a hundred days of the election if his party had been elected to Government, has been urged by Senator Brandis to work with the Government on the issue.
Mr Brandis said: “I think that if the political leaders can take the politics out of this, if Mr Shorten and the Labor Party can resist the temptation to try and use this as an opportunity to embarrass the Government, but rather ask themselves the question — how are we most likely now to progress this issue to a satisfactory conclusion,” adding that “we can arrive at a common point”.
Voting will be compulsory, Senator Brandis confirmed, saying he wants the question on the plebiscite to be “as simple and as self-explanatory as possible”.
But Labor has accused the Coalition government of bowing to conservative pressure, saying because the vote will be declared on an electorate-by-electorate basis that conservative MPs could potentially avoid an overall ‘yes’ vote.
“This subterfuge allows conservative MPs opposed to same-sex marriage to defy a national ‘yes’ vote and vote against same-sex marriage, and justify that behaviour by pointing to the vote in their electorate,” shadow attorney-general Mark Dreyfus said in a statement.
Though there is expected to be a strong majority for equal marriage in the new Parliament due to the Labor Party’s election gains, it is unclear if Labor would agree to enable a plebiscite. The government would likely have to rely on the opposition party’s votes to get the measure through.