A Dubbo businesswoman and marriage equality advocate has accused the federal government of avoiding action on same-sex marriage, following reports a plebiscite on the issue may be delayed until 2017.
On Sunday it emerged it was unlikely Australians would be asked this year to vote on same-sex marriage, after the Australian Electoral Commission “strongly recommended” against a 2016 vote.
Local Coffee Co owner Karen Payne, who opposes a plebiscite and subsequent costs, has criticised the delay.
“The consensus is that marriage equality would pass through the upper and lower house if it went to a vote today,” Ms Payne said.
“While the wider community object to a plebiscite I am sure there is some disappointment today that the government are choosing to once again avoid what they perceive as a difficult subject.
“I just wish the politicians would do their job.”
Her calls have been echoed by former High Court justice Michael Kirby, who warned the plebiscite would create a dangerous political precedent in Australia where MPs opt for unnecessary popular votes to avoid making controversial decisions.
Parkes MP Mark Coulton said the delay has not yet been confirmed, but denied politicians are avoiding the issue.
“If the Australian Electoral Commission said they can’t organise it properly we should heed their advice,” Mr Coulton said.
“The government is giving the Australian people a voice to make a decision on what is a very personal but important issue. The government is not avoiding this.
“The government wants to hold the plebiscite in an environment where the best possible outcome can be decided by the people and if the electoral commission think there’s some difficulty in providing that...the advocates should be patient to make sure this is done correctly.”
Ms Payne was upbeat about Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who had previously supported both marriage equality and a conscience vote on the issue.
Instead, the Turnbull government took the plebiscite to the election, but Ms Payne is staying positive.
“Absolutely. Based on public opinion [marriage equality] is inevitable,” she said.
“The Prime Minister is playing modern politics, one of the dirtiest games around, but unlike [Usain] Bolt he wont be winning any gold medals.”
Ms Payne – who married her same-sex partner of more than a decade in New Zealand last year – suggested it could take a strike to prompt the politicians into action.
“I sometimes wonder what would happen if all LGBTI people decided to go on strike until the marriage equality issue was resolved,” she said.
“Would the politicians take some action when they couldn’t get a flight out of Canberra or eat at their favourite restaurant or receive medical treatment or a decent hair cut? The list goes on.
“LGBTI [people] turn up to work every day and make a contribution, serving our customers regardless of their political views, sexual orientation, colour or race.”