Postal Vote A Waste Of Money And Time For Both Sides

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A voluntary postal ‘plebiscite’ reveals a lot more about the Australian government than just the fact they can’t decide if Australians deserve equal rights.


It’s no secret that the government is wasting a significant amount of money and time on ‘giving voters a say’. The postal ‘plebiscite‘ is set to cost taxpayers’ $122 million and has even been reported to cost up to $525 million, including lost productivity.

We’ve already lost enough valuable time in the last month figuring out and debating whether our politicians are actually Australian.

Now, these people want to spend a whopping $122 million on a non-binding, non-compulsory survey, also known as a letter in the mail asking whether you’re for or against same-sex marriage – which politicians are then under no obligation to take any notice of.

$122 million COULD fund the tuition of 4,560 nursing students, 677 future doctors or 1,900 new teaching positions.

$122 million COULD fund a full year of childcare rebates for 16,200 families, provide 5,200 pensioners with $23,000 a year or pay for 2.7 million bulk-billed GP visits.

But, $122 million WILL instead be spent on a vote that doesn’t have any direct power to legalise same-sex marriage.

Last week, Treasurer Scott Morrison defended the ballot as “money well spent”. He told the Seven Network that his government was following through with an election promise and “that’s what you’d expect a government to do”. The Turnbull Government doesn’t seem to realise it wasn’t voted in because every election promise it made was perfect – it was simply the better pick of a somewhat undesirable lot. And out of all their election promises, this is the one they decide is worth keeping?

If the key to this postal vote is to ask the Australian people their views, perhaps it’s time our politicians left Canberra, head back to the people that elected them and ask us what we think. Not only would community members feel more valued knowing their elected representative is willing to engage with their community transparently, it would be a more cost-effective method. So long as they don’t take a taxpayer-funded helicopter.

The government need to work on their listening skills.

Most LGBTI Australians oppose the idea of a postal vote and would much rather see a free parliamentary vote. The Guardian reported last year, 85 per cent of LGBTI Australians opposed a plebiscite, with most opposed to a plebiscite even if the question were “fairly framed and has a good chance of success”.

This survey did not cost the taxpayer $122 million.

It further revealed the two most common reasons LGBTI people opposed a plebiscite. The reasons were anxiety over hate campaigns and the strong belief that minority rights should never be put to a popular vote. Yet, here we are.

If a popular vote was a good idea, it was a bad idea to make it postal.

We live in the 21st century and the means of gauging public opinion should not be restricted to a letter in the mail. Nearly 16 million people are enrolled to vote (as of 30 June 2017), with the number expected to rise leading up to the postal vote. That’s 16 million people receiving a ballot in their mail box.

With the world already struggling with climate change, it doesn’t make any sense for Australia to unnecessarily cut down a bunch of trees and contribute to our already polluted planet. According to WWF, around 15 per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions are the result of deforestation.

A ‘survey’ of Australian views can be just as easily – and more environmentally and economically friendly – conducted online. 

Of course, there is concern that the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), directed to conduct the survey, wouldn’t be able to handle it. Their last national survey, the 2016 census, was labelled a #censusfail with the website crashing.

But, if we’re clever enough to not ask all 16 million Australians to get on the same website at once, it has the potential to be very successful, cost-effective and time saving. If voters were given a reasonable timeframe to log on and have their say online, to avoid a website crash, the method would still be faster than snail mail.

Whether you’re for or against marriage equality, either way this postal survey, postal vote, postal plebiscite – whatever its name – is a foolish idea.

It is not necessary or intelligent to conduct an expensive non-binding public vote prior to a free vote being held in parliament. We elected our politicians to make decisions, not avoid them.

Message your MP and tell them your thoughts. Let’s avoid becoming the next laughing stock.

Picture credit: Twitter / @Broelman
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