back to top

The Marriage Plebiscite Will Actually Cost An Extra $30 Million

Over $200 million, all up.

Posted on

Australia has been debating the merits of a marriage equality plebiscite for a while now – and the cost of the public vote has been a big part of the brouhaha.

Prime minister Malcolm Turnbull introduced a bill for the plebiscite into the house last week, citing the cost at $170 million.

But opposition leader Bill Shorten keeps saying it will cost $200 million. Why?

Well, BURIED DEEP in the government's legislation (OK, on page three), there's this sentence: "The plebiscite would increase the average annual regulatory burden by an estimated $32.5 million, being the time taken for people to cast a vote in the plebiscite."

In other words, the plebiscite is estimated to take an extra $32.5 million out of the Australian economy, in a hit to businesses, community organisations, and individuals.

This takes the total cost of the plebiscite to $202.5 million.

A report from auditing firm PricewaterhouseCoopers earlier this year suggested the plebiscite would cost Australia $281 million in lost productivity. The report was widely panned as having over-estimated the amount the vote would cost.

“If Mr Turnbull was really in charge of his party, he would be having a vote in Parliament," Shorten told BuzzFeed News.

"Labor’s compromise for Mr Turnbull on marriage equality is perfectly simple - just let all the members of Parliament have a free vote in Parliament when we next assemble. That will save us $200 million."

Attorney general George Brandis's office did not respond to a request for comment.

Lane Sainty is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Sydney, Australia.

Contact Lane Sainty at

Alice Workman is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Canberra.

Contact Alice Workman at

Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.