Australian High Court permits bogus postal vote on marriage equality
8 September 2017
In what amounts to a highly political verdict, the Australian High Court’s seven judges yesterday ruled that the Turnbull government can proceed, via executive decrees, with a sham postal “survey” on same-sex marriage.
The decision by the country’s supreme court averted an immediate political crisis for the unstable Liberal-National Coalition government, which is wracked by divisions over marriage equality. The ruling also gave the go-ahead for an unprecedented plebiscite on what is an elementary legal and democratic right, that is, to marry.
The unanimous court verdict came less than 24 hours after the court completed two days of hearings on the case, allowing the postal vote to start in just five days’ time. The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) will now begin mailing ballots to voters next Tuesday, asking them to say “yes” or “no” to amending the Marriage Act to allow same-sex couples to marry. Voters will have until November 7 to return their envelopes.
Never before has a basic democratic right been made conditional on what is, in effect, a voluntary opinion poll. Moreover, the government has refused to be bound by the result if it is a “yes” majority.
While religious-based opponents of marriage equality are being mobilised to vote “no,” many young people, in particular, are unlikely to participate, either because they are not on the electoral rolls, have changed address or are unfamiliar with the postal system.
Many working-class voters may decline to take part simply due to the vast social distress they confront. The entire exercise is being backed by corporate chiefs, media magnates and the political establishment as a distraction from the…