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The Marriage Plebiscite, Brexit and What The Question Will Be…

Q: What’s the difference between a referendum and a plebiscite?

A: A referedum usually refers to amendments to the Constitution. In the case of Same Sex Marriage, there’s no need for a referendum as the High Court has already ruled that the Federal Government has the power to make laws on marriage. A plebiscite, on the other hand, allows the politicians to ignore the outcome and just vote the way they would have if we hadn’t spent $160 million getting everyone to vote.

Ok, I don’t know how many of you got a shock when Britain voted to leave the EU. Apparently many of the people who voted to leave were quite surprised and expressed quite a lot of anger that their vote would be taken seriously when all they were doing was declaring their love of Enid Blyton and the right to be a soccer hooligan without a lot of Europeans complaining that they were worse than the Russians. Not only that, but many of the politicians who backed it were quick to point out that their promises about the benefits to Britain were only theoretical and now that things were actually happening we had to look carefully at the nuances of what they’d said. For example, when we said no more immigration, we didn’t mean no more foreign workers, we just meant we didn’t want them to have any legal rights, so no don’t expect that you’ll get a job soon.

So, because of the surprise result in Britain, many people have expressed concern over the upcoming same sex marriage plebiscite which Turnbull has suggested could be held as early as the end of the year. Or next year. Or whenever they work out the question.

Now, some of you are probably cynically suggesting that our plebiscite is a bit like the vote in Britain. We’re holding it, but the people who called don’t really think it will happen, and, in our case, it’s just a delaying tactic to avoid the question till after the election when Tony Abbott will again be PM and Sir Malcolm will move to New York. (Ok, take it as satire, but go ahead and read some of my pieces from 2013 and 2014 and you’ll see that I have a better predictive record than most political commentators!)

And I’ve heard some of the media, left wingers that they are, wonder why don’t even have the question yet.

Anyway, I have it on good authority that this is because the Liberals are working hard on getting the question for the plebiscite just right. Or should that be Just Right, as in making sure that those Just and Right will prevail!

For example, these a few of the possibilities they’re considering:

1. Would you like to see the marriage act amended so that marriage is no longer a sacred thing?
2. Would you like to began our slippery slope to destruction?
3. Are you concerned that an amendment to the marriage act would send the wrong signal to people smugglers?
4. As Britain is finding after their “Yes” vote, are you concerned that Australis could damage our AAA credit rating with a hasty decision?
5. Do you consider that marriage is a sacred union of a man and a woman ordained by God or are you a heathen who will burn in Hell?
6. Aren’t you worried that if a child is brought up without a father and a mother, they could turn out like Malcolm? (vetoed by Turnbull)
7. Should parliament concern itself with more important things and not waste time debating marriage equality?
And finally, the one that’s winning at the moment:
8. Do you just want to vote and let us decide the question later?

As for the final one, there’s a bit of discussion about whether it is an actual question or a rhetorical and, if it’s the former, does that mean that the question on same sex marriage will already be decided by a “YES” vote and there’s no need for a parliamentary debate. Then there’s the question of whether a “YES” vote will mean that the Liberals can just insert any question they like at a later date in much the same way that they claim a mandate for all their policies whether mentioned in before the election or not once they win. So you can see that it’s not as simple as asking do you think that gay people should be allowed to marry the person that they love!

Of course, all this is contigent on the Abbott/Turnbull/Abbott government being returned next week. If Shorten gets in, we’d have the terrible circumstance that an issue like this would be decided by the unions, because that’s where the Labor policy of a conscience vote, followed by support of SSM in future years, has been decided.

If that happens, there’ll be no support for a conscience vote from the Liberals. And that’s the thing about a conscience vote. You can only have a conscience when your party says so!

9 comments

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  1. kerri

    I though the question was decided by George, “I’m above the law”, Brandis??
    I am sure he will do a fine job of phrasing a fair question?
    But seriously why do our laws state that
    1/ a referendum and or plebiscite is not binding? (So why bother ?)
    2/ a referendum must be on a single question only???
    The $160m loss could be easier to swallow if many other important questions were put to public vote at the same time or even??? hey here’s a radical idea, while all those polling places and staff are set up for an election? Given we need to “live within our means” now!

  2. townsvilleblog

    If the LNP would collect “our” taxes from their multinational mates we would have had an extra $8 Billion in last years budget, that’s Billion not Million.

  3. king1394

    Avoid any plebiscite by voting ALP – they will bring on a bill and that will be that.
    Not only saving millions of dollars but a lot of social disruption (and I’m just thinking of the inconvenience of the logistics (setting up polling places etc) and all the time people like me will end up having to put into arguing about this thing). It’s not earthshakingly important compared to real issues from global warming, to maintaining our social services, and generally running the country.

  4. Gangey1959

    Can we have a vote to ignore the parliament altogether ?
    They are wankers.

  5. keerti

    I suspect that they’ll go with your last suggestion. This question will be numbered 1 to 10. Once the votes are counted they’ll then say things like : question 2 was about knighthoods and asked if mucdoch should get one….question 3 was should we take all the money in australia and share it amongst the richest 10%. Having post plebisite given us the questions they will then manufacture the result and export half the population to Naru. Murdoch will be given a number of titles and in a shock event nominate rhinehart as his consort. They will produce children with a multitude of mouths to enable them to be fed as much as their doting, greedy “parents” can manage to stuff into them.

  6. Carol Taylor

    Cute tricks already emerging on the issue of the plebiscite – apparently it may or may not happen this year. Then Turnbull although himself using the “But I’m a front bencher” excuse to excuse himself from crossing the floor on the marriage equality issue has not bound his own front bench to vote for the result (presumably Yes) for marriage equality. Likewise none of the LNP will be bound by the results of the plebiscite and even if a member of the LNP might like to vote Yes, there is a strong suggestion that they might like to (be convinced to) change their minds if a majority in their particular electorate voted No.

    So there we have it – 3 different reasons why LNP members can vote No even if the result of the plebiscite is Yes. So why bother having a plebiscite when Turnbull has made certain of numerous escape hatches.

  7. Kyran

    Your predictive capacity must now be rivalling Nostradamus. Who would have thought the only pride left in London was a march;
    “Two London Metropolitan Police officers who were marching in uniform got engaged, while another officer left the march to propose to his boyfriend in the crowd.”
    “Tens of thousands of people gathered in central London for the parade.”
    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-06-26/london-pride-police-officers-propose-orlando-victims-remembers/7544562
    “Ok, I don’t know how many of you got a shock when Britain voted to leave the EU. Apparently many of the people who voted to leave were quite surprised and expressed quite a lot of anger that their vote would be taken seriously…”
    Well, we have some good news, and some bad news.
    ‘The Sun’ newspaper has a readership of around 13mil. Yeah, I know, it’s an oxymoron, ‘Sun’ readers only look at the pictures, ’cause they can’t read. The owner of ‘The Sun’ is a disgraced person, found ‘not fit to run a major company’. The epilogue of Nick Davies “Hack Attack” is worth re-reading any chance you get.
    So, that was the good news.
    The bad news is that this disgraced proprietor ran the exit campaign, because he got a red carpet at #10 Downing Street, and Brussels told him to feck off. Boris will now, likely, be the new PM of England. It is possible Trump will be the President of America, whilst Canada and Mexico tell Trump’s boss to feck off.
    Global stock markets lost (US) $2 trillion on Friday. The Sterling fell to a 31 year low.
    “Wearing an open-necked shirt, a suit and a white baseball cap with his slogan “Make America great again”, Mr Trump was asked if he was worried about the volatility in financial markets following Britain’s vote to leave the EU on Thursday.
    “There’s always turmoil no matter where you go, no matter what you do,” he said.”
    You would think, with so many sub-editors (and no reporters), newscorpse would have got the slogan right. Make America Grate, again.
    It seems only appropriate that rupe would meet trump in Scotland.
    “He also met with News Corporation media mogul Rupert Murdoch and his wife Jerry Hall, giving them a tour of the Aberdeen course in a golf cart.
    Mr Trump, whose mother was Scottish, was greeted by around a dozen protesters at the course waving Mexican flags, rainbow flags for Gay Pride day and signs that read “Donald stop the hating” and “Shame on you for ruining a beautiful landscape”.”
    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-06-26/donald-trump-plays-down-post-brexit-market-turmoil/7544676
    The even badder news is that we now have a new ‘axis of evil’. Boris, rupe and the trump.
    As a matter of observation, all of the questions pertaining to the ‘marriage’ question could be thought about in terms of the Murdoch/Hall union. Clearly, marriage is not about procreation. Your #5 suggests to me that I will burn in some sort of hell.
    “a sacred union of a man and a woman ordained by God”
    Murdoch? Hall? Whose god?
    Thank you, Mr Brisbane. The last paragraph was truly aspirational. Conscientious liberals, or liberals with a conscience. Take care

  8. my say

    We will never have Marriage Equality under this government,

  9. diannaart

    Rossleigh – proving, yet again, the truth of satire and the paucity of truth pretty much everywhere else.

    Of course, the LNP have to figure just the ‘right’ question to ask – Howard taught this lesson very well with his referendum on the Republic.

    The truly frightening thing is all of Rossleigh’s proposed questions are being considered by the LNP, well not right now, ‘now’ being pre-election, however, not even post-election as they will have to focus on the economy, their only true deity.

    AFTER the LNP have ‘cleaned up Labor’s mess’ THEN the sitting PM (whatever his name is) will decide, if the time is right and the progress of sub building has been inspected…

    As we all know or should know, there is no sunset clause on when to hold a plebiscite.

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