Australian Government faces fresh calls to call off equal marriage plebiscite

The Australian Coalition Government is facing renewed calls from opposition leaders to call of a public vote on equal marriage.

The Labor Party, in opposition, and the Greens, pointed to confusion about timing for the public vote in calling for it to be cancelled.

Malcolm Turnbull1 GettyImages-488420610

Both parties say there should be a Parliamentary vote on the issue instead, a call which has been made since before Tony Abbott was ousted as Prime Minister.

According to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s office, a vote will be held shortly after the general election.

The Australian Attorney General George Brandis has set a deadline of the end of the year for the public vote to take place.

“Were the Government to be re-elected, there will be a plebiscite, the plebiscite will occur before the end of this year, the bill to constitute the plebiscite will be introduced early in the life of the new parliament,” Brandis told Sky News.

“And in the event that there were to be a ‘Yes’ vote the Government would legislate [it] to give effect to the wishes of the people.”

However the Prime Minister’s office said the vote would take place “as soon as possible” after the next federal election, which could take place in January 2017.

According to the Australian Electoral Commission, a plebiscite, if held like a referendum, would need 29 weeks to prepare.

Shadow Attorney General Mark Dreyfus told AM that the Government should do away with the costly and lengthy plans to hold a plebiscite.

“They need to get their stories straight, but most of all, Mr Turnbull should be dropping this wasteful, and very divisive plebiscite,” Shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus told AM.

“Let parliamentarians do the job we are meant to do which is pass laws, to legislate.”

Senator Robert Simms, of the Green Party said the plans to hold a plebiscite had “completely unravelled over the past few months”.

“It’s not too late for [Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull] to dump the pointless and costly plebiscite,” Simms said.

Opponents have noted the high cost of holding a plebiscite, which have been estimated at AUD$160 million.

The Labor Party has vowed to legislate for equal marriage within 100 days of the election, if they are in office.

Malcolm Turnbull, who is a regular attendee of Sydney Mardi Gras, yesterday became the first sitting PM to attend the festivities.

Turnbull’s Coalition Government faces immense pressure to call of a plebiscite on same-sex marriage, although he has said he will not allow a free vote on the issue.


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.