Equal rights on the line as clock ticks down for enrolments

THE Australian Bureau of Statistics has announced that eligible Australians have until August 24 to enrol to partake in the same-sex marriage postal plebiscite.

The 'Marriage Law Postal Survey' announcement comes after the Senate rejected another attempt at a compulsory plebiscite on same-sex marriage last week, after shooting down the first plebiscite proposal last November.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in a press conference last week announced the Liberal's Plan B; an optional postal vote held in the event that a national compulsory vote was turned down by the Senate. 

Mr Turnbull said that the Liberals would uphold their election promise; that they would not facilitate the introduction of a bill to legalise same-sex marriage "until the Australian people have had their say." 

"All Australians will have their say, they will get the opportunity to express their opinion on the issue of whether the law should be changed to enable same-sex couples to marry," Mr Turnbull said from Canberra. 

The Prime Minister has announced that he will be voting 'yes' in the upcoming vote.

The optional postal vote is estimated to cost $122 million and will be rolled out by the Australian Bureau of Statistics under the Census and Statistics Act 1905. 

ABS will use the Australian Electoral Commission's electoral roll to post the survey out to every eligible Australian who will then return their vote by post. 

The AEC announced in a media release last week that they have received "approximately 68,000 enrolment transactions, which compares to a daily average (of) 4000." 

The ABS have stated on their website that "survey forms will be mailed as soon as practical from the week commencing September 12." 

Survey responses will not be accepted after November 7 and the ABS plan to publish the statistical results on November 15 through their website, Mr Turnbull wanting the issue resolved by Christmas with the last sitting day on December 7. 

The ABS will be asking eligible voters if they believe the marriage act should be changed to include same sex marriages.

So, what happens next?

How does the national plebiscite change the Marriage Act? 

If the results come back with a majority 'yes' vote for a law change supporting same sex marriage then Members of Parliament will be allowed a 'free vote' in Parliament.

However, the 'free' part of this vote is that MPs do not have to vote in line with the national results.

So, how does this influence equal rights? While the postal vote may seem indirect as it is voluntary and non-binding, it does allow MPs a free vote which equal rights activists hope will lead to a change in law. 

The parliament have always had the power to legislate marriage and amend the current Act however a succession of attempts to pass same-sex marriage have failed largely due to MPs having to aline with party values. 

In order to have your say in the upcoming national postal plebiscite, be sure you are enrolled and have provided the AEC with a current address.

To check or change your details head to www.aec.gov.au/enrol/

WHERE DO THE YOUTH STAND? 

THERE has been an overwhelming social media push to encourage young people to enrol to vote, with the AEC estimating 810,904 people are missing from the electoral roll and of that number, around 300,000 are aged 18-24. 

Young people have had less time to enrol to vote than the older generation and less time to become engaged politically. So, why is it so important for young people to enrol to vote now with the Australian Electoral Commission? 

For 'yes' campaigners it means a stronger shot at passing same-sex marriage as this age group have been raised in a more accepting time. 

For the government it ensures a fairer, more accurate representation of society. 

As of June 30, 18-24 year olds have the lowest enrolments of any age group eligible to vote nationally. 

Of the 15,930,593 enrolled to vote, 371,115 are aged between 18-19 and 1,264,329 are aged between 20-24; compare this to the more than 2 million enrolled to vote who are over the age of 70. 

So, where does the Mallee stand? 

According to AEC statistics, there are 2217 people aged 18-19 years old in the Mallee electorate enrolled as of June 30. 

There are 7213 people enrolled in the Mallee aged between 20-24 and 7059 aged between 25-29.

Contrary to national results, there are more people enrolled in their 20s than those aged 30-44. 

However, statistics shot back up for those aged over 45, with those 70 years and older standing at a whopping 20,036 enrollments.

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