Australian PM splashes out $160 million on ‘pointless’ public vote to stall equal marriage

Malcolm Turnbull

Australia’s government has set aside more than $160 million for a public vote on equal marriage – despite clear public and Parliamentary majorities in favour.

The country’s current right-wing Coalition government is deeply divided on marriage equality, despite overwhelming public support.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull plans to hold a plebiscite (public vote) on the issue after the upcoming federal election – a compromise designed to avoid a rift with some of his own ultra-conservative MPs.

LGBT rights activists say the move is futile – as the government could simply allow a free vote in Parliament given the majority of MPs back equality, which would resolve the issue without the cost.

But the government went all-in this week, confirming it had set aside funds for the plebiscite.

A statement from the Attorney General confirmed: “The Government has made provision in the Contingency Reserve of $160 million for the plebiscite on same-sex marriage.”

Rodney Croome of Australian Marriage Equality said: “Fairness and equality for all Australian shouldn’t cost a cent.

“The Budget has confirmed just how costly a plebiscite will be, and how wasteful given Parliament could pass marriage equality tomorrow.

Corporate, political and religious leaders, and mental health experts, have all raised concerns about a plebiscite.”

“We call on the Government to drop its plan for an expensive and unnecessary plebiscite and spend this money on essential services instead.”

He added: “Regardless of who wins the next election we need to build support in the community and parliament, and in the lead up to the next election.

“In our largest election campaign ever, AME will be running campaigns in more than 30 seats across Australia to win over candidates and communities.

“If the Coalition remains committed to a plebiscite and is returned to government we will run a ‘yes’ campaign that unites Australians behind a reform that reflects our nations’ values of fairness and equality.”