Spring is coming. Remember that, folks, and take heart. Yes, the winter of 2017 has seemed bitterly cold, and dark, at times. White-walkers didn’t invade, as feared by Game of Thrones fans, but the vengeful sprit of a Trump presidency seemed to cast a shadow across the world, culminating in this week’s threat of “fire and fury” against Pyongyang.
And now we face an emotionally fraught and potentially divisive postal vote – of dubious constitutional and statistical validity – to attempt to resolve the question of same-sex marriage. Many will feel that the extension of a basic human right to all citizens is reason enough for a “yes” vote in the upcoming “voluntary survey”. But for any still undecided, there is another significant – and entirely selfish – reason to vote yes.
Tim Minchin’s plebiscite video goes viral
Tim Minchin mocks the Turnbull government’s decision to hold a non-binding postal vote on same-sex marriage in a pithy music video uploaded to his social media channels on Friday.
And it’s this. The explosion of love and goodwill that would accompany the legalisation of same-sex marriage cannot come soon enough for the Australian economy.
Battered and bruised from the global financial crisis and the end of the mining boom, the Australia economy is in desperate need of a boost to demand to fuel job creation and pay rises.
Our Reserve Bank governor, Philip Lowe, spent most of Friday morning before a parliamentary committee trying to explain the puzzle that is low wages growth. Business conditions have improved, but consumers have been reluctant to start spending again.
Who better to start splashing the cash than a phalanx of new bride and bridegroom-zillas?
I’ve done the numbers.
According to the recent census, there are 46,800 same-sex couples living together in Australia (at least, openly gay couples willing to declare it on their census forms).
Same-sex couples are more likely to have money to spend on lavish weddings. Photo: iStock
According to a 2015 survey by Bride to Be magazine, the average Australian couple spends $65,482 on their wedding, including rings and honeymoon.
Many have suggested this estimate is too high – the product of asking a bunch of dedicated bridal magazine readers their nuptial plans – but there is reason to suspect any upcoming same-sex weddings would also be on the more fabulous side of the national average.
The tourism sector will get a boost as Australia becomes a new “destination wedding” location for same-sex couples. Photo: Wolter Peeters
Same-sex couples, according to the census figures, are more likely to be highly educated, working full time and in managerial and professional jobs.
So if 46,800 same-sex couples wed at an average cost of $65,482, anyone with a calculator and the back of an envelope can predict a $3 billion boost to the economy.
The government’s bottom line will benefit from the tax the businesses that benefit from gay weddings will pay. Photo: Louise Kennerley
Using a slightly more rigorous methodology, ANZ economists Cherelle Murphy and Mandeep Kaura crunched the numbers in 2015.
They assumed only half of same-sex couples would actually take the plunge, and only half in the first year, with an average wedding splurge of $50,000 and estimated a half billion dollar boost to the economy in the first year of same-sex marriage.
Either way, we’re looking at an economic stimulus package of Rudd-like proportions. And better yet, it’s all paid for from the private purse, with no drag on the budget bottom line, and even a boost if all the newly employed hair stylists, make-up artists, florists, photographers and caterers pay more tax.
Enough to sway any fiscal conservative, surely.
Liberal backbenchers, too, should look forward to a small business boom in their electorates, any remnants of homophobic reluctance likely washed away by the rainbow tidal wave of potential revenue.
But it’s not just the weddings that will boost the economy.
In their note titled “The economic upside of marriage equality”, Murphy and Kaura predicted a boost to professional services, with more lawyers needed to draft both prenuptial agreements and – without putting a dampener on things – future divorce settlements.
Then there’s the boost to the tourism sector, as Australia becomes a new “destination wedding” location for same-sex couples. There’s also the opportunity to steal back wedding business from Aussie couples travelling to New Zealand, where same-sex marriage was legalised in 2013, to wed.
State governments too would get a boost, with increased revenue from marriage licence fees and on-site ceremonies in state-run registries.
Finally, there are the more hidden – but very real – benefits of improved mental health and wellbeing for a population of Australians who have suffered discrimination and exclusion for too long.
So to those currently steeling themselves against more bitter disappointment, and fearful of the nature of the public debate to come, I say: keep heart.
One day, very soon, we will finally be free to properly acknowledge, and celebrate, the love between you and your current, or future, partner.
At wedding ceremonies around the country, we will cry, sing, laugh and raise a toast to your good health.
And then, by George (Michael), we will dance; our hearts overbrimming with love.