Opposition leader Bill Shorten pledged that if elected Prime Minister the first piece of legislation he will introduce to parliament is an amendment to the Marriage Act.
In his final pre-election address at the National Press Club, he promised to change the definition of marriage in Australia to no longer be between ‘a man’ and ‘a women’, but between ‘two people’.
It was an unequivocal confirmation of Labor’s ongoing position to make same-sex marriage a reality within its first 100 days of government.
Unfortunately, the Coalition’s stance on the issue is nowhere near as clear cut.
Soon after becoming Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull confirmed he’d stick with Tony Abbott’s plan to hold a plebiscite on the issue, taking it to a public vote — that is, despite his previous calls for a free vote on the issue.
In October he told the parliament his government would “abide by the decision made by the Australian people” and anyone who said otherwise was “not living in the real world”.
Last week though, he conceded the members of his party wouldn’t be bound by the public’s wishes.
Confused? We don’t blame you.
So, here’s everything you need to know about marriage equality before you go to the polls on Saturday.
First things first, what’s the Marriage Act?
The Australian Marriage Act 1961 is a law made by the parliament which regulates the rules by which a marriage can be recognised in Australia.
At present, only unions between men and women can be recognised as marriages with all that that entails.
So, what would a plebiscite mean?
A plebiscite is a nationwide vote to gauge public feedback on a political proposal.
Aside from being incredibly time-consuming— not to mention setting taxpayers back a whopping $160 million — plebiscites are also non-binding.
Australian Marriage Equality asked voters what they’d rather spend the money on (post continues after video):
This essentially means, that even if the majority of Australians vote in favour of marriage equality, which, given the polling on this issue they are widely expected to, a bill to amend the Marriage Act would still have to pass through parliament and there’s no iron-clad guarantee of that happening.
Turnbull argues MPs would respect the will of the Australian people, but some of his own party members, like outspoken conservative senator Cory Bernardi, have given no such assurance.
Both party leaders attended Mardis Gras 2016 but only one will ensure same-sex marriage becomes a reality. Source: Facebook
"The tradition in the Liberal Party is that on matters of this kind it is a free vote," he told the ABC.
"I have no doubt that if the plebiscite is carried as I believe that it will be, that you will see an overwhelming majority of MPs and senators voting for it."