Australians will now take part in a voluntary $122 million postal ballot on same-sex marriage next month.
The Senate today rejected, for a second time, the Turnbull government’s compulsory plebiscite bill, voting 31-31 not to hold a second reading debate on the legislation.
Therefore the bill was defeated on technical grounds.
Jacqui Lambie, Derryn Hinch, Lucy Gichuhi, David Leyonhjelm, Cory Bernardi and One Nation voted with the government to restore the bill, while Labor, the Greens and Nick Xenophon opposed.
The Upper House’s rejection of the plan came after Labor frontbencher Penny Wong (pictured) launched an emotional attack on the government’s proposed postal vote.
Senator Wong said she was appalled at the suggestion a national vote on same-sex marriage would be “unifying” for the nation, as Finance Minister Mathias Cormann suggested.
“The Australian Christian Lobby described our children as the stolen generation,” she said.
“We love our children … you talk about unifying moments? It is not a unifying moment.”
— Luke Henriques-Gomes (@lukehgomes) August 9, 2017
After the vote, independent MP Andrew Wilkie joined marriage equality campaigners Rodney Croome, PFLAG national spokesperson Shelley Argent and Rainbow Families Victoria’s Felicity Marlowe to announce they’d challenge the postal plebiscite in the High Court of Australia.
Croome and Argent said they’d received advice from barrister Ron Merkel QC that suggested constitutional problems with the “expensive and non-binding” poll that will provide “a platform for hate”.
“Advice we received from Mr Merkel last week indicated the Government cannot act without specific legislation and a specific budgetary appropriation,” Mr Croome said.
“That would appear to cover a postal vote conducted by either the Electoral Commission or the Bureau of Statistics, but we are seeking further advice to establish the constitutionality of the current proposal.”