Plebiscite funding included in budget, advocates say it’s time to move on

Treasurer Scott Morrison’s new budget includes funding of $170 million to hold a plebiscite on marriage equality despite the legislation failing to pass the senate in November 2016.

Long-time marriage equality advocate and spokesperson for just.equal, Rodney Croome, described the government’s commitment to the failed policy as a great disappointment.

“It’s deeply disappointing that the Government is persisting with its expensive, damaging, unnecessary and unpopular plebiscite.” Croome said.

“If the Government is determined to spend $170 million on LGBTI issues it would be better off funding LGBTI school inclusion and mental health programs.”

“My fear is that the Government’s move may signal a desire to re-introduce its failed plebiscite bill, or even progress Peter Dutton’s proposal for a pointless postal vote.”

Earlier this year a plan to roll out a nonbinding, non-compulsory mail poll on the issue was floated by conservative MPs.  

“My message to the Government is that it will suffer at the election if it doesn’t resolve marriage equality with a free vote in parliament during this term of government.” Croome said.

“I urge marriage equality supporters to contact Government members to urge a free vote and say ‘no’ to a plebiscite.”

Australian Marriage Equality also expressed their dismay that the inclusion of the plebiscite funding, the lobby group said it was clear that the idea had already been rejected by both the Australian people and the parliament.

Co-Chair of Australian Marriage Equality, Alex Greenwich, said, “The majority of the nation and the majority of MPs support marriage equality. It is a straightforward reform that takes from no one but ensures every Australian is afforded the same dignity and respect.

“The Budget allocation of $170 million in contingency funds for a rejected plebiscite is a waste of tax-payers money when the Parliament has already said no, it has the power to allow marriage equality now.”

Greenwich said the government had a clear, cost effective and simple way to resolve the issue, just allow a free vote.

“A vote in the parliament has the added bonus of the being free and at no cost to the Australian people while extending civil marriage to all Australians.”

Executive Director of the Equality Campaign, Tiernan Brady, concurred saying it was pointless for the money to remain in the budget when the proposal had already been dismissed by the parliament.  

“Despite a note in the budget papers last night the plebiscite is still dead parliament killed it, our supporters in Parliament have confirmed their position is not changing.”

Labor responded to the inclusion of the funding in the budget, saying the government needed to explain to Australians why it was trying to bring the failed policy back to life.

“Despite explicitly banking more than $100 million in savings for not proceeding with the marriage equality plebiscite in last year’s mid-year economic and fiscal update, $170 million in funding for the marriage equality plebiscite has reappeared in the 2017-18 budget as a contingency measure,” deputy opposition leader Tanya Plibersek said.

“The marriage equality plebiscite was always a terrible idea, which was met with strong opposition from the LGBTI community, the majority of Australians, and Australian Labor. It was comprehensively defeated in the Senate.

“Prime Minister Turnbull needs to explain why the government has made a screeching reversal on its funding allocation for a plebiscite.”

A spokesman for Attorney General George Brandis told ProBono Australia that the plebiscite remained the government’s policy.

“It is still, in essence, a policy of the government and the funding is there as a contingency,” the spokesperson said.

OIP Staff


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