Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull
As the true cost of the referendum is revealed, Australian activists have slammed plans to put same-sex marriage to a public vote.
According to a new independent report by PricewaterhouseCoopers, the process would cost the Australian economy over half a billion dollars.
This would include the cost of running the referendum or plebiscite ($158m); funding of community campaigns ($66m); time for people to vote ($281m) and the impact on mental health and wellbeing on Australians caused by a divisive campaign ($20m).
The amount is three times the cost that had been previously estimated.
In September, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull disappointed the LGBT community by announcing that the federal government would stick to earlier plans to hold a plebiscite on the issue.
The Liberal-National coalition government has refused to allow its MPs to freely vote on a same-sex marriage bill, which, it is believed, they would approve if given the option.
“The more information we get about the plebiscite, the clearer it becomes that it’s just an incredibly costly and harmful opinion poll,” commented Australian Marriage Equality National Director Rodney Croome.
“With the stakes so high for the economy and for the mental health of LGBTI Australians the government needs to reconsider it’s position.
“The plebiscite legislation will be a minefield of unexpected costs, unintended consequences, and complications about timing and public funding,” he said.
“The best way to resolve the marriage equality issue is with a free vote in the parliament as soon as possible.” Croome added.
PricewaterhouseCoopers Australia CEO Luke Sayers told The Sydney Morning Herald that the plebiscite would be “a massive waste of time and money, that will remove focus on the economy, growth, and jobs, which is the real priority for Australia”.
Polls indicate that between 60% and 70% of Australians are in favour of marriage equality.