Australia sets aside $170 million for public vote on same-sex marriage

$170 million of government money has been allocated to a public vote on same-sex marriage in Australia.

Same-sex couples are not allowed to marry in the country, even though polls have long shown that most of the public want to make it legal.

A clear majority of MPs and Senators are also in favour of same-sex marriage, with the balance shifting decisively in last year’s federal election.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull National Press Club Address

After his narrow victory in July’s election, right-wing Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull pledged to bring a public plebiscite as soon as possible.

But a national vote is not necessary to make same-sex marriage legal in the country, and efforts to bring one about have so far been rejected.

The latest funding allocation, made today, has been marked as a “fiscal risk,” which indicates that it may not be spent at all, since past efforts to hold a plebiscite have all been rejected.

Opposition parties have stopped any proposed plebiscite, reasoning that since the majority of the public and parliament wants same-sex marriage, it should be decided in parliament.

But the Prime Minister has repeatedly blocked parliamentary votes on the issue.

Instead, Turnbull has tried to take the issue to the public in a non-binding plebiscite, to avoid a rift with his own ultra-conservative MPs.

But he has broken two promises on the issue, after he first pledged to hold a vote by the end of 2016, and then in February this year.

Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays spokeswoman Shelley Argent said shortly after his election that “if Mr Turnbull goes ahead with a plebiscite it’s not for the LGBTIQ community’s sake, it’s for the sake of anti-equality groups and for his own sake.”

Turnbull inherited the idea of a plebiscite from ousted predecessor Tony Abbott, but has refused to allow coalition MPs to have a free vote on the issue.

He said that he could not just hold a parliamentary vote on equal marriage because “he is not a dictator” – and therefore wants to hold a public vote instead.


Labour have criticised the move, calling it expensive and pointless.

And in August, one dissatisfied opponent produced a convincing argument for an alternative to the tens of millions of dollars the vote would cost.

Jimmy Raynes worked out that the plebiscite’s projected expenses would buy 311,284,046 chicken nuggets at McDonald’s: enough to give 12.86 to each of the 24,194,905 people living in Australia.