Public vote on same-sex marriage in Australia sets “dangerous” precedent

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Canberra, Aug 22 (IANS) A former Australian High Court justice on Monday warned against setting a “dangerous” precedent by having a citizen-decided plebiscite on the future of same-sex marriage in the country.

Michael Kirby, who served in the High Court from 1996 to 2009, said that by allowing the nation’s lawmakers to shirk the responsibility associated with making “tough decisions”, it could encourage a generation of “soft” ministers who refuse to shape the future of the nation — the thing they are elected to do, Xinhua news agency reported.

Over the weekend, the media reported that Australians would head to the polls to vote on the legalisation of same-sex marriage in February next year, after the Australian Electoral Commission warned the government against deciding on same-sex marriage in 2016.

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But according to Kirby, putting the responsibility on citizens and not lawmakers would only send a bad message.

“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,” Kirby 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 the job.”

“It’s time parliament did address itself to the issue of marriage equality and giving it out to a plebiscite is simply an endeavour to delay or defeat the measure.”

Kirby said a plebiscite would also come at a massive, unnecessary public cost. A plebiscite for same-sex marriage would come at a cost more than $400 million for the taxpayer, according to Price Waterhouse Coopers modelling.

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Despite criticism, the government has maintained it is simply following through with its election promise to allow a public vote on whether or not same-sex marriage should be legalised in Australia.



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