Former High Court judge Michael Kirby has said the marriage equality plebiscite would set a poor precedent and that holding the public vote was “un-Australian”.
“Our constitution establishes a representative democracy which makes laws in Parliament,” he told ABC Radio.
“The fact that we haven’t had a plebiscite in 100 years is an indication that it’s just alien to our constitutional tradition.”
Late last week, the Australian Electoral Commission handed advice to the government strongly recommending against holding the plebiscite this year, but Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s office said no date had been locked in amid reports the vote would be held in February 2017.
Mr Kirby told the ABC it was better to wait for parliament to deal with marriage equality than hold a non-binding public vote that would set a “bad precedent.”
“It will mean anytime that there is something that is controversial, that’s difficult for the parliamentarians to address or they don’t want to address, they’ll send it out to a plebiscite,” he said.
“I think that’s a very bad way. Our Parliament, our parliamentary institutions in Australia and elsewhere are really not working all that well at the moment and what we should be doing is strengthening parliament and ensuring it gets on with its job.”
He was also concerned about the effect of “running out the old issues of hatreds and animosities” on young LGBTI people.
“We didn’t do this for the Aboriginal people when we moved to give equality in law to them, we didn’t do it when we dismantled the White Australia policy which was absolutely central to our country… We didn’t do it in advances on women’s equality, we didn’t do it most recently on disability equality,” he said.
“Why are now picking out the LGBT, the gay community? It’s simply an instance of hate and dislike, hostility to a small minority in our population. It’s un-Australian.”