By Anton Lang ~
Here in Australia, at around 10AM on Wednesday morning, the result of the vote to legalise Gay Marriage was announced and it was what is really a resounding vote in favour of legalising Gay Marriage. Almost 62% voted Yes, and 38% voted No, so it was in fact a comprehensive victory for the Yes side of the question.
The question that was asked is as follows :
“Should the law be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry?”
This has been a contentious issue for many Months here in Australia, in fact for almost the last two years. When the matter first arose, many thought that the matter should just be voted on in the Parliament of Australia, to ratify it in the House of Representatives, and then to send it to The Senate for ratification.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull stated in the lead up to the last Federal election that the people themselves should have a say in the matter, that something as important as this should be put to a general vote, where every Australian could have their say, one way or the other. After he won that election, the thinking was still that just members of the Parliament should just vote on the matter, and that there should not be a general vote across the whole of Australia. Prime Minister Turnbull still wanted to put the vote to the people, in the way of a National Plebiscite, which is similar in nature to a Referendum. He put the vote for that Plebiscite to the Parliament, and while it passed through the House of Representatives with The Labor Party opposing it, it was rejected in The Senate where the Labor Party, The Greens, and the Independents voted against it. This happened twice, and it was rejected in The Senate both times.
Prime Minister Turnbull then found a way to put vote to the people, something he promised during the election campaign, so this was his way of fulfilling that campaign promise.
That way to get the vote for the people was via a Postal Vote organised and run by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the same organisation that that runs the Census. Unlike ordinary elections at every level in Australia, this vote would be conducted on a voluntary basis.
The voting form was mailed out to every registered voter in Australia. Those voters then had to tick one of the two boxes, Yes or No, and then send back the form in the provided envelope. the vote was carried out over a number of weeks, and this morning the result was announced.
What is worth looking at here is not particularly the result, but the actual vote itself.
As I mentioned, voting in Australia is compulsory, and has been now for, wait for this, 105 years at the Federal level, so it is no new thing. As I have written in a number of earlier Posts when writing about elections here in Australia, this compulsory voting works very well.
Having said that, this vote was on a voluntary basis, and it threw up a really interesting statistic.
There are very few Countries around the World which actually do have compulsory voting , and turnouts to vote where voting is on that voluntary basis are always around the same average.
Here in Australia, for this first voluntary vote the return of ballots saw 80% of eligible voters return their ballot paper.
That’s a pretty big return, and just to back that up, let’s look at some recent elections around the World.
Australian Same Sex Marriage Vote – 80%
Ireland Same Sex Sex Marriage Vote – 62%
Brexit Vote in the UK – 72%
U.S. Presidential Election 2016 – 56%
U.S. Presidential Election 2012 – 55%
U.S. Presidential Election 2008 – 58%
U.S. Presidential Election 2004 – 57%
The Same Sex Marriage vote turnout in Ireland was considered to be a very large turnout, as was the Brexit Vote in the UK, because even at their General Elections, voting was consistently in the mid to low 60% turnout rate, so that 72% turnout for the Brexit vote was considered to be almost a huge turnout.
For me, this alone is probably one of the big stories of this result.
The Demographics have also shown up some interesting things as well.
Of the people who returned their ballots, the age group demographics were also interesting.
While the general result saw 80% of voters returning their ballot, when it came to those people aged between 55 and 64, 85% of them returned their ballot, while in the age group of people over 65, that percentage who voted was 88%. When it came to the younger age groups, in the three groups of people aged 18 to 44, that return rate was between 72% and 74%.
Taken to the nearest percentage, 77% of men voted, while 82% of women voted.
The largest proportion for the Yes vote came from inner city electorates, one in Melbourne and one in Sydney, where the vote was 84% Yes and 16% No.
The largest No vote came from a Western Sydney electorate where it was 26% Yes and 74% No.
Of the total of 150 Electorates, only 17 of them had a greater percentage of No votes than Yes. Of those 17 Electorates, 14 of them are held by members of the Labor Party, (the Party most in favour of Same Sex marriage) and of those 14, seven of them are Western Sydney electorates with a large population of people who identify as from an Islamic background, and this is probably something which will not get very much of a mention in any form of the Media.
What happens now is that it is up to the members of the Australian Parliament, both in the House of Representatives, and then in The Senate, to work out the Legislation that will then make this the Law of the land. Lets hope that the freedoms we have, both the freedom of speech, and the religious freedoms we have are not legislated away.
Overall, the result is now in. That result now needs to be respected, and isn’t that what a Democracy is all about.
This link is the Australian ABC Media site, and as you can see, the majority of stories at the top of the page are to do with this result toady.