Immigration Minister Peter Dutton’s reported postal vote plan to settle Australia’s stance on same-sex marriage is a ploy against reform, experts say.
It comes after Mr Dutton and fellow cabinet minister Mathias Cormann were reportedly working on an alternative path which could see the question of whether same sex couples can be married at law settled this parliamentary term via a postal vote, a Fairfax Media investigation reported.
However, according to University of Adelaide Professor Carol Johnson, the voluntary vote is biased towards older, more conservative Australians.
“Frankly, this really seems to be a face-saving attempt by the government rather than a serious attempt to gauge what the public’s opinion is,” Professor Johnson told The New Daily.
“It’s a ploy, in a situation like this what is very likely is that those older conservatives, members of churches opposed to same-sex marriage and networks to vote against it, outweighing (those for gay marriage).
“It’s not clear to me it would be an accurate representation of the Australian population.”
Professor Johnson agreed younger Australians living in share houses, with addresses still registered to their parent’s home, their unlikelihood to pay attention to a letter in the digital age, and the option to opt out of voting could favour conservatives against same-sex marriage.
“One of the problems with the postal vote is that it would be optional, so it’s very hard to know how seriously it would be taken,” she said.
“There are certainly issues that normally don’t occur in Australia due to our compulsory voting. That’s a good option if you want to get a genuine measure of what the public’s opinion is.”
Fairfax Media reported that, while speaking privately, Mr Dutton has said it was inevitable that same-sex marriage would become law in Australia, so it would be preferred that the Coalition, rather than Labor, controlled the process.
Some Liberal ministers recognise that a victory on same-sex marriage would enhance the Prime Minister’s standing with voters, while other conservatives want to delay action on the matter.
However, Australian Marriage Equality chair Alex Greenwich said the proposal was a “desperate ploy” to delay legislation.
“It’s completely unnecessary, it’s unbinding, it undermines the Parliament and it’s a bit of a desperate ploy to further delay the reform,” he told The New Daily.
“I really don’t think we should give the process any kind of credibility. I don’t think we should entertain it as a genuine option. These kind of things come up to delay a reform, not to achieve a reform.
“This is not binding, not necessary, voluntary to decide if you want to participate in or not, would obviously come at a huge expense and all the reasons why people strongly campaigned against the plebiscite still remain.
“The only way to achieve marriage equality is to have a vote in Parliament discussing anything else in my mind is just a delaying tactic.”