“In Australia, a referendum is a vote used to approve a change to the Australian Constitution… A plebiscite (also known as an advisory referendum) is used to decide a national question that does not affect the Constitution. … It can be used to test whether the government has enough public [support] [sic] to go ahead with a proposed action. Unlike a referendum, the decision reached in a plebiscite does not have any legal force.”
There have only been three national plebiscites in Australia:
“Only the Australian parliament can authorize the holding of a plebiscite… an enabling bill proposing the plebiscite and setting out its purpose must be passed… Therefore only the government of the day or a vote by a majority of MPs can initiate a plebiscite. The bill thereby becomes an Act enabling a vote to be conducted by the Australian Electoral Commission. The enabling legislation may or may not specify any actions expected of the government as a result of the plebiscite.”
A Postal Survey (used during the same sex marriage debate) must be initiated by the Treasurer who requests that the ABS conduct it.