Bob Brown at a rally ...
First published September 11
On 7 September 2017, the High Court ruled it was lawful for the Federal Government to go ahead with a voluntary, non-binding public opinion poll on whether all consenting adult couples in Australia should have the right to marry. The tax-payer funded survey will cost $122 million and will have no direct effect on legal rights.
Instead, the faux-plebiscite, will record how many Australians can be bothered to tick a box on a piece of paper, put it in an envelope, and deliver it to a letterbox to find its way back to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
While Australians will be given the opportunity to select YES or NO to the question: “Should the law be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry?” the very nature of a voluntary, paper-based survey is deeply problematic.
As Malcolm Turnbull said himself in 1997, before he lost what was left of his credibility:
“The voluntary postal voting method … flies in the face of Australian democratic values. …It is likely to ensure that not only will a minority of Australians vote, but also that large sections of the community will be disfranchised.”
The faux-plebiscite was the brain-child of habitual human-rights-violator, Immigration Minister Peter Dutton. After the Senate twice voted down the legislatively authorised version, the Turnbull Government opted to subvert democracy by putting to the people a non-compulsory ballot. It will have no value other than to subject gay Australians to lengthy public debate on their worth in society, including hateful propaganda and threats of violence.
The postal vote is an obvious attempt by the far-right conservatives in the Liberal Party, to delay marriage equality for as long as possible. Not satisfied with being able to publicly register their disapproval of same-sex marriage in a free parliamentary vote, they intend to expose gay Australians to months of homophobic rhetoric before the inevitable change occurs.
Successive statistically valid polls have demonstrated repeatedly that a majority of Australians, which now includes a majority of Catholics and other people of faith, support marriage equality. Yet Turnbull persists with a voluntary paper-based survey – the results of which can be ignored by Government, and which bears the real risk that ambivalent and busy supporters will fail to lodge a vote, if they receive a ballot paper at all.
This postal survey should not be happening.
But it is. And now all Australians who support fairness and equality must ensure the YES vote wins.
Papers will begin to be mailed out on Tuesday, 12 September 2017, and should be posted back to the ABS no later than Friday, 27 October 2017. Votes received after Tuesday, 7 November 2017 will not be counted.
The survey may not be compulsory, and it is certainly unnecessary, but failing to participate will play right into the hands of those who seek to deny equal rights to LGBTI couples.
All Australians can show support for the YES campaign by following Australian Marriage Equality and GetUp! and involving themselves in the suggested actions.
But most importantly, all eligible voters can show support, by voting YES on the postal survey as soon as it arrives. And once the YES box is ticked, take the form to a post box and mail it back to the ABS to be counted.
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Lyrics: E Cripps; Vocals: K Phillips; Backing track from YouTube channel “Lily Allen - Instrumentals and Acapellas”
*Eva Cripps is a freelance writer with a keen interest in legal, social justice and community matters, particularly where they intertwine with politics. She is a non-practising lawyer (admitted to the Supreme Court of Tasmania) and also has degree in Social Science, majoring in Social Justice and Behavioural Science. Eva enjoys fighting politically expedient populism and is committed to empowering Australians to participate in democracy. She’s also a mother to three young children and lives in Tasmania.