Did we just get conned out of a vote on gay marriage?
THE Australian Government has confirmed we will vote in a plebiscite on gay marriage on February 11 next year.
However in a press conference in Canberra about 1.50pm today Federal Attorney-General George Brandis conceded the Coalition still needs the support of Labor or the Greens in order to ensure the vote goes ahead.
"This is a test for Mr Shorten. Because Mr Shorten now has to decide whether he will say to the Australian people, 'I don't trust you to make this judgement I'm not interested in what you have to say about this question.'," Mr Brandis said.
"And if, by the way, like me, you'll be voting yes in the plebiscite and would like to see marriage equality it is Mr Shorten who stands in the way of that too.
"It is Mr Shorten who is saying to gay Australians, "You can just wait while I play politics."
Mr Shorten has already aired his opposition to the idea of a plebiscite as he and the Labor Party have introduced a private member's bill which would see the Parliament change the Marriage Act, without the need for a popular vote.
"The idea of young people, perhaps yet to come out, seeing the legitimacy of their identity debated on the national stage, that is not an ideal which we should inflict on any citizen when we have a better path," Mr Shorten said as he introduced the bill.
"Let me be as blunt as possible: a No campaign would be an emotional torment for gay teenagers and if one child commits suicide over the plebiscite, then that is one too many.
"Mr Speaker, achieving marriage equality should be an occasion for joy, a unifying moment of celebration."
Mr Brandis and Special Minister for State Scott Ryan outlined how the Government's proposed plebiscite would take place.
Mr Ryan said the process would entail the creation of a yes and a no committee each with 10 members - including five parliamentarians - two from from the Government, two from the Opposition and one cross-bencher.
Each case will be given $7.5 million as a starting base with Australians then able to make the choice to donate.
"There will be $7.5 million provided to each yes and no committee," Mr Ryan said.
"Deductible gift recipient status will be provided to these official yes and no committees so they can take tax deductible donations.
"The tax deduction will be capped at $1,500 which is again the same that applies to political parties in the electoral Act."
Mr Brandis also commented on the way the process would be set up.
"A completely neutral question, not loaded in one way or another to favour one side or another, so that the Australian people can make their choice, can make their decision, and if they decide to change the definition of marriage by allowing same sex couples to marry," Mr Brandis said.