So, What Could A Hung Parliament Mean For The Same-Sex Marriage Plebiscite?

Good evening, Australia. If you’ve only just now awoken from your democracy sausage-induced hangover, here’s a live visual from Canberra:

A day after the polls closed at yesterday’s federal election, neither the Liberal Party nor Labor have been fortunate enough to reach that hallowed 76-seat mark in the House of Representatives.

As such, the two big players in Aussie politics have been left without an absolute majority in the House. Votes are still being counted, and Malcolm Turnbull’s gang could still walk away with a majority, but we’ll probs have to wait until Tuesday to know for sure. 

Until then, as we re-acclimatise ourselves with the notion we may be facing another hung parliament scenario, we’ve got the time to have a bit of a ponder about some of the key issues surrounding the election – and wildly speculate as to how they might play out. 

One of the more prominent issues the Liberals brought forward to the election was the marriage equality plebiscite. Of course, while LGBT advocates and allies obviously want equality enshrined in law, the push for the massive vote has been heavily criticised.

Many complaints focus on the seemingly foregone conclusion that, yes, broader Australia wants marriage equality, so why bother with a a public vote when the pollies could pass it with a vote of their own?

The cost of the possible vote has also caught some flak. Some estimates pin the plebiscite’s cost at a stonking half a billion dollars – that’s a lot of cash to splash, especially considering the previous point. 

So, since a Liberal majority government ain’t certain, how exactly could they come through on the slated 2016 plebiscite? Well, factors they’d need to assess include:


If Labor make their way out of this muck as the eventual winners, they’ve promised to to introduce marriage equality legislation law within their first 100 days in office without an expenno vote. It’s unlikely Labor will budge from its stance on the issue in opposition.
Leader Bill Shorten asked why he should “have to accept and sign-up to Malcolm Turnbull’s grubby deal with the right wing of his party” in the lead-up to the election.

If he keeps that viewpoint, hell will likely freeze over before the Coalition can squeeze any votes in favour of the plebiscite from Labor.

Furthermore, Labor Senator Penny Wong drew from her personal experiences a lil’ while ago to rip into the plebiscite. She said allowing the public vote will just stir up needless homophobic sentiment.

(Of course, the other angle consider is that if Labor are in opposition again – and their goal is marriage equality ASAP, instead of 100% on their terms – they may begrudgingly let the plebiscite pass.)
So, that’s a probable dead-end for the vote – but we kinda already knew that. Things get more interesting when you think about…
Hooo boy. This, right here, is where the wheeling and dealing really begins. As it stands, there are five members from the minor parties that will be crucial to the Coalition if they’re to do… well, absolutely anything, let alone a plebiscite. 

Their views are as varied as their locations. We’ve got The Greens’ Adam Bandt in the aptly-named electorate of Melbourne; Cathy McGowan in Indi, Victoria; Bob Katter in Kennedy, Queensland; Andrew Wilkie of Denison, Tasmania; and Nick Xenophon Team’s Rebekha Sharkie down in Mayo, South Australia.

Straight off the speculative bat, Wilkie and McGowan have stated they won’t be making deals with the LNP (nor with Labor) should a hung parliament come to pass. That’s a very hard sell for the Libs, without even considering their personal stances. 

Wilkie has been a strong supporter of putting marriage equality to a conscience vote for years now, and McGowan also spoke in favour of the stalled plebiscite-free Marriage Legislation Amendment Bill.
Regarding Katter, well… he’s not a fan of same-sex marriage in any incarnation. At all. He once said it’s a “proposition deserves to be laughed at and ridiculed.” So.

Still, although his electorate largely remains in favour of the traditional definition of marriage, Katter seems pretty chuffed with the likely position of powerbroker he’ll inherit if the current vote counts hold. A Turnbull government would likely be gunning for his cowboy-hatted favour.

Nick Xenophon himself has said he’d ask the leader of the day to reconsider a plebiscite due to its financial ramifications; Sharkie would be very, very likely to follow that party line herself. 

As for Bandt of the pro-equality Greens? While the Libs and the Labs said they wouldn’t strike deals with the Greens in circumstances like this… they weren’t in circumstances like this when they said that.

Anyway, Bandt has previously labeled the move “shambolic.” And that doesn’t even take his party’s concerns over how binding the results would even be into account.

It’d be another incredibly hard sell to get the Greens on board.

Which leads us to…

Divining the internal machinations of the Liberal Party is generally an exercise in futility, but following an election that was supposed to deliver the party a clear mandate, you best believe the right-wing probs aren’t chuffed with Turnbull RN.

Of course, the perception from opponents is that the PM was more or less pushed to support the plebiscite, a remnant of the Abbott government. We’re no prognosticators, but if he can’t deliver on this one for the conservative faction… no bueno.

For the record, we’re not even going to pretend to address what could happen to the plebiscite in the Senate (Pauline Hanson, anyone?), because it’s currently a dumpster fire that almost defies description. 

But hey, that’s a double dissolution for ya. 


The same-sex marriage plebiscite is in very, very tenuous territory. While proponents of a simple conscience vote might be cheering, the eventual political fallout of the plebiscite going tits up might stall the issue even further. 

Unless a conscience vote could be installed in its place from the crossbench, the political grandstanding over the plebiscite’s demise would be a pyrrhic victory for the men and women of Australia who, you know, just want to get hitched to the person they love.

Source: ABC /  Australian Marriage Equality / Sydney Morning Herald.

Photo: Facebook / Anadolu Agency/Getty / Facebook / Stefan Postles/Getty / Darrian Traynor/Getty.