The government has doubled down on its proposed national plebiscite on same-sex marriage, despite knowing the policy will not pass the Senate.
In 2016, the controversial national vote was panned for its cost, the likelihood of an acrimonious debate, and the fact a national vote is not needed to legislate same-sex marriage in Australia.
Eventually, Labor, the Greens and the crossbench united to kill off the policy in the Senate in late 2016.
But in the federal Budget handed down on Tuesday, $170 million for the plebiscite appears again.
It’s been flagged as a “fiscal risk” – meaning it’s potential expenditure that can’t be formally included, as there are unknown factors (in this case, whether it will happen at all).
“The Australian government remains committed to a plebiscite in relation to same-sex marriage, despite the Senate not supporting the Plebiscite (Same-Sex Marriage) Bill 2016,” the budget paper reads.
“To this end, the Australian government will provide $170 million to conduct a same-sex marriage plebiscite as soon as the necessary legislation is enacted by the Parliament.”
For the first time, same-sex marriage has the support of the majority of Australians and a majority of parliamentarians in both houses. It also has the support of both major party leaders.
But despite widespread support, same-sex couples will remain unable to marry as long as the government holds fast to its plebiscite policy with a demonstrably unsupportive Senate.