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Holding a popular vote on gay marriage could cost Australia over half a billion dollars

Holding a popular vote on gay marriage could cost Australia over half a billion dollars

Australian PM Malcolm Turnbull 'seen' in new PFLAG ad against plebiscite

The campaign to legalize same-sex marriage in Australia is urging the Australian Government to back away from plans to have the Australian people vote on whether the reform should be passed and have the Parliament decide the issue after a new report calculated what the true economic cost of that would be.

Professional services firm PricewaterhouseCoopers released an independent report into the full economic costs of holding a plebiscite, or non-binding vote by the Australian people, on the issue and found that just holding the poll would cost $158 million.

Providing funding to both sides of the debate to make their cases would cost another $66 million.

The divisive nature of that debate was expected to have a toll on people’s health and well being costed at $20 million.

However the biggest cost was simply the time taken out of people’s lives that was needed to vote, which Pricewaterhouse Coopers costed at $281 million in lost productivity from people having to travel to vote at polling places or filling out postal ballots.

PricewaterhouseCoopers CEO Luke Sayers told Fairfax media that holding a vote on same-sex marriage to gauge the voting public’s opinion that would not deliver marriage equality if it was successful was ‘a massive waste of time and money, that will remove focus on the economy, growth, and jobs, which is the real priority for Australia.’

‘The mechanism chosen to make this change is vital to minimize the cost to the economy and health and well being of our communities,’ he said.

‘Our modelling points to a parliamentary vote as the best mechanism for change.’
Sayers said that the wider cost to society in holding such a vote needed to be factored in to people’s thinking.

‘Total economic costs have not been considered before and should be part of the debate on the best way to achieve a resolution to this issue,’ Sayers said.

‘Yes’ campaigners Australian Marriage Equality (AME) leaped on the report, saying it should be influential on a government that promotes themselves as fiscal conservatives.

‘Every single government minister must read this report before Cabinet considers legislation for a plebiscite,’ AME national director Rodney Croome said, ‘The more information we get about the plebiscite, the clearer it becomes that it’s just an incredibly costly and harmful opinion poll.’

‘With the stakes so high for the economy and for the mental health of LGBTI Australians the Government needs to reconsider it’s position. It’s a sign of maturity and strength to change your mind in the face of new information. The plebiscite legislation will be a minefield of unexpected costs, unintended consequences, and complications about timing and public funding.’

‘More and more Coalition members are speaking out against a plebiscite and I encourage them to raise the issue in the party room as soon as possible.’

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is a supporter of same-sex marriage but agreed to continuing the Liberal-National Coalition government’s plan to hold a non-binding popular vote on same-sex marriage to help gain the support of marriage equality opponents when he deposed his predecessor Tony Abbott.