Asia Minute: Australian Voters Shock the “Experts”

Oct 25, 2017

Credit Wikimedia Commons

Voters in Australia are surprising a lot of so-called “political experts.” Over the past several weeks, a voluntary nationwide ballot has been underway on legalizing same sex marriage. And it’s already produced some unexpected results. HPR’s Bill Dorman has more in today’s Asia Minute.

Pundits and political commentators predicted a tepid response to Australia’s nationwide vote on same sex marriage.

The ballots started going out by mail about six weeks ago, and voting is voluntary.

That’s a big contrast to elections in Australia, where voting is mandatory. If you don’t cast a ballot you pay a fine.

And the experts theorized that was part of the reason that relatively few would send in their votes by mail.

The other point that kept coming up in opinion columns and television talk shows concerned the impact of the vote—the results will not automatically change government policy on same sex marriage.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has promised that if the response is strong enough, parliament will take a vote on legalizing it.

This week, the Australian Bureau of Statistics announced nearly 12 million Australians have already sent in ballots – 75 percent of the voting population.

That’s a higher percentage of participation than British citizens exhibited in the referendum on whether to leave the European Union—the Brexit vote.

As for the substance of the debate, surveys consistently show a majority of Australians favor legalizing same-sex marriage.

Deadline for the voting is early next month, and results will be released in three weeks.