The federal government has denied that the date of the proposed marriage equality plebiscite has been finalised after reports that it will be held in February next year.
News Corp reported on Saturday night that voters will go to the polls next February to answer the question, “Do you approve of a law to permit people of the same sex to marry?”
But a spokesperson for the Prime Minister told Fairfax Media on Sunday: “The mechanics of the plebiscite, including the specific question and the timing, are subject to the usual cabinet process. No decisions have as yet been made.”
“The government has always said that a decision on same-sex marriage will be made by a vote of all Australians in a national plebiscite to be held as soon as practicable,” the spokesperson said.
“Late last week, the [Australian Electoral Commission] provided advice to the Special Minister of State that strongly recommended against the conduct of a plebiscite this calendar year.”
Attorney-General George Brandis said last month the matter of public funding for the “Yes” and “No” plebiscite campaigns was yet to be decided. News Corp reported that senior cabinet ministers are opposed to the public funding on the grounds it would add to the vote’s estimated $160 million cost and fuel homophobia.
Australian Marriage Equality called on the government to guarantee neither campaign will receive taxpayer funding.
“We did not ask for a plebiscite, but if one is being imposed it’s vital the question, process, and timing is fair and delivered in consultation with the LGBTI community and all political parties,” AME chair Alex Greenwich said.
“One immediate way the government can provide confidence in the process is by listening to the 10,000 Australians who have signed our petition to ensure no public funding is provided to either campaign.”
News Corp reported opposition leader Bill Shorten will introduce a private member’s bill “in the coming weeks” in an attempt to legalise marriage equality with a free parliamentary vote instead.
Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) Australia recently released survey results revealing 8 out of every 10 LGBTI Australians are opposed to the plebiscite and have called on the government to hold a free vote in the parliament instead.
A separate poll commissioned by PFLAG suggested wider public support for the plebiscite was dropping.
“A plebiscite will be an unnecessary, costly, divisive, and damaging public opinion poll that politicians can simply ignore if it doesn’t suit them,” PFLAG spokesperson Shelley Argent said on Sunday.