Marriage plebiscite: why not a referendum?
by Peter Westmore
News Weekly, August 13, 2016
Speaking on ABC TV late last month, the Attorney-General signalled that he intends to put legislation for a plebiscite before the new Parliament, which will meet at the end of August.
“There is going to be a plebiscite and the only way that in this Parliament this issue can be progressed is through a plebiscite,” Senator Brandis told Insiders.
“If it can’t be done before the end of this year, it will certainly be done in the early part of next year.”
While the Coalition has a paper-thin margin in the House of Representatives, the outcome of any vote in the Senate is still unclear, as neither the Coalition nor the ALP has a majority in the upper house.
The Senate debate on a plebiscite could well be a drawn-0ut affair, despite the Government’s wish to accelerate legislation through the Senate.
In the meantime, well-known family researcher Dr Barry Maley, a senior fellow at the Centre for Independent Studies, has made a proposal that deserves to be considered.
Dr Maley said that the future of marriage in Australia should not be rushed but should be the subject of widespread debate in the Australian community before any change is made.
He wrote in The Australian on July 26: “Australians are being short-changed and rushed to judgement on same-sex marriage … because the politicians want to get it approved by a plebiscite and finished with as quickly as possible.”
He said that to proceed in this way “diminishes the democratic choice of the Australian people to properly determine the issue by referendum, rather than simply giving an opinion and then leaving it to the politicians”.
He added: “Why not include a referendum on same-sex marriage with a referendum on [indigenous] recognition at the same time? This would solve Bill Shorten’s concern about cost while giving same-sex marriage the supremely democratic opportunity its constitutional stature deserves.”
The idea of holding a referendum on marriage at the same time as a referendum on indigenous recognition is also consistent with past practice, where Australians have been given an opportunity to amend several sections of the constitution at the same time.
Despite the Attorney-General’s announcement that legislation for a plebiscite would be progressed through Parliament before the end of 2016 or early next year, the reality is that the plebiscite may be delayed for other reasons.
A popular vote on marriage is therefore unlikely this year. There is no need for haste, and that it take place in conjunction with the proposed referendum on indigenous recognition should be considered.
Peter Westmore is national president of the National Civic Council.
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Every child comes from and needs BOTH a mother and a father. Same-sex "marriage" intentionally keeps either a mother or a father from the child. Government should protect the child through upholding traditional marriage.
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