The Sydney Morning Herald reports:
Lobbyists on both sides of the marriage equality debate will be free to distribute misleading and deceptive material ahead of the same-sex marriage postal vote, because the usual campaign rules have been discarded.
In order to circumvent the Senate, the Turnbull government’s optional marriage survey will be conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, meaning the safeguards of the Commonwealth Electoral Act would not apply.
Senator Cormann said “the usual laws apply” regarding fraud and mail theft, but acknowledged there would be no legal protections for LGBTI people who fear they will be the victim of a vicious two-month hate campaign.
He said questions about inflammatory campaign material were “pre-emptive”. “We trust the Australian people,” he told ABC’s RN Drive. “We certainly call on all Australians [to participate] courteously and respectfully.”
The Associated Press reports:
Gay-rights advocates filed a court challenge Thursday to the government’s unusual plan to canvass Australians’ opinion on gay marriage next month, while a retired judge said he would boycott the survey as unacceptable.
The mail ballot is not binding, but the conservative government won’t legislate the issue without it. If most Australians say “no,” the government won’t allow Parliament to consider lifting the nation’s ban on same-sex marriage.
“We will be arguing that by going ahead without the authorization of Parliament, the government is acting beyond its power,” lawyer Jonathon Hunyor said.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said the government had legal advice that the postal ballot would withstand a court challenge. “I encourage every Australian to exercise their right to vote on this matter. It’s an important question,” Turnbull said.