The leader of Australia’s main opposition Labor Party has called on Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to allow a free vote in the Parliament on same-sex marriage as soon as next week before Parliament adjourns.
‘Let’s have a conscience vote of our members of Parliament. Why do we need to waste $160 million on a plan devised by the opponents of marriage equality,’ Bill Shorten told reporters in Tasmania on Monday, according to the SBS network.
Shorten’s call was then echoed this morning when conservative radio broadcaster Alan Jones warned the government would be putting itself further into debt if it funded a public vote on same-sex marriage that was not legally binding on the Parliament.
Jones told his listeners that the so called ‘plebiscite’ poll on same-sex marriage would cost, ‘$160 million we don’t have.’
‘This could be resolved, one way or another, with a vote in the parliament. The bill could be drafted tomorrow in five minutes and the nation could get on with its life. How much more anguish are we going to impose on people over an issue of intense privacy?’ Jones asked his listeners.
Jones is regarded as a top influencer on older Australian voters and often has leading politicians appear on his show for that reason.
Jones’ comments come as more politicians from both sides of the debate appear to be walking away from the idea of holding the expensive plebiscite vote, with Liberal Senator Dean Smith saying he will raise his concerns about the precedent such a vote would set.
‘I’m uncomfortable with the cost, secondly I’m uncomfortable with us too readily abrogating the foundational principle of parliamentary sovereignty,’ Senator Smith, a supporter of same-sex marriage, said.
‘Once we set a precedent on this issue, how do we argue that we shouldn’t have a plebiscite on other issues, for example sending men and women off to armed conflict overseas. How do we argue that we don’t have a plebiscite on euthanasia?’
At least three conservative Christian members of the Government are on record saying that they would ignore the plebiscite if it’s result was not in keeping with their personal views.
Australian Marriage Equality national director Rodney Croome urged supporters within the Government to also share their views.
‘I know there are more Liberals and National MPs who have concerns about the cost and divisiveness of a plebiscite,’ Croome said.
‘Now is the time for them to get behind Senator Smith and voice these concerns.’