TRANSCRIPT: ABC 612 Brisbane, Monday 1 June 2015






SUBJECT: Marriage equality

STEVE AUSTIN, PRESENTER: What is Marriage? Bill Shorten- Federal Leader of the Opposition- will today introduce his same-sex marriage bill, arguing the current laws don’t represent modern Australia. It will replace the words ‘Man and Woman’ with the term ‘two people’. As you know the Marriage Act in Australia was changed under the Prime Ministership of John Howard to insert marriage between a man and a woman. Well Tanya Plibersek is the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. Tanya Plibersek I know you’re extremely busy this morning thanks for coming on.


AUSTIN: First of all, just outline in basic form what is in the planned bill, by your boss Bill Shorten.

PLIBERSEK: Well, it’s very short, it’s very clear. It does exactly what you said- it changes the definition of marriage as being between a man and a woman to being between two people, and it further strengthens the wording to make clear that no church would be forced to solemnize a same-sex union.

AUSTIN: So this is an attempt to ensure that people don’t get charged with discrimination under the Anti-Discrimination Act if someone complains?

PLIBERSEK: That’s right. It’s just to reassure churches that they’ll be able to choose not to marry same-sex couples.

AUSTIN: So it means that everyone, irrespective of your view of the world, can maintain their personal conscience on matters of conscience?

PLIBERSEK: Absolutely. It will give people the ability to be married in the registry office or by a civil celebrant, but it won’t force churches to marry same-sex couples.

AUSTIN: What is Marriage, Tanya Plibersek?

PLIBERSEK: Well, I think it is a relationship entered into for life between two people who love and care for each other, who are prepared to support and protect each other- financially, emotionally and want to make that commitment in front of their friends and family.

AUSTIN: Can I ask you, the argument by Bill Shorten is that these current laws don’t represent modern Australia. I’m interested to get someone to define what ‘modern Australia’ is, can you do that for me?

PLIBERSEK: Well, we know that about 72 per cent of people in the last survey said that they support Marriage Equality and 22 countries around the world have already taken this step. I think if you’re asking for a definition of modern Australia, it’s hard to tack it to one sentence, but one thing we can say for certain is that we don’t, as a nation, generally support legal discrimination against one group in our community. At the moment, one group in our community, despite having strong, long-term, loving relationships is not able to have the legal protections and responsibilities that marriage provides.

AUSTIN: In France, the hot bed or the home of republican equity, you actually have two forms of marriage, the one in the church and the one in the registry office. Why is that not acceptable in modern Australia?

PLIBERSEK: Well, I think it is acceptable in modern Australia. I think if this bill goes through, it would allow people to be married in the registry office. It would also give them the opportunity to be married by Civil Celebrants as well and it specifically excludes people being married in churches - if churches don’t wish to provide that marriage ceremony. So you end up with, in effect, a similar situation to France, and the difference in France is that if you’re married in the Church, you also have to be married legally in a civil ceremony as well- there’s a more direct difference between church and civil marriages but I don’t think we need to take that next step yet.

AUSTIN: Would it be a solution to ensure everyone’s conscience is free by repealing the Marriage Act- there are many who would argue that it came in around the time of Federation, is a direct result of a sort of Judeo-Christian view of the world and a lack of separation between church and state in Australia that we should actually fix that complete problem by repealing it all together?

PLIBERSEK: Look, I think that a big and radical change like that is not called for. I think the Marriage Act serves us very well in most respects. The minor change that we are trying to make in wording just reflects the fact that there is one group in our community that is legally discriminated against and most Australians don’t believe that discrimination should continue. I don’t think there’s a case for throwing the baby out with the bathwater at all.

AUSTIN: I’m speaking with Tanya Plibersek, Deputy Leader of the Opposition and Member for Sydney, this is 612 ABC Brisbane, thirteen minutes to nine. Tanya Plibersek, is there anything unique, or special in heterosexual marriage, in other words defining a man and a woman?

PLIBERSEK: Look, I think that most people would think that their own relationships are unique and special in all sorts of ways, and I’m not going to get into a debate about the quality of relationships. We know that everybody goes into marriage with the best of intentions and sadly some marriages don’t work out. Most people negotiate across the course of their married life different responsibilities and relationships change over time. None of that really, I think is the point of these changes here.

AUSTIN: Sure, but that’s not quite what I’m asking because if there’s nothing unusual or unique about any relationship whether it be same-sex or heterosexual, breaks up. I’m asking you, is there anything unique or civilizational in a heterosexual marriage?

PLIBERSEK: Well, I’m not sure you can ask the question in that way, I think that most people think that their relationships are unique and special and same-sex couples feel the same way about their relationships.

AUSTIN: So, the answer is no- you don’t see anything unique in a heterosexual relationship?

PLIBERSEK: Well, I see unique things in every relationship, Steve. I think it’s a slightly odd question to ask because you’re asking me to make a sweeping judgement about all heterosexual relationships or all same-sex relationships- I don’t see life like that- it’s complex-

AUSTIN: Well, I ask that because there are many groups who do- and you’d be well aware- I’m sure you’ve been lobbied on this behalf- there are many groups who see something that is civilizational in heterosexual relationships. But I just want to establish there, that obviously the Labor Party doesn’t.

PLIBERSEK: Well Steve, I guess the people who say that about heterosexual relationships often say that marriage is about procreation and about children and we know that many same-sex couples do have children, and we know also that some people choose to marry without the intention of ever having children, or they might marry when they are too old to have children. So I just think that our hard and fast rules about different categories of relationships has to be tempered by our experience in life.

AUSTIN: Feminists like Germaine Greer overseas, have criticised Elton John’s partner for putting himself down as the ‘wife’ in adopting their sons- arguing that it diminishes the role of a woman- in other words this blurring of the role of a woman and a mother- is there any concern amongst the Labor Party about the diminished role of a woman as a parent?

PLIBERSEK: Well, Steve, I don’t pay much attention to what Germaine Greer says. She says things for shock value more than talking sense most of the time. I think that the role of being a parent is a very very important role and that mothers and fathers both play an important role in their children’s lives, and many men are wanting to play a greater role in their children’s lives, but again we know that families come in all shapes and sizes, and it’s not for me, as a member of the Opposition, as a member of the Labor Party or indeed, when we were in Government to start dictating family shape or size to people. Parents play very important roles in their family lives and a lot of same sex couples do have children, and when you’re arguing that marriage can provide stability to family life and to children it’s important to recognise that there’s a lot of same-sex couples who have kids who’d love to have the social recognition that marriage would provide for their family.

AUSTIN: I’m very grateful that you have come on this morning; I know you’re very busy. Thank you so much for your time.

PLIBERSEK: It’s a pleasure to talk to you, thanks Steve.