Tony Abbott favours postal plebiscite over free vote

Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott says he favours a postal plebiscite over a free vote in parliament because it would give all Australians an opportunity to have a say on whether same-sex couples should be allowed to get married.

The member for Warringah did concede that many would question how much authority a postal plebiscite would have.

The proposal for a non-compulsory mail vote on marriage equality is being pushed by the Queensland branch of the Liberal National Party following a motion at their state conference.

The idea was first raised by Liberal MP Warren Enstch, but it is understood her no longer supports the idea.

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton has championed the idea, over the weekend he told SKY News he believed conducting a national wide poll via the mail was the next best option if the government’s plan for a plebiscite could not make it through the senate.

Speaking to Sydney radio station 2GB this morning Abbott said he saw merit in the postal plebiscite option.

“I certainly think that will be better, much better, than just trying to ram this thing through the parliament,” Abbott said.

The former PM said the only reason the postal plebiscite option was being considered was because the Labor party had not supported the idea. Abbott criticised Labor leader Bill Shorten for proposing a referendum on four-year parliamentary terms while blocking the plebiscite plan.

“Here you have Bill Shorten yesterday demanding a referendum on four-year terms but is unwilling to let the people have their say on any change to the Marriage Act,” Abbott said.

Unlike the marriage act, which can be changed by a parliamentary vote, the introduction of fixed parliamentary terms would need a change to the constitution, making a referendum the only pathway for change.

On Sunday the Equality Campaign repeated their view that the postal plebiscite was an unnecessary step.

“The Senate has said no to a plebiscite, and along with the High Court of Australia made it crystal clear the only way to deliver marriage equality is through a vote in parliament,” said Alex Greenwich, Co-Chair of Australian Marriage Equality.

Veteran gay rights campaigner Rodney Croome from just.equal delivered a more damning response to the proposal saying the process would be inherently rigged.

“A voluntary postal vote would be biased against the ‘yes’ case because groups most likely to vote ‘yes’, like young people, are least likely to return their voluntary postal ballots.”

“We are also concerned because no legislation is required for a voluntary postal vote so the Government would set the question with no oversight from the Parliament as a whole.” Croome said.

“The result would have little legitimacy, is unlikely to be accepted by both sides and would resolve nothing.”

Croome said it was no surprise that the only people calling for a plebiscite were those opposed to marriage equality.

“It’s no coincidence that the only people in favour of a postal vote are those dead against marriage equality.”

Croome said one of the objections to the plebiscite proposal was that it would unleash a high level of damaging comments about LGBTI people and their families, and noted that the postal plebiscite proposal did nothing to address these concerns.

“A postal vote would see a very high level of damaging hatred and fear-mongering against LGBTI people.”

“Just this week hate flyers were distributed across Victoria equating LGBTI people with Nazis and we can expect to see a huge increase in such fear-mongering during a postal vote.”

“The conventional and legitimate way to resolve marriage equality is to have a free vote in Parliament as soon as possible, so the reform can pass and Australia can move on.”

OIP Staff

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