Same-sex marriage: When you'll vote and what it will cost
AUSTRALIANS will get a chance to have their say on whether to make gay marriage legal before the end of the year.
And it's set to cost taxpayers $122 million.
Coalition MPs have decided a postal vote on marriage equality will be held before November, if they are unable to secure support for a traditional plebiscite in Parliament this week.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Finance Minister Mathias Cormann announced the government's plans for the postal vote at Parliament House today.
Under the plan, the Australian Bureau of Statistics will be able to conduct the postal vote with assistance from Australian Electoral Commission officers.
Ballot papers would begin arriving in letter boxes in for every Australian on the electoral role by September 12.
The question will be whether Australians believe the Marriage Act should be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry.
Australians will not be forced to vote on the issue; the postal plebiscite would be voluntary.
A final result would be secured by November 15.
MPs would then be given a free vote in Parliament if a majority of Australians vote 'Yes' but they would not be bound to vote based on the results.
If Australians vote 'No', the government will not go ahead with the free vote.
Prime Minister Turnbull said the postal vote was a way for the government to keep its election promise to Australians to allow a public vote on the issue.
The traditional plebiscite would cost up to $170 million.
If the government is able to secure support in the senate for the full plebiscite, which is unlikely given it was already blocked once in November, it would be held on November 25.
Senator Cormann will put a motion for a vote on the full plebiscite today.
Marriage equality campaigners have already warned they would launch a High Court challenge over the postal votes legality if the government attempted to hold one without senate authorisation.
Mr Dreyfus didn't rule out Labor joining the legal action but said the party would only take that step if the case was not being put "adequately".
He labelled the postal vote option an "extraordinary" action from an "incompetent" government.
"The government is blocked in the senate and will be blocked again from conducting a plebiscite," he said.
"It's now threatening that it's going to go ahead with what is probably an illegal activity, not authorised by the parliament, spending between $40 and $100 million dollars ... simply to achieve further delay and to conduct an activity that they won't be bound by."
Should the law be changed to allow same sex couples to marry?
This poll ended on 29 August 2017.
This is not a scientific poll. The results reflect only the opinions of those who chose to participate.
CHRISTIAN LOBBY ADDS PRESSURE
Aside from the legal threat, the Turnbull Government is facing pressure from the Australian Christian Lobby.
The ACL is threatening to campaign against the Coalition if it goes ahead with anything other than a plebiscite on the same-sex marriage issue.
The group has gathered 55,000 signatures on a petition urging the government to stick to its election promise to hold a plebiscite on marriage equality, or risk losing the support of "millions" of voters,The Australian reports.
Former Liberal turned Australian Conservatives leader Cory Bernardi will table the petition in the senate on the ACL's behalf today.
It comes after Liberal Party MPs yesterday agreed in an emergency party room meeting to try for a second time to secure support for a traditional plebiscite in the Senate.
If that fails, the government believes it will be able to hold a voluntary, non-binding postal plebiscite before the end of the year on the issue.
A free vote would then be held in Parliament after the government receives the results of the postal vote.
ACL managing director Lyle Shelton has issued a warning to the Coalition ahead of the joint party room meeting this morning, where the Liberals and Nationals will decide on their official policy on how to progress the bid to legalise gay marriage.
"If the Liberal Party cannot provide a pathway to preserving marriage, freedom and gender norms, millions of Australians who support the Marriage Act will have no choice but to look for candidates with the resolve to preserve it," Mr Shelton told The Australian.
POSTAL VOTE ALMOST CERTAIN
Acting Special Minister of State Mathias Cormann has defended the Liberal Party's decision to hold a voluntary postal vote, if the government's second attempt to secure a traditional plebiscite fails.
It's first attempt was blocked in the upper house in November, and the second attempt is widely expected to fail.
A postal vote was the "next best option" to a plebiscite, Senator Cormann told ABC this morning.
Senator Cormann reiterated the government's belief, based on legal advice, that the postal option was legal and constitutional.
He also defended the decision to make the postal vote voluntary, despite Australian voting otherwise being compulsory.
"There are democratic jurisdictions overwhelming around the world that have voluntary voting now," Senator Cormann said.
"The proposition that voluntary voting lacks legitimacy, I don't accept."
National Party leader Barnaby Joyce told reporters at Parliament House ahead of the joint party meeting today that he had "no problems" with a postal vote.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten slammed the Liberal Party's policy as a delaying tactic.
"There's a constitutional question over whether or not this postal opinion poll is even legitimate," he said.
"Why is it that the Liberal Party spend all of their agility and innovation on working out ways to delay marriage equality, I wish they'd put the same effort into electricity prices."
Mr Shorten said gay marriage would be legalised in Australia once the Liberal Party was allowed a free vote as the "vast majority" of Labor MPs supported the change.