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PM told Presbyterians public vote on gay marriage in Australia will be compulsory for all

PM told Presbyterians public vote on gay marriage in Australia will be compulsory for all

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

The Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Australia has revealed the details of a meeting he attended with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to discuss the government’s future plans around the issue of same-sex marriage.

The Right Reverend David Cook says he met with Turnbull in his Sydney office as part of a delegation organized by the far-right Australian Christian Lobby to discuss the plan to hold a non-legally binding public vote, known as a ‘plebiscite’ in Australia, on whether to legalize gay marriage if his government survives the next election.

Two of the big questions hanging over a plebiscite have been whether it will be compulsory for all Australian voters to take part in it, and whether the ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ campaigns will be provided with public funds to make their case to the Australian people.

‘The Government will be bound by the result of the plebiscite, voting will be compulsory and victory will be determined by the side having a majority of votes across Australia,’ Cook reported being told at the meeting.

‘Yes and No campaigns will be funded equally.’

Holding the plebiscite separate to a federal election was already predicted to cost the Australian taxpayer $160 million and public funding for the national debate over same-sex marriage will only add to that expense.

Polling commissioned by Australian Marriage Equality (AME) from Turnbull’s Liberal Party’s pollster of choice in July of 2015 found that 72 percent of Australian voters wanted same-sex marriage legalized and 77 percent thought that ruling Liberal/National Coalition MPs should be granted a conscience vote on the issue.

AME national director Rodney Croome maintains that a plebiscite is expensive and unnecessary but agreed that if one were held it should be compulsory for all voters to take part.

‘AME is a strong advocate for compulsory voting in a plebiscite,’ Croome said.

‘If the aim of a plebiscite is to hear the people’s voice then let’s make sure all voices are heard, including the largely silent majority who support marriage equality.’

However Croome said it was unnecessary for public funds to be used to foster a potentially divisive and stigmatizing debate around the issue.

‘Public funding should be kept to an absolute minimum,’ he said.

‘Instead, government funds should be directed to counseling services for those vulnerable people, including young LGBTI people and the children of same-sex couples, who will be hurt and harmed by a plebiscite.’

Once the plebiscite is held the Australian Parliament will still have to vote on legislation to pass the reform and some government lawmakers have already announced their intention to try to block the reform even if the plebiscite is successful.