High Court Hears Challenge To Same-Sex Marriage Postal Survey


The High Court will today begin hearing a legal challenge to the validity of the federal government’s postal survey on same-sex marriage.

There are two groups of challengers – the first is led by Tasmanian Independent MP Andrew Wilkie, PFLAG’s Shelley Argent and Rainbow Families Victoria’s Felicity Marlowe. The second group is the Human Rights Law Centre, Australian Marriage Equality campaigners and Greens senator Janet Rice.

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Among the arguments the court will hear is that the postal survey’s $122 million price tag is not “urgent and unforeseen” expenditure, and the Australian Bureau of Statistics doesn’t have the legal authority to conduct such an opinion poll.

Mr Wilkie said the government is “exceeding its power” by spending the money without parliamentary approval.

“We’re also arguing that the Government does not have the power to direct the Australian Bureau of Statistics to conduct the postal vote because the activity is outside its legal mandate,” he said.

“If there is a postal vote, I’ll be voting ‘yes’ and I’ll be urging others to vote ‘yes’ but today and tomorrow in the High Court is very much about the rule of law and proper process.”

Finance minister Mathias Cormann told Sky News he remained “very confident” the survey was legally and constitutionally sound.

The Human Rights Centre’s Anna Brown (pictured, centre) said the High Court would confirm whether the postal plebiscite on marriage equality is valid.

“The postal plebiscite is unnecessary and is already proving divisive and harmful. LGBTI groups strongly oppose the plebiscite and so do we,” she said.

“Telling one group of people that their rights have to be decided by a public vote sends a terrible message.

“The High Court will provide an answer for the LGBTI community, their friends and families on whether the postal plebiscite will go ahead or not.”

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Constitutional expert George Williams said last week the government is facing an “uphill battle” because the court has previously found governments need parliamentary approval to spend taxpayer money.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has repeatedly said there’ll be no parliamentary vote on changing marriage laws without the Australian people voting on the issue.

The case will be heard by the High Court in Melbourne today and tomorrow. A judgement is expected before the Australian Bureau of Statistics sends out the first survey forms on September 12.