LGBTI group PFLAG have a couple of suggestions for what we could spend the $160 million that has been earmarked for the proposed marriage equality plebiscite.
In a TV and social media advertisement released earlier this month, titled “Better Things We Can Do With $160 million,” PFLAG claims that 578 teachers, 477 nurses, and 1975 post graduate degrees could be funded with the money the public vote will cost.
It was reported on Tuesday that the federal cabinet has signed off on plans to hold the plebiscite on February 11 next year and that the “yes” and “no” campaigns during the marriage equality plebiscite will each receive $7.5 million in taxpayers’ money.
The ABC reported that the question that would be put to voters will be: “Should the law be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry?”
Watch PFLAG’s ad below:
Marriage equality campaigners said the confirmation of the public funding makes the plebiscite even less acceptable to the LGBTI community, and repeated their calls for a free vote in the parliament instead.
“We cannot countenance taxpayers’ money being spent on what is likely to be hurtful, harmful and even hateful campaign materials from the ‘no’ case,” Parents And Friends Of Lesbians and Gays spokesperson Sharyn Faulkner said.
Veteran LGBTI rights campaigner Rodney Croome (pictured, left) expressed concerns about both the public funding proposal and the reported question.
“Asking about a ‘change to the law’ is unnecessary and distracts attention from the key issue,” he said.
“A simple question would be something like ‘do you believe same-sex couples should be able to marry’.”
Dr Kerryn Phelps, who is campaigning with Australian Marriage Equality, said the length of the marriage equality debate meant the plebsicite was unnecessary.
“We’ve been having this debate now in the community for almost 20 years and my wife Jackie and I have been arguing the case for marriage equality for that whole time,” she said.
“And I don’t believe that there are any views that have not been aired. There is poll after poll now that has said that the Australian people want to have marriage equality.”
Yesterday Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull told parliament he was committed to a fair plebiscite, and countered opposition leader Bill Shorten’s claims on Monday the plebiscite campaign would be vitriolic and harmful.
“At the end of the day whichever side is unsuccessful will nonetheless be able to say we had a fair go, it was a fair contest, a fair question, a fair process… and we, the parliament, then respect it,” he said.
But the future of the plebiscite hinges on whether the Labor party supports in the Senate the legislation enabling the vote.
Labor deputy leader Tanya Plibersek told ABC Radio the opposition had “deep concerns” and the decisions in Cabinet “don’t allay any of those concerns, in fact it worsens them.”
“The idea that we’ll have a $15m publicly-funded battle, when we’ve already seen the sort of material that’s been put out against marriage equality, and we’ve got organisations engaged in this debate saying anti-discrimination legislation and rules around advertising should be suspended,” she said.