Queensland Liberal MP and longtime marriage equality advocate Warren Entsch has shot down Peter Dutton’s renewed push for a voluntary postal vote on marriage equality.
Dutton told Sky News on Sunday that a postal vote would be “the next best option” to replace the failed marriage equality plebiscite and if a majority of Australians voted in favour in the postal vote, the government would be “bound by that outcome.”
“There’s no doubt in my mind that a postal plebiscite delivers the same policy intent as a plebiscite proper,” Dutton said.
“I think that is a much cleaner process than people running off to support private member’s motions or a Labor stunt within the House of Representatives.”
But Entsch told The Guardian on Monday: “The fact that a plebiscite of any form, whether it be postal or otherwise, is not binding I think really puts the final nail in the coffin in relation to [the concept].
“That’s not going to change with a … postal plebiscite.”
Entsch said he appreciated Dutton’s attempt to find a way through the issue “that he feels comfortable with” but said Dutton’s promise to make the vote binding only applied to himself.
“With all due respect, he can make it binding for himself,” Entsch said.
“He may be able to encourage people within … the party to make it binding for them.
“You would have to make huge changes to the concept of a plebiscite to be able to legislate to have it binding before you actually had to vote on it.”
Marriage equality advocates said a postal plebiscite would likely be biased against same-sex marriage.
“A voluntary postal vote would be biased against the ‘yes’ case because groups most likely to vote ‘yes’, like young people, are least likely to return their voluntary postal ballots,” just.equal spokesperson Rodney Croome said.
“We are also concerned because no legislation is required for a voluntary postal vote so the Government would set the question with no oversight from the Parliament as a whole.”
The Equality Campaign executive director Tiernan Brady said the postal vote would set a “dangerous precedent.”
“Telling one group of people that their rights cannot be decided by parliament but instead have to be decided by a separate process sends a clear and terrible message to Australians that LGBTI people have to reach a higher bar for their dignity,” he said.
Opposition leader Bill Shorten also criticised the idea of a postal vote on the issue.
“The postal plebiscite is a policy for a government that has neither the intellect to know what to do, nor the courage to do what is right,” he tweeted.
Western Australian Liberal senator Dean Smith recently confirmed he was drafting a private member’s bill that would legalise same-sex marriage, and has called for government MPs to be granted a free vote before the next election.