SUBJECT:  Australians vote ‘Yes’ to marriage equality

MICHAEL ROWLAND, PRESENTER: Lots of parties last night. Let's stay with those celebrations after yesterday's same-sex marriage result.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI, PRESENTER:  Our politicians are going to be getting straight to work to debate the legislation, which the Prime Minister is promising to pass by Christmas. Tanya Plibersek is the Deputy Opposition Leader and she joins us now from Sydney. Tanya Plibersek, good morning.


TRIOLI: Did you celebrate long into the night last night as well?

PLIBERSEK: I'm a bit old for that, Virginia. I did go out and celebrate. I went to Taylor Square on Oxford Street and then had a quick drink with some of the key volunteers for the campaign afterwards, but I was home in bed at my usual time.

TRIOLI: Yes. We all hit that age. Now, it's interesting when we look at what the ABC has managed to establish with figures when it comes to the upper and lower house, it's pretty clear that there's more than a large majority of all the Parliamentarians prepared to vote for the bill. So where do you think this is going to get sticky? On what amendments do you reckon there will be friction? And how nasty will that friction get, do you think?

PLIBERSEK: Look, I think if there's one good thing Malcolm Turnbull can do, it would be to say to the people in his party: Australians have overwhelmingly spoken in favour of marriage equality - there is a very strong sense in the Australian community that we should just get this done by Christmas. If he can use his authority for any good at all, it should be to reduce the number of amendments. The Dean Smith bill, the consensus bill, has been through a parliamentary inquiry already. It's already got the support of Liberals, Nationals, Labor, Xenophon, Greens. It would be just time wasting by the opponents of marriage equality to get caught up with dozens of amendments, as some have suggested.

TRIOLI: We were speaking to Tim Wilson earlier on in the program and he made the point that Mathias Cormann's observation that perhaps even marriage celebrants needed some degree of protection, that the bill contained that and that was there. In your mind, looking at it from the perspective of those who still have concerns, can you see that individuals or groups might be exposed in some way?

PLIBERSEK: No. I don't agree with that at all. It's very clear in this bill that churches and this new category of religious celebrants will not have to marry people against the tenets of their faith. It's already enshrined in law that other religious-based organisations have protections from some areas of anti-discrimination law. To extend that, as some have suggested, to, you know, cake bakers and taxi drivers and so on, just does not sit with Australian values. You imagine the same question if it were based on race - if you said there’s a cake shop owner who doesn't believe in mixed-race marriage and they should be allowed by law to refuse to bake a cake for a mixed-race couple - you would see just how unacceptable it is to propose a general exemption for all providers of goods and services from anti-discrimination legislation. It's just not fair.

TRIOLI: Let's talk for a moment about how the vote played out. Because it's interesting that your state of New South Wales, Australia's most populated state, is also the most divided in the nation when it comes to the survey results and we saw some very significant "no" votes in Labor seats. Why do you think that is?

PLIBERSEK: Look, I think if you look at the seats in question, they are seats that are very multicultural, with large communities of recently arrived migrants who have conservative social values. I don't think the representatives that we have in those seats were surprised by the fact that their electorates are socially conservative. But what they would tell you - they'd be the first to tell you - is that people vote for more than one reason when it comes to a general election and the communities that we represent in Western Sydney are voting on jobs, the economy, health, and education and that's why they've chosen Labor as best to represent their interests.

TRIOLI: So looking at it from the issue of representative democracy, does it not then mean, in this particular issue, given that's what people were voting on in this postal survey, that the representative, the Labor representative should represent their view when it comes to voting on this bill in the house?

PLIBERSEK: Well, I don't buy that argument at all because these representatives have said very clearly that this is an issue that they feel strongly about, that they'll vote yes. I don't think there's any electorate in the country where the member of Parliament and their constituency agree on every single issue. You can't possibly hope to represent all of the people on every issue all of the time. The best you can do is say, "This is what I stand for. This is what I believe in. Please vote for me." And when it comes to health and education, jobs and the economy, I think our representatives absolutely represent their electorates and I'll tell you something else - I think people give you credit for having values, for standing up for things that are tough some times. I think they'll get credit from their electorates for doing it.

TRIOLI: You don't think it would play out badly, for example, for someone like Jason Clare in Blaxland at the next federal election?

PLIBERSEK: No, I don't think so because Jason is a fantastic local representative and when it comes to the issues that matter day to day to people - the pay they're taking home in their pay packet, the fact that they've got a job, a great health system, a good education for their children - he 100 per cent represents them and I think he'll get credit from his constituents for standing up for things he believes in.

TRIOLI: Tanya Plibersek, do you think this vote changes the nation in some way?

PLIBERSEK: Look, there was a lot of joy yesterday, and I hope at least some of that joy was not just for the people who have been waiting years and decades to get married but for the young people who, in future, I hope will never have to ask the question, "Is it OK to be who I am? Is it OK to be gay?" But there was a lot of sadness yesterday too, Virginia, because that question - am I equal? - is a question that no Australian should have to ask, and we've just spent $122 million making people ask the question, "Am I equal?" And in a lot of cases, of course, the answer they heard was yes, but 40 per cent of people said no and that's pretty hurtful to hear and there have been a lot of conversations that people have had with their parents, with their family, with work colleagues, where they've felt really quite profoundly alone and rejected as people close to them have said that they're voting no. Now, this conflict has been shoved into families at that level. It needn't have been. This is an issue that always had to be decided by the Parliament. The poll result that we saw yesterday is pretty much in line with all of the published polls we've seen for years. So we've spent $122 million finding out what we already knew and in the process a lot of people have been hurt. I have constituents who have had their homes graffitied. I've had volunteers that have been campaigning who have been spat on. It has been a divisive and hurtful debate and I actually thought it was pretty awful yesterday to see Malcolm Turnbull just celebrating and saying this is terrific. Because he is ignoring the hurt that has been caused, the fact that calls to helplines have gone through the roof with no extra resources and, you know, to take credit for a campaign that he was virtually absent in, I think, is pretty galling.

TRIOLI: Tanya Plibersek, we'll leave it there. Thanks for joining us today.

PLIBERSEK: Thank you.