An unpopular opinion
Why Australia’s postal vote means jack all in the fight to achieve same sex marriage
With only weeks until the results of Australia’s ‘Same sex marriage vote’ are released – November 15th – Australia has finally moved on from publicly shaming voters and questionable campaigning techniques. The conversation is slowly turning to the results of the postal survey and what they mean for same sex marriage here in Australia.
Why does the postal vote mean jack all? Well we first need to understand what the postal vote is and how it differs from a constitutional referendum vote or a plebiscite in order to come to a conclusion on what the postal vote will achieve regardless of outcome.
Here we go…
Firstly, any proposed amendment to the constitution must be heard by both houses of the Commonwealth Parliament and be passed by absolute majority in both houses before the public vote can take place.
In the context of Same Sex Marriage the Constitution gives the federal parliament power over the term ‘marriage’, therefore any changes to the constitution would require a majority vote in parliament as well as a compulsory vote for all enrolled voters.
This procedure of vote would change the definition of marriage in the constitution and is the goal of left wing governments
A plebiscite is often referred to as a simple national compulsory vote and does not directly have any impact on the constitution. The government can hold a plebiscite in order to assess the support of opposition to a proposed action on an issue though it is not bound to the result. This form of vote needs government approval in both houses and in the case of the Same Sex Marriage it failed to be approved under the Turnbull government.
Note that Labour, The Greens and Crossbenchers blocked the legislation for a compulsory plebiscite.
Similar to the plebiscite, a postal vote is not binding. Consider the vote as more of a survey as it only provides a forum for the Australian people to vote for a principle, not a piece of legislation. In short, this would only clear the way for a vote in parliament after many unsuccessful attempts in the senate.
SO WHAT WILL THE POSTAL VOTE ACHIEVE?
Other than a completed survey, not much, and there is still debate over whether the survey will provide an accurate representation of what the Australian people want. To achieve some kind of validity the postal survey must provide two things. Firstly, a certain number of the population must respond in order to legitimise the survey. This is likely since The Australian Bureau of Statistics have received back more than 10 million survey forms in Malcolm Turnbulls $122 million poll, though this number of forms is based on bulk containers returned and not an individual count.
Secondly there must be a significant percental difference in the results to show a clear ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ vote.
The government has said the postal survey will facilitate a private member’s bill and will open the floor for further discussions, getting the conversation further than the senate. All in all it will result in a parliamentary fight about protecting religious freedoms, rights and freedom of speech, which will be a drawn out process.
We haven’t heard the end of this debate