A People's Vote On Marriage Equality Is A Terrible Idea, Senate Inquiry Says
A referendumb, if you will.
A senate inquiry has recommended against a popular vote on marriage equality the day after new prime minister Malcolm Turnbull reaffirmed his commitment to a plebiscite.
The report from the legal and constitutional affairs references committee determined that a referendum on marriage was a "redundant" path and that marriage ought not be decided on by a popular vote.
The decision is in direct opposition to the government's policy on marriage equality, which is to have a "people's vote" on the matter after the next election.
The senate committee, chaired by independent senator Glenn Lazarus, recommended that a same-sex marriage bill be introduced into the parliament "as a matter of urgency" and that all members ought to have a free vote on the matter.
Greens senator Janet Rice said that a plebiscite held after the next election would be harmful to LGBTI Australians and their families.
"The only ones suggesting a complicated and prolonged plebiscite or referendum are those who are resigned to being on the wrong side of history," she said.
However, Coalition senators Ian McDonald and Linda Reynolds delivered a dissenting report, writing a plebiscite was the appropriate avenue to deal with the "incredibly divisive social issue".
McDonald also used his additional comments to slam the inquiry itself, labelling it "an absolute and blatant waste of taxpayers money".
The cost of a plebiscite on same-sex marriage is estimated at $158 million, according to the Australian Electoral Commission.
Since assuming the prime ministership, Turnbull has said he will stick to the party policy of a popular vote, despite having expressed his support for a free vote in the parliament in the past.
In parliamentary question time on Wednesday, Turnbull said both a plebiscite and a free vote in the parliament had merit as a tool for reform, but the government would stick to their decision.
"It is thoroughly democratic. Every Australian will get a vote," Turnbull said.
"If you go to people and say, 'do you want to have a direct say in this yourself or do you want politicians to make the decision for you?', they will invariably say we want to have a say ourselves."
However, in the wake of the senate committee's findings, advocacy group Australian Marriage Equality has called for Turnbull to reconsider.
"The Senate report makes it clear that the quickest, cheapest, least divisive and most appropriate way to deal with marriage equality is through a cross-party free vote on the floor of parliament," said Rodney Croome, national director of AME.