George Brandis
George Brandis

Contradicting information about the timing of the plebiscite has everyone concerned.

On Sunday, Attorney-General George Brandis said that the government intended to hold the plebiscite for marriage equality ‘before the end of the year.’ The announcement stirred confusion and backlash from members of the Liberal party.

Brandis was directly contradicted when a spokeswoman for the Prime Minister said the plebiscite would happen “as soon as possible after an election.”

Education Minister Simon Birmingham echoed this when he said, “The plebiscite will be held as soon as practicable after the election.”

“I think it’s always been clear that we wanted to deal with the issue after the election, but in the earliest possible time frame after the election, and that’s a very reasonable approach. We want to make sure we give the Australian people their say on this issue so that the end result has validity; has confidence for the Australian people… [so that] the changes, if they are made to the marriage laws, have the support of all Australians.”

The plebiscite was chosen as an option last August after the Coalition party room decided not to hold a free vote on marriage equality.

Shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus has encouraged the Turnbull government to dismiss the plan for a “wasteful and divisive” plebiscite. He said, “They need to get their stories straight but most of all, Mr Turnbull should be dropping this wasteful and very divisive plebiscite. Let parliamentarians do the job we are meant to do, which is pass laws; to legislate.”

It has not been decided if party members would be bound by the results of the plebiscite, and there have already been members that have publicly said that they will vote ‘no’ despite the result.

Greens leader Richard Di Natale said, “Turnbull has got an opportunity to bring the parliament with him, a vote on marriage equality. We should have that done before the next election. The fact is, he is somebody who at least expresses views contrary to Tony Abbott’s, but he’s carrying on with Tony Abbott’s divisive plan for a plebiscite.”

Opposition leader Bill Shorten has continued to point out the expensive nature of the plebiscite and the potential harm it will have on the LGBT community.