Why spending 20 million on funding the marriage equality debate will be a massive waste of money

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OPINION

IF YOU are struggling to be the loudest voice in a screaming match, theres one thing that can make all the difference money.

Dont believe me? Just ask Kevin Rudd what he thinks of the mining tax.

Given this fact, we probably should have foreseen the latest roadblock to the same-sex marriage plebiscite: a petty debate about whos going to pay.

The plebiscite is already expected to cost about $160 million and has given Labor ammunition to oppose the poll. Over the weekend, it emerged Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull may have promised an extra $10 million for each side of the debate to help them argue their rival cases.

Mr Turnbull has denied he guaranteed funding and that he only said if money was provided, it would be equal between the yes and no case.

Regardless of whos telling the truth, whats less easy to understand is why this money is actually needed.

As long-time marriage equality supporter Warren Entsch told ABC radio: Theres been that much lobbying, theres been that much pushing on this youd have to be living on another planet not to already ... have your own opinion on this.

Mr Entsch pointed out that many people have already made up their minds on the issue and opinion polls have consistently shown about two-thirds of Australians support same-sex marriage.

Instead of spending millions on expensive ad campaigns, Mr Entsch has suggested the electoral commission could instead provide factsheets on the yes and no cases that laid out factual information without any emotional rhetoric.

RELATED: Labor introduces same-sex marriage bill

But theres been outrage from Liberal backbencher Eric Abetz, who is opposed to same-sex marriage, at the idea the government may not fund the debate.

This idea that you can have a proper plebiscite without funding for the yes and no cases would not be the sort of plebiscite that was envisaged by the partyroom, he told ABC Radio.

This point would be more compelling if either side was actually short of potential sponsors.

In reality, the no case is likely to be bankrolled by churches, which already enjoy tax-free status in Australia, and the yes case can rely on groups such as GetUp!, unions and others.

Australian Christian Lobby boss Lyle Shelton tried to explain the need for funding by tweeting: We cant let foreign donations buy our vote, like Irelands, referring to the Irish referendum that ultimately allowed same-sex marriage.

But no one is saying that either side wont be able to put extra money into their campaigns.

By providing each side $10 million to put their cases, all the government is doing is creating a base level of funding.

Other money will inevitably be tacked on top.

And lets be real what this money will be used for scare campaigns.

Does the idea of even more taxpayer funded attack ads, on the back of one of Australias longest election campaigns, leave anyone else feeling cold?

The reality is, all these millions will be spent on the debate and the result wont even be binding.

Its hard to see the funding as anything but a massive waste of taxpayer money.

Thrust into the global spotlight after the tragic death of her wife Kate and then discriminated against by hospital and funeral home staff, Charlene Strong decided to take a stand that forced a rethink in the US about marriage equality.