Sharyn Faulkner
Sharyn Faulkner, spokesperson for PFLAG

The Federal Cabinet has approved the plans intending to hold the plebiscite in February 2017.

The Federal Cabinet has approved the plans for a plebiscite on marriage equality. On February 11, 2017 Australians will answer the question “Should the law be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry?”

Up until now, questions have surrounded the plebiscite including the potential for federal funding for advertisements. The government has proposed that both the “yes” and “no” sides receive $7.5 million each, increasing spending on the already expensive process.

On Wednesday, Labor Leader Bill Shorten said, “The fact the Liberals announced public funding to give a platform to bigotry shows no interest from the government to work with Labor on this.”

Shadow attorney-general Mark Dreyfus expressed similar disapproval by highlighting how certain groups have already pledged to use funds to campaign on other topics.

 “It would be an appalling abuse if…the Australian Christian Lobby were to misuse funds provided for a plebiscite campaign to campaign on other political matters.”

The ACL’s managing director Lyle Shelton said Tuesday on ABC radio that he intended to use the funds, which he believes is on “the low side”, to campaign against programs that benefit the LGBTI community. “There’s been very little discussion about the consequences, how this might flow into schools through programs like the Safe Schools program when you take gender out of marriage. “

“The money will go towards airing the concerns of a whole range of consequences that flow from taking gender out of marriage,” Shelton stated.

Wanting to see Labor block the plebiscite, Sharyn Faulkner, spokesperson for PFLAG, said, “We cannot countenance taxpayers’ money from being spent on what is likely to be hurtful, harmful and even hateful campaign materials from the ‘no’ case.”

Dreyfus emphasised that “The wording of the question is the idea of the right-wing of the Liberal Party, the public funding of the ‘no’ campaign is the idea of the right-wing of the Liberal Party.”

“This idea that there should be public funding of the ‘no’ campaign is something that takes this plebiscite even further away from something that Labor could support.”

Wanting to see the issue resolved in a simple Parliamentary vote, the Labor party continues to discuss a possible vote against the plebiscite legislation.

Shorten stated, “Turnbull is deliberately sabotaging the process to make it difficult for even the most ardent supporters of marriage equality to back it.”

He went on to highlight that the entire plebiscite is a tactic to make sure marriage equality fails to set up by the “extreme right-wing of the Liberal party.”

Labor MP Anthony Albanese explained, “We’ll wait and see the legislation before caucus meets and makes a determination but I haven’t heard anyone arguing on the Labor side that the idea of a plebiscite is a great idea.”

The Greens and the Nick Xenophon Team pledged to block the plebiscite already, with Nick Xenophon saying they would not support the plebiscite due to the cost and the fact that parliament “can and should decide” in a free vote.

Greens LGBTIQ spokesperson Senator Janet Rice seems the plebiscite as a divisive measure conceived by former Prime Minister Tony Abbott. “We don’t need a plebiscite to tell us what we already know — that the majority of Australians are ready for marriage equality.”

In a statement released on Tuesday, Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young stated, “This isn’t a pathway for delivering marriage equality; it’s a shameless display of the arrogant game playing that makes so many people hate politicians.”

Hanson-Young added, “I could never accept spending taxpayers’ money on a campaign that attacks members of the Australian community.”

The Greens continue to urge Labor to commit to blocking the plebiscite, stating “The fastest way to remove discrimination is to work together for a parliamentary vote. Labour must join the Greens in committing to block an unnecessary plebiscite.”

Labour will not make a formal decision until Parliament reconvenes in October.

Shorten continues to be vocal about the harm a plebiscite could have on the LGBTI community, especially youth.

Earlier this week when introducing a private bill for Marriage Equality, the Labor Leader stated that “a plebiscite would represent a fundamental failure of this parliament to do its job.”

Speaking of LGBTI youth, Shorten said, “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.”

In the coming weeks, the Labor Leader has plans to consult with mental health groups and members of the LGBTI community that will feel the effects of the plebiscite “about the harm a plebiscite will cause.”

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull continues to insist that speculations of a vulgar and hate-filled debate “insults the Australian people,” and will proceed with his government’s plan.