Leader of the Opposition in the Senate Penny Wong has a message for all of us: Don’t boycott the postal vote for marriage equality.
This comes after the government confirmed yesterday that the postal vote on marriage equality will go ahead.
The coalition lost its bid in the senate to take the plebiscite to the polls. Instead, Australians will be receiving voting cards in their letterboxes, stipulating a non-compulsory vote to deliver marriage equality (or not) across the country.
The LGBTI community is horrified that such a decision can’t be made in parliament. That, instead, the government is going to (more than likely) fund both parties – giving campaign money to those who spread hate, as well as those fighting for the right to love who they wish.
Wong – who has two children with partner Sophie Allouache – has opposed the plebiscite from the beginning.
“Read some of the things that are said about us and our families and then come back and tell us it’s a ‘unifying moment’,” Wong said, referring to the vote, in parliament yesterday.
The anger is expected and justified. The boycott is something else all together.
Penny Wong speaks about getting married. Post continues below.
The boycott comes as people like former High Court judge Michael Kirby are deciding they’ll refuse to vote because they disagree with the vote itself.
“I feel as a citizen that I’m not being respected. I do feel that this is an improvisation which is completely irregular,” Justice Kirby told breakfast radio yesterday, the ABC reports. “It’s just a complete political improvisation and it’s completely unacceptable and it should stop.”
Justice Kirby – who has been with his partner Johan van Vloten for at least 18 years – has a point. The vote is expensive, non-binding, non-compulsory and can easily turn into a platform for hate.
But his decision to boycott the vote all together will only play into the hands of the far right, something Senator Wong wants us to avoid.
“We didn’t want to be here. We shouldn’t be here. But now we are here, we have to fight,” she wrote for The Sydney Morning Herald today.
She said the “cards are stacked” against those seeking marriage equality, but that refusing to vote is not the answer.
“There’s no denying the Turnbull government’s opinion poll is a stacked deck, designed to mark every card against those seeking marriage equality,” she wrote for the Herald. “That’s why supporters of marriage equality need to work twice as hard to get out the vote, and ensure that Malcolm Turnbull’s $122 million ‘survey’ accurately reflects the overwhelming will of the Australian people.”
Wong predicted the turnout for the vote will be low, citing the last postal ballot as an example. She also questioned the ability of the Australian Bureau of Statistics to run the vote, especially considering last year's #censusfail. But she says these factors should encourage us to vote, as opposed to turn us off.
"We know - because we are seeing it already - that Malcolm Turnbull's opinion poll will unleash a new wave of hatred and bigotry against LGBTI Australians, and especially against our kids. Right now a boycott can only play into the hands of those who would deny us our rights," she wrote for The Sydney Morning Herald.
"So we must do everything we can to get as many people as possible on to the electoral roll in the next fortnight, to register all those young people who have never voted, and re-enrol all those struck off by moving house."
Senator Wong is right: Boycotting the vote might make sense in principle - that the vote is as unnecessary as it damaging - but it will lead to the only thing worse than the vote itself, a 'no' result.
It's time to settle this once and for all.