THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP
DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION
SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS
AND INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT
MEMBER FOR SYDNEY
ABC 702 BREAKFAST
WEDNESDAY, 27 MAY 2015
SUBJECTS: Marriage equality; Daesh
JEN FLEMING, PRESENTER: Good morning, Tanya.
TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good morning, Jen.
FLEMING: So why introduce this bill now? What’s changed?
PLIBERSEK: I think there’s a lot of momentum in our community and in our Parliament. We’ve heard a number of Labor MPs in recent weeks who’ve said in the past that they voted against marriage equality and they’ve changed their views over time. And we’ve heard a lot of people on the Liberal side saying that it’s time for a free vote from the Liberals, people who have long supported marriage equality on the Liberal side have started to become more public in that support. So I think there is a momentum in our Parliament. I think our Parliament, frankly, is behind our community on this issue. There’s very widespread community support and there has been for some time.
FLEMING: You mentioned free vote, that’s going to be a crucial part of it. Will there be a conscience vote in your party?
PLIBERSEK: Yes, there will. That’s the position of the Labor Party from our last conference that we support marriage equality but there would be a conscience vote on it, or a free vote on it, and so the question now is of course it can’t succeed unless there’s also a free vote on the Liberal side.
FLEMING: And do you have an idea of numbers on the Liberal side?
PLIBERSEK: Look, I think it’s very close. Obviously I’m talking to people in the Liberal Party about their assessment of the situation and I think it’s impossible to know until the day whether there’s complete support or not, but the numbers are very close.
FLEMING: So how do you rate the chances of success? I did read somewhere that apparently if there is a free vote, you’re about three short in the Lower House at the moment.
PLIBERSEK: Australian Marriage Equality and other organisations that have been lobbying for this have been keeping pretty close track of people who are declaring whether they’re supporters or opponents of marriage equality and their assessment is that the numbers are closer even than that. So it will depend. There’s a lot of people who haven’t really specified one way or another, because certainly for the Liberals this is not something that has been debated in the partyroom at the moment. There was a bill from Senator Leyonhjelm recently that many people thought might bring the issue to a head in the Liberal Party room but it hasn’t been discussed yet. So it’s still a little unclear how some people will be voting.
FLEMING: There is opposition within your party and also some within the union movement. Joe de Bruyn recently, he represents the Retail Union, he opposed your idea of a binding vote, he said you’re just playing up to your cosmopolitan inner city electorate. What do you say to that?
PLIBERSEK: I think it’s less important to focus on the sort of political analysis of this issue than the real outcome. The real outcome is countries very like us around the world have marriage equality. The most recent referendum in Ireland was overwhelmingly successful, but you know, UK, New Zealand, many states in the United States, many European countries, more than 20 countries now have marriage equality. And my interest really is seeing Australia join the list of those countries that doesn’t discriminate against people on the basis of gender when it comes to who they are able to marry.
FLEMING: Tanya Plibersek is with me, the MP for Sydney, also Deputy Labor Leader and seconding this private member’s bill that will be introduced on Monday. You mentioned that 75 per cent of the electorate support same sex marriage, why do you think that our elected representatives are not behind the views of the public on this one? What are the reasons why?
PLIBERSEK: Well the most recent poll that I’ve seen is the Crosby Textor poll that said 72 per cent of Australians are in favour of marriage equality. I think, I mean, we’re close to half of MPs, or maybe more than half of MPs, so the gap is not so large. I can’t really say why it’s taken our Parliament longer than it’s taken our community to shift views on this. But there is definitely a momentum. I think about my parents’ generation of people, I think if you’d asked them ten years ago many of them would’ve been opposed to marriage equality and as they’ve had time to get used to the idea of- when people in their own families come out as gay or lesbian, as they’ve thought about the underlying issue here which is a community recognising that all relationships are equal and should be treated as equal before the law. Views in the community have really shifted and I think our Members of Parliament are slowly catching up to that.
FLEMING: The question has been put to you about well, you were in government a year and a half ago, why didn’t you raise it then? So why now, and not then?
PLIBERSEK: Well I did raise it then and I’ve-
FLEMING: You did.
PLIBERSEK: I’ve supported marriage equality. Look, we changed 85 pieces of legislation when we were in government to get rid of all discrimination against gay men, lesbians and same sex couples right through Medicare, immigration, citizenship, family law, Centrelink benefits, I mean right across the board we changed legislation to remove discrimination. At the time, there was not the support in the Parliament to do this last piece of discrimination. And I think probably the support in the community was not as strong then either. There is a forward momentum here where we are removing this last big piece of discrimination.
FLEMING: I wonder what the support is for people listening now. 1300 222 702. Do you support this private member’s bill on same sex marriage? 1300 222 702 is the number to ring. So it goes on Monday, what happens then? What’s the process?
PLIBERSEK: The legislation’s introduced on Monday, and then it’ll be adjourned for debate at another time and that’s really an opportunity for people to, in the Parliament, to consider their position, to talk to their colleagues, to decide their own views, and of course it’s an opportunity for people in the community to make their views known to their Members of Parliament as well. So some time later, some weeks later at least, it will be reintroduced for further debate and we hope concluded, debate concluded before the end of the year. I am of course always looking for people in the Liberal Party or the other side of politics to work with cooperatively on this. I know many on the other side who are supporters of this and it would be ideal if this could be a debate about the future of our nation, the type of nation we want to be, rather than get into a party sort of debate where people get hunkered down in their opposing corners and refuse to see each other’s point of view. But I know that there are a lot of people on both sides of the aisle who think that this is a reform whose time has come.
FLEMING: And we have contacted a couple of Sydney and NSW Liberal MPs to gauge their views on the issue. We’re hoping to speak with them, one of them, before the end of the program. Tanya Plibersek is with us. Tanya, on another issue, the Sydney Morning Herald is reporting that the wife of Islamic State fighter Khaled Sharrouf wants to return to Australia with their five children. As Shadow Foreign Minister, would you be concerned about such a move?
PLIBERSEK: Look, I think the first thing to say is that it is beyond comprehension that anyone would take their children into that sort of horror that these children have been taken into and I think our security agencies have to make an assessment about whether it’s safe for the woman in question to return. I can tell you, if I was the grandparents of those kids I’d want them back though.
FLEMING: Are there any legal concerns?
PLIBERSEK: Well certainly anyone who’s been in a proscribed area, anyone who has supported or fought with Daesh or one of the other organisations over there would be subject to Australian law and I think if there is any suggestion that that’s the case and evidence to that effect then the full force of law should apply to the woman herself. I think we do need to of course consider the safety of the children separately. They are very young children.
FLEMING: And actually Senator George Brandis made that point as well that it’s a special case because they are children.
PLIBERSEK: I mean, goodness knows what horror these kids have experienced and I mean, they’re going to need a lot of help.
FLEMING: Thanks for your time this morning.