Tasmanian representatives from the Labor and Greens parties have blasted the Coalition’s decision to hold a non-binding postal plebiscite on same-sex marriage, labelling it a waste of money.
During a joint party room meeting on Tuesday, it was decided a postal plebiscite vote should occur on November 25 at an expected cost of $122 million.
It is likely that the vote will be conducted by the Australian Electoral Commission with assistance from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
The Senate in November blocked the government’s intention to hold a plebiscite with a compulsory ballot which led to a group of five government backbenchers to push for a parliamentary vote.
Tasmanian Liberal Senator Eric Abetz said while his “strong preference” was to stick with the party’s election commitment, he was supportive of a postal vote rather than have the issue held up by debate in the Senate again.
This is still expected to not satisfy Labor, the Greens, and the crossbenchers in the upper house, however.
Marriage equality advocate Rodney Croome said legal advice was being sought as to whether the postal vote was unconstitutional.
"If the advice shows there are grounds to strike down the postal vote, we will see the government in court,” he said.
Tasmanian Labor Senator Carol Brown said there needed to be a free parliamentary vote rather than a non-binding postage plebiscite “to tell us what we already know.”
“The ultra-right wing of the Liberal Party must accept that marriage equality will happen, and the sooner, the better,” she said.
Tasmanian Greens Senator Nick McKim said the non-binding vote was a delay tactic.
“It is disappointing to see Malcolm Turnbull bend to the will of the likes of Eric Abetz, who has spent his entire political career fighting against the basic rights of LGBTIQ people,” he said.
“Parliamentarians are well paid to our jobs, not to outsource the provision of basic human rights to a non-binding survey.”
Tasmanian Labor Senator Lisa Singh said: “Mr Turnbull should let politicians do the job they were elected to do.”
Tasmanian Labor Senator Helen Polley said: “The Turnbull Coalition Government is committed to charging tax payers $122 million for a plebiscite.
“Labor is committed to a free vote in the Parliament.”