The marriage equality plebiscite could cost the Australian economy half a billion dollars, according to research from accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).
PwC’s report examined three mechanisms for achieving marriage equality and claimed the true cost of a plebiscite not coupled with an election would be $525 million, taking into account the cost of running a plebiscite ($158m), the funding of community campaigns ($66m), the loss in productivity of people taking time to vote ($281m) and the impact on community mental health and wellbeing ($20m).
Australian Marriage Equality’s Rodney Croome (pictured) predicted the plebiscite will be a “minefield of unexpected costs and unintended consequences” and all government ministers needed to read the report before proceeding with legislation.
“The more information we get about the plebiscite, the clearer it becomes that it’s just an incredibly costly and harmful opinion poll,” he said.
Liberal senator Eric Abetz blasted the report as “very skewed” and questioned the maths.
“To try to take into account and double the figure on the basis of the time taken to vote as being a factor basically says, ‘Look, let’s get rid of democracy; each time people go to the polling booth it costs them $281 million’,” he said.
Opposition leader Bill Shorten said instead of a plebiscite “the parliament could just do its job and legislate marriage equality immediately.”
Greens marriage equality spokesperson Robert Simms said the plebiscite would also have a human cost with LGBTI Australians’ mental health affected by negative campaigning.