In spite of all the rhetoric about “inevitability” and “overwhelming” public support for redefining marriage in Australia, it appears that the push to have a referendum on the issue will not succeed. Independent MP Tony Windsor has come out this week pushing for a referendum on same-sex marriage, saying we should take the issue “out of the hands of politicians.” But the same-sex marriage lobby is strongly opposed to any such move:

Australian Marriage Equality national convener Rodney Croome said on Sunday: ”Given a majority of Australians support this reform we believe a referendum would succeed, but we don’t believe Australia should go down that path.”

Mr Croome said politicians were elected and paid to make laws and ”not abdicate responsibility by handballing to voters when it gets too hard”.

As Gerard Henderson, from the Sydney Institute, wrote in the Sydney Morning Herald yesterday:

The media in Australia is obsessed with same-sex marriage. It is far from clear, however, that this is a priority for many Australians living in the suburbs and regional centres – far away from the inner city where journalists tend to be domiciled…

If significant social change is to be imposed on Australians at relatively short notice, it would make sense to test community attitudes. After all, in 1977 a plebiscite was conducted on what should be Australia’s national song. Many Australians regard the concept of traditional marriage as important as the words of the national anthem.

This is a complicated question, and there are potentially pros and cons to having a referendum (to amend the constitution with respect to marriage) or a plebiscite (essentially a giant national poll) on an issue such as same-sex marriage.

But it is ironic that we are constantly told how overwhelming public opinion is in favour of redefining marriage, but are then told by the same people that putting this to the test is completely out of the question. Go figure.

Blaise Joseph is a third-year commerce student at the University of New South Wales with a strong interest in social policy. Blaise is originally from Canberra, the centre of politics and the public...