Postal plebiscite policy would face urgent High Court challenge

Postal plebiscite policy would face urgent High Court challenge

Today the Liberal party room will decide its policy on how to deal with same sex marriage before the next election, with senior ministers suggesting a postal plebiscite.

Anna Brown, Director of Legal Advocacy at the Human Rights Law Centre, has today publicly released a joint opinion from top constitutional experts Katherine Richardson SC, James Emmett and Surya Palaniappan confirming that the Government spending money for a postal plebiscite without passing legislation would be unconstitutional.

“Top constitutional lawyers have concluded that the Government does not have the power to pay the Australian Electoral Commission to conduct a postal plebiscite without passing legislation authorising that taxpayer money be used in this way first,” said Ms Brown.

“Adopting a postal plebiscite policy at today’s party room knowing it is likely unlawful would be a show of bad faith and leave the Government open to an embarrassing High Court challenge. All this can be avoided by holding a free vote this week,” said Ms Brown.

“The Government should not circumvent the elected Parliament to spend taxpayer money on a proposal which is legally unnecessary and non-binding,” said Ms Brown.

Proponents of a postal plebiscite have said it would achieve the same outcome as the failed plebiscite as a ‘democratic process’.

“No one is fooled by the desperate postal plebiscite proposal. A postal plebiscite cannot ensure compulsory voting. It won’t have the same privacy and procedural safeguards as a federal election. It would skew in favour of older, conservative voters and not reflect the views of young Australians or Australians in remote areas or overseas,” said Ms Brown

“The usual controls on campaigning and advertising in place for elections and referenda and proposed by the Government in the failed plebiscite bill would not be in place for a postal plebiscite,” said Ms Brown.

Yesterday a group of Liberal MPs unveiled a new Bill to amend the Marriage Act when Parliament next sits.

“Australians want politicians to stop playing politics to delay marriage equality. We have a bill which will allow for same-sex marriage while protecting religious freedoms. It be deeply unfair for LGBTI Australians, their families, friends and colleagues for the party room to push forward with a legally and politically unnecessary plebiscite policy,” said Ms Brown.

A copy of the legal opinion can be found here.

For interviews or further information please call:

Michelle Bennett, Director of Communications, Human Rights Law Centre: 0419 100 519

Clint McGilvray, The Equality Campaign: 0413 285 186