THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP
DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION
SHADOW MINISTER FOR EDUCATION AND TRAINING
SHADOW MINISTER FOR WOMEN
MEMBER FOR SYDNEY
WEDNESDAY, 15 NOVEMBER 2017
SUBJECT: Australians vote Yes to marriage equality.
LAURA JAYES, PRESENTER: Now to Sydney, Deputy Labor Leader Tanya Plibersek joins me. She’s been part of the celebration this morning. First of all, your personal reaction to all this. I noted before, Tanya Plibersek, on this program that Penny Wong is someone who’s very steely, she doesn’t show emotion, she is unflappable at the best of times but today, she just could not contain the emotion as she saw that result come in.
TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Well it is a very emotional time for a lot of Australians. People have worked hard and campaigned hard for this overwhelming ‘yes’ result and they’re delighted by the result. There’s also a lot of sadness because this vote never had to happen, and during the course of the vote, people have had to have very difficult conversations with family members and friends and have complete strangers judging them, judging their relationships and that’s hurtful. It’s been a very hurtful period, but of course, the result today is a terrific one, so we’ve got a lot of sadness and a lot of joy.
JAYES: Does that result and does that sadness wash away with this resounding result. I mean, if you look at the ‘no’ campaign and what they want to do, they didn’t ever want to see this happen. If this was just a parliamentary vote, could they have played into the doubt without a plebiscite? Does this just show that now it’s on paper, it’s black and white, it’s 61.6% of Australians, almost eight million people voted ‘yes’. The ‘no’ campaign really don’t have a leg to stand on, do they?
PLIBERSEK: Well they don’t have a leg to stand on, and that’s why it’s so important that this week in the Senate, and in that last week of November when the House of Representatives returns, we get a very swift outcome. People have voted overwhelmingly for marriage equality and Parliamentarians should just get out of the way now, actually do the job we’re elected to do and vote ‘yes’ and do it before Christmas. I don’t think, even with the resounding ‘yes’ vote that we’ve had today, that the $122 million survey was worth it.
On financial grounds, I’ve got a homeless medical service in my electorate that closed because the Government couldn’t find $800,000 a year to keep it going, so it’s pretty galling when they spent this sort of big money on a result that could have been predicted by one of the many, many public surveys that have had these sorts of figures in them for many years now. So, we’re not learning anything today that we didn’t know; the majority of Australians have supported marriage equality for some time. They were way ahead of their parliamentary representatives when it came to supporting marriage equality and we’ve spent a whole lot of taxpayers’ money - we could have spent that money much more usefully in my view.
Finally, I’d have to say: despite the ‘yes’ vote today, this has been a very painful process for a lot of Australians; we know that calls to helplines have gone up very dramatically to counselling services. We know that a lot of people have had to have very difficult conversations and have felt a degree of rejection by friends and family who are voting ‘no’.
JAYES: Can I ask you about Jason Clare? Because he has confirmed to me that he is voting ‘yes’, he is in the seat of Blaxland, but his electorate was the highest ‘no’ vote in the country. It was at 73.9%, how does he explain that to his constituents?
PLIBERSEK: I think people will admire him for the guts that he’s showing. They’ll admire him for being a man who stands by his word, for standing up for what he believes in. Just as I think, by and large, people have been tolerant of the range of views that have been expressed during this survey process; I think Jason’s electorate will admire him for being a man of principle.
JAYES: Okay well, we have to speak to Jason Clare at some stage. Just one final question, Tanya Plibersek, we are now looking at the legislation. This is a great result in the postal survey, but this is not done until it is passes through the Parliament, the Dean Smith Bill is going to be the Bill but we’ve seen the James Patterson Bill and concerns about religious protection. The Dean Smith Bill is as far as you want to see this go in terms of clergy, priests, and some celebrants being protected, is that it? Should that be the end of it?
PLIBERSEK: Well, we’ve got a Bill that should be introduced in the Senate today that has the support of all the major political parties: Liberals, Nationals, Labor, Xenophon, Greens have all backed this Bill; it would be madness for Parliamentarians to start trying to delay the process by coming up with another Bill or dozens of amendments, as has been suggested.
There was an overwhelming ‘yes’ vote, we should just get on and legislate. This Bill, this consensus Bill has been through a Senate process, there are protections in there for religious freedoms. It is very clear that no church and no religious celebrant will be forced to marry someone against the tenets of their faith. But for opponents of marriage equality who are now trying to extend protections to just anyone, allowing just anyone to discriminate, I think they ought to ask themselves a question: first of all, given the overwhelming ‘yes’ vote, how will Australians deal with the sort of delays and blocking that they’re proposing and secondly, would they accept this sort of discrimination if it was based on race or gender? Would you really say that a cake shop could refuse to bake a cake for a mixed-race couple because they don’t agree with mixed-race marriage? Of course not, it is ridiculous to propose that in modern Australia. We have exemptions that allow the expression of religious freedom for churches and genuinely religious organisations, but the idea that just anyone can have protection to express bigotry, that’s not fair, that’s not Australian.
JAYES: Just one final question, Tony Abbott’s seat of Warringah recorded a 75% ‘yes’ vote. What do you make of that?
PLIBERSEK: Well, I saw his sister’s speech today at the celebration and she was delighted that there had been such a strong vote in Tony’s electorate. I think what this shows is what we’ve said all along: the Australian people, the vast majority of them support marriage equality and it doesn’t surprise me that the vast majority of the residents of Warringah support marriage equality. I think it’s very important now that we as Parliamentarians just get on and do the job we were elected to do and legislate before Christmas.
JAYES: Yes, we hope to see a flurry of weddings in the New Year. Tanya Plibersek, thanks so much for your time.
PLIBERSEK: Thank you, Laura.