Do you think we should vote on gay marriage? 28

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Attorney General George Brandis is standing affront the media today saying that the issue of gay marriage in Australia will soon be resolved by the Government.  In an interview on Sky News, Brandis was firmly backing the idea of a plebiscite to resolve the issue.

“Every adult member in Australian society needs to have ownership of this decision,” he said.  “This is a decision so fundamental to the nature and characteristics of our society that it should be made by the people.”

And if that is the case they have several options:

  • A parliamentary vote which clearly Abbott doesn’t want to do
  • A plebiscite, in which the Government can set the terms for a win, held immediately
  • A plebiscite, in which the Government can set the terms for a win, held at the next election
  • A referendum limiting the power of the Government

But do you think that is the best use of our finite government expenditure when the issue can easily be resolved in Parliament and does not require an expensive trip to the polls? Tony Abbott this week talked of adding it to the 2016 election poll activity, which might seem sensible given a referendum style vote would otherwise cost the country $120 million.

It is an interesting debate, and what is even more interesting is the difference between a plebiscite and a referendum.  The ABC this week did an interesting overview, and explained the difference in a lot of detail.

“According to the Budget Macquarie Dictionary, a plebiscite is ‘a direct vote of the qualified electors of a state in regard to some important public question’. (State here is used in a generic form and doesn’t mean Australian state.)

A referendum by the same dictionary is ‘the principle or procedure of referring or submitting measures proposed or passed by a legislative body to the vote of the electorate for approval or rejection’.

According to the ABC, High Court rulings have clarified that the Commonwealth parliament has the right to define the meaning of marriage under Section 51 (xxi) of the Constitution.

The only reason to hold a referendum would be to restrict the right of Parliament to define marriage.”

That is, a referendum needs to address a constitutional issue, and would be much harder to get the issue to pass in because the way a referendum would need to be structured would be to remove the Commonwealth’s constitutional power to define marriage.   A referendum, in order to pass would need to win in four states and as a 50% on the whole nationwide too.

A plebiscite is handled a little differently.  The government needs to create an act, and then contract how the act will be won under a plebiscite.  In the history of Australia there has only been three plebiscites held.  Two on conscription as a yes/no vote in 1916 and 1917 and then one in 1977 on our national song.

According to the ABC, for opponents of same-sex marriage, it would be easier to defeat a plebiscite on same-sex marriage than it would be to pass a referendum constitutionally ruling out same-sex marriage.

Sounds like either way, it will be up to the Government to ensure we don’t go to an expensive national vote on an unwinnable issue that stirs up unnecessary political angst.  Here’s hoping they structure it so it can have a good old Aussie “fair go”. 

Do you agree?



Rebecca Wilson

Rebecca Wilson is the founder and publisher of Starts at Sixty. The daughter of two baby boomers, she has built the online community for over 60s by listening carefully to the issues and seeking out answers, insights and information for over 60s throughout Australia. Rebecca is an experienced marketer, a trained journalist and has a degree in politics. A mother of 3, she passionately facilitates and leads our over 60s community, bringing the community opinions, needs and interests to the fore and making Starts at Sixty a fun place to be.

  1. Surely a referendum is the fairest way. Why should it left to a few in parliament?

  2. The gay lobby does not want this to go to the people because they know over 90% don’t want the marriage act to be changed, what comes after the change? multiple wives to appease the other minority group.

    1 REPLY
    • Can you tell us where this has happened in the many countries or states where marriage equality has occurred?
      The only countries where men take child brides or multiple wives that I am aware of are overwhelmingly in the clutches of religious people.

  3. H. It’s a human rights issue and governments should simply do the right thing where human rights are concerned in my view.

    1 REPLY
    • Parliament should just repeal the marriage act, which was an appalling piece of pandering to the religious right. Who marries whom is not anyone’s business except the happy couple. What’s next: laws to say only people of the same race can marry? It’s time for politicians to get out of the way and allow equal rights to all adult Australians.

  4. I am strongly influenced by having been friends with two fellows (One now passed away) who were just a perfect match. And what they didn’t do to foster a great new generation, they made up for by very compassionate care for so many fellow citizens.

  5. It should just happen. It is ridiculous that it is being discussed. If marriage is specifically for the purpose of bringing children into the world, why did Fred Nile remarry a woman (presumably) too old to have children, why do couples who never intend to have children get married … you could go on for ages … marriage is a right we all should have, regardless of age or sexuality. If you love your partner, you should be able to marry your partner. It is that simple. Minorities – what an insulting word a previous person voiced. If you take that to extremes, a person with a disability (a minority group) should not be allowed to marry; a racial minority should not be allowed to marry; heaven forbid, redheads (a minority) should not be allowed to marry. At the end of the day, what difference does it make to anyone else if loving gay or lesbian couple marry? The world won’t stop, your life routines won’t stop, the economy won’t dissolve. Loving gay and lesbian couples already live together – being able to get married will only change their world (for the better) and won’t change anyone else’s (world).

    1 REPLY
    • Well said Sophie , exactly it is not going to affect any other persons life so why all the fuss , all the wowzers need to just pull their heads in and shut their gobs, mind their own busineess and leave others alone.
      Very simply for anyone out there, MARRY WHO YOU WANT…. IT’S YOUR LIFE… and I wish you all the happiness in the world

  6. I have said it many times and I will say it again. Same sex marriage is wrong. This is a Christian country. If God wanted to make two men or two women when creation first took place he would have done that the fact God did not do that has got to be adhered to. Judgemental? That word is used to the hilt to justify the wrong people do.

    2 REPLY
    • Why is this such a problem? Why should anyone have a say in someone’s personal life? My son is gay and I know he was born that way I had known from a very early age and I, and indeed the whole of his family accepted this as his own business, he did not choose this, he went through hell as a teenager etc. and as it turns out we have gay people in our family, what people do behind closed doors is no ones business but their own, as long as they are adults and don’t hurt anyone else. I am proud of my son and his achievements, he is a 37 year old man and is not married or in a relationship but I hopel he finds someone who makes him happy.

    • And YOU fit the bill perfectly…. about be JUDGEMENTAL !!!!

  7. absolutely we should vote on this. this affects our constitution so yes we do need to vote on this. and I think we should have the vote on the same day as we go to the poles. saves money and I think people already know how they will vote on this. this is too important to leave it to parliament. they cant decide on anything.
    useless bunch.

    1 REPLY
    • Why do they want to have the word marriage attached to their relationship? They can live in a defacto relationship the sam as many other couples and receive the legal rights of that status. The Bible clearly states that a relationship between people of the same sex is abhorrent to God. But then, I guess, we are deliberately becoming a non-Christian country with more and more people seeking the easy road and turning their backs on the teachings of the Bible. This is a moral issue and the moral standard has been set by God in his own words. I know many will disagree with me but I live my life according to the teachings of Jesus who told us clearly what s expected of us. Yet many are turning away and worshipping themselves as “God” because they have a comfortable life here. I feel no condemnation of them – just a heavy sadness.

      1 REPLY
  8. Let the people decide!

    Those who are pro SSM are against that because they are scared they will lose!

    1 REPLY
    • Quite true, as history has shown governments usually lose on referendums, hence their reluctance to provide us with them as they are fairly accurate picture of what the public really wants, and the KNOW-ALLS are shown to KNOW NOTHING….as usual

  9. A vote held during the next election would be low cost and democracy would determine the outcome. Unfortunately a very small minority has been able to overtake the national political agenda and it may have to be dispensed with and gotten out of the way sooner. The question asked needs to include several options, not just yes or no. For example, I am against redefining the Marriage Act, but not against homosexuals having an enduring contract called something else that provides identical or similar rights and responsibilities. Others will have different views.

  10. Referendum – so someone can run the country – labor clowns only have two policies – sodomy and climate change

    The reason it is such a problem is if you look Sodomy is defined in the oxford dictionary as and I quote “Copulation between male persons: unnatural connexion between human beings and animals”

    The animals part will come later

  11. A referendum is not required as there is to be no change to the Constitution. A plebiscite is not required either. All it takes is for politicians to be honest and listen to their constituents, and be honest and vote accordingly. That will then put this to rest right? Sure it will, until some one wants to side track us again. Just like they do with the flag or the republic issues.

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