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BY ALEX EUGENE

Young and first-time voters must urgently enrol to vote if they want to have their say on same-sex marriage. All Australians need to have their postal vote in the mail by August 24.

The fight for equality is on again, this time in the form of a survey which will cost taxpayers $122 million. But the vote will not be the final word. Rather, if a majority “yes” is achieved, it will only give the go-ahead for the government to debate a bill which could legalise same-sex marriage in parliament.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced the people’s vote on August 8, to the scorn of Labor representatives who claim it is a waste of taxpayer’s money.

“I hold you responsible for every hurtful bit of filth that this debate will unleash,” said the Opposition leader Bill Shorten two days after the announcement.

Mr Shorten is encouraging Australians to vote “yes” nonetheless.

Legendary former High Court judge Michael Kirby said he was not happy that the vote would not be the final decision, and only lead to parliament deciding on the ultimate outcome.

“It’s something we’ve never done in our constitutional arrangements. It really is unacceptable,” he said.

But Mr Kirby, who has been in a relationship with his male partner for 50 years, said he would vote yes, given it was the only option available to the community at this stage.

“If there is no court challenge or no successful court challenge and if the government members don’t come to their senses and terminate this very bad precedent for our governance, then I will myself be certainly voting yes in the vote,” he said last Thursday.

Opposition Senate leader Penny Wong, who also has children with her same-sex partner, said that the vote was disrespectful and would not unify the country.

“It is exposing our children to hatred,” she said last week, in response to comments from the Australian Christian Lobby who had said gay couples who had children were creating a “stolen generation”.

Other gay activists spoke out during the week saying that there should not be a public vote on an issue that was fundamentally a basic human right.

In addition, the vote will be facilitated by the Bureau of Statistics, rather than the Electoral Commission, which some say belittles the issue by reducing it effectively to a survey rather than a serious vote.

Professor George Williams, a constitutional law expert, said the ABS should not be running the vote.

“It’s a body that fulfils a different set of functions. I’m still finding it hard to understand why such a sensitive, contested process wouldn’t be left to the experts within government — that’s what the AEC [Australian Electoral Commission] does,” he said.

But even so, Attorney General George Brandis said in a media statement last week that he predicts same-sex marriage will be legal by the end of the year.

Australians need to have their postal vote in the mail by August 24. For more information go to www.abs.gov.au