AUSSIES will face harsh penalties for violating new rules in the gay marriage postal vote campaign as a teen boy with two mums made an emotional plea.
Both sides of the campaign will receive protections under the new safeguards, which would make it an offence to vilify, intimidate or threaten to harm another person based on their gender identity, sexual orientation, intersex status or religious views.
Acting Special Minister for State Mathias Cormann told a party room meeting of Coalition MPs today the laws would include the standard provisions for elections, plus the additional measures.
If they go through, any legal complaint against someone must be approved by Attorney-General George Brandis before it heads to court.
It’s understood the protections will not just apply to advertising but to all conduct during the campaign.
One Coalition MP spoke out against the safeguards in the party room, saying the provisions regarding vilification were not necessary.
Marriage equality advocate Tiernan Brady told News Corp the safeguards would not stop the worst of the remarks being made about LGBTI Australians.
“Most of the vulgar and vicious things are not said through any particular person but on anonymous leaflets,” he said.
The Equality Campaign director said that fringe groups from both sides would continue to speak out but most Australians wanted a respectful debate.
He said the ‘Yes’ campaign wanted to persuade people, not just win the vote, as LGBTI Australians would have to deal with the fallout of the campaign.
“Whatever guidelines are put in place, it’s behoven on each and every one of us to set the respectful tone that we seek,” he said.
Coalition for Marriage spokeswoman Monica Doumit said the ‘No’ campaign had been targets but had not sought the safeguards.
“We have not been lobbying for any additional laws banning the vulgar and offensive comments frequently made by those in the ‘Yes’ campaign, even though some of what we have seen in recent days — not from extremists, but from key leaders within the same-sex marriage movement like Benjamin Law — has been absolutely disgraceful,” she told News Corp.
“The campaign will abide by whatever rules the parliament sees fit to put in place regarding the vote.”
The news comes as teenager Eddie Blewett, who has two mums, made an emotional plea to Australians not to ignore the upcoming vote on same-sex marriage.
The 14-year-old travelled to Canberra today with his mothers, Claire and Neroli, to voice his concerns as the Australian Bureau of Statistics sent out the first 600,000 ballots.
Speaking to a crowd of reporters outside Parliament House, the brave teen said he just wanted the issue resolved but he was worried people would ignore the survey.
Shaking but determined to get his message out, the teen said: “People who know my family know there’s nothing wrong with us.”
“We play soccer in the winter and we volunteer for the surf club in the summer.
The teen has travelled to Parliament House before to raise concerns about the impact a public vote and national debate would have on his family.
He met with Labor deputy leader Tanya Plibersek 12 months ago, who called on the government to rethink its plebiste policy on his behalf.
Today, Eddie met with Opposition leader Bill Shorten and Ms Plibersek and urged all Australians to ignore the allegations of the ‘No’ campaign.
“People are saying stuff about my family — they’re saying that they’re not normal, they’re saying that they’re second rate,” he said.
Mr Shorten told the family the coming weeks would be a mountain to climb but they wouldn’t be alone.
As Eddie made his plea, a new Fairfax/Ipsos poll released today showed about 70 per cent of Australians would vote “Yes” in the upcoming postal survey.
It also showed about 65 per cent of respondents to the poll were “certain” they would vote, and that there would be strong participation rates across a wide range of age groups.
Fairfax Media reports 64 per cent of 18 to 24-year-olds and 68 per cent of those over 55 rated themselves certain to vote.
Ipsos pollster Jessica Elgood told the publication she was surprised by the result.
“Generally when you’ve got non-compulsory voting you see the older cohort turning out to vote,” she said.
“What’s quite unusual here is we’ve got equally high likely turnout amongst the younger vote ... which personally I think speaks to the salience of the issue for young people.”
The results will help allay fears of a low response from apathy or frustration with the debate.
Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce has already expressed frustration at both sides of the campaign, saying Australians were “sick” of being yelled at by activists.
Despite the polls, the ‘No’ campaign is not giving in without a fight.
The Coalition for Marriage called on its supporters today to donate up to $2500 to fund more television, radio and social media ads, as well as training and resources for volunteers.