A Liberal senator has labelled his colleague’s idea of giving Australians a say on same-sex marriage via the post “corrosive”.
Dean Smith, who is drafting his own private member’s bill for a conscience vote in parliament, acknowledges the latest idea demonstrates a willingness to deal with the issue.
But he is wary of the cost and legal hurdles of cabinet minister Peter Dutton’s idea of a postal plebiscite.
“We have had two binding plebiscites previously in 1916 (and) 1917. They were acrimonious and they divided communities,” Senator Smith told ABC radio on Tuesday.
“Postal plebiscites, national plebiscites are corrosive to our representative parliamentary democracy.”
Senator Smith says his bill for a free vote before year’s end will be made public and is a sensible and constructive way forward.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull insists his party took a plebiscite policy to the election and to change it would be breaking a promise.
Senator Smith argues no one can say Mr Turnbull hasn’t prosecuted the case to the full, with Labor standing firm against a national vote.
Former prime minister Tony Abbott concedes a vote via the post would be better than parliament.
But he too questions how much real authority a postal plebiscite would have.
Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce is happy to have a discussion about holding one.