The Australian Republican Movement (ARM) today broke its silence on the marriage equality plebiscite,
declaring the proposed vote a waste of time and money.
The republican referendum in 1999 was the last time a national public vote was held on a major item of national reform.
The ARM believes plebiscites and referenda should only be used rarely on questions of constitutional change, significant national issues the Parliament can’t agree on, and national symbols like the flag and anthem.
Australia has only held three national plebiscites previously: on military conscription (1916), reinforcing Australian Imperial Forces overseas (1917) and the choice of Advance Australia Fair as our national anthem (1977).
The ARM calls on the Government to respect precedent and reserve the plebiscite mechanism for its intended purpose.
The Australian Parliament has the power to amend the Marriage Act without a plebiscite.
The ARM campaigns for a plebiscite on an Australian head of state by 2020. This plebiscite would ask voters two questions.
Firstly, whether or not they want an Australian citizen to replace the British monarch as Australia’s head of state and, second, how they would prefer an Australian head of state be chosen.
The ARM’s plebiscite proposal is designed to avoid the divisions of the 1999 republican referendum. The narrow loss in that ballot is commonly attributed to a lack of consensus among republicans on whether the Australian Parliament or the people should elect the head of state.
Quotes attributable to Tim Mayfield, ARM National Director:
‘As an organisation that knows a thing or two about national votes, the ARM believes that a plebiscite on marriage equality is both unnecessary and inappropriate.’
‘Regardless of your views on same-sex marriage, it’s a matter for the Parliament.’
‘This plebiscite will be expensive and potentially divisive. It will do little to bring Australians together or take us forward as a nation.’
‘If the Government insists on having a plebiscite, let’s make it a poll on having an Australian head of state instead, and involve the community in a major national reform rather than using voters as an excuse for Parliament to avoid doing its job.’