Marriage equality voter turnout to be revealed on Tuesday

Thousands gather to rally for marriage equality on September 10, 2017 in Sydney, Australia ahead of a national postal survey. Photo: Lisa Maree Williams/ Getty Images.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics will reveal the turnout rate so far on the marriage equality survey amid speculation that more than 50 per cent of eligible voters have already taken part.

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann – who is responsible for the conduct of the survey – said the ABS would reveal the voter participation figures on Tuesday afternoon and then provide weekly updates until the results of the survey were announced on November 15.

He would not comment on reports that both the “yes” and “no” campaigns believed that more than 50 per cent of voters had already taken part in the survey but said he expected “it will be a credible participation rate”.

“Anecdotally what I do know, talking from the people in the community, friends, colleagues, you know it seems to me that a very large number of Australians have already immediately returned their survey form,” Senator Cormann said.

US rapper Macklemore found himself at the centre of Australia’s same-sex marriage debate.
US rapper Macklemore found himself at the centre of Australia’s same-sex marriage debate. AP
“There was a high level of enthusiasm by people to have their say and have their voices heard, so I mean I expect that it will be a credible participation rate when it’s all said and done.”

Opinion polls published in the last week have suggested overwhelming support for same sex marriage among people who have already voted, provoking “yes” campaigners to urge supporters to keep rallying the numbers, and the “no” case to step up its warnings about the risk of infringement on religious freedoms associated with any change in the Marriage Act.

Campaigning continued over the weekend with Opposition Leader Bill Shorten urging crowds at a rally in Melbourne to keep campaigning, and the rapper Macklemore due to appear at the NRL grand final in Sydney to sing a same sex anthem despite complaints from “no” campaigners who say the performance has politicised sport.

Senator Cormann reiterated it is the actual result of the survey, rather than the participation, the government will act on, and that if there is a ‘yes’ vote, the government will facilitate a private members’ bill in the final parliamentary sitting fortnight before the end of the year to change the law to allow same-sex couples to marry.

Former Prime Minister John Howard took out ads in major newspapers over the weekend calling for people to vote no, arguing the current parliament must ensure religious freedoms are protected if the ‘yes’ vote wins.

“The issue must be addressed before the survey is completed,” he said in the ad, despite Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull saying the issue would not be addressed until after the survey was completed but has pledged to preserve religious freedoms if same sex marriage is introduced

Labor frontbencher Terri Butler said that while Mr Howard was entitled to his opinion, it was “unfortunate” he had used his standing as a former prime minister to advocate for the “no” campaign.

“It was, as you know, the Howard government which changed the marriage act a long time ago to explicitly say the marriage is between a man and a woman,” she said

“It is a bit rich coming from someone who did change the marriage law without any need for a national opinion poll or a plebiscite or anything like that.”

This post was originally published on the Australian Financial Review. Read the original here, or follow the AFR on Facebook.

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