THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP
DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION
SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS
AND INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT
MEMBER FOR SYDNEY
ABC RADIO 702 SYDNEY
MONDAY, 1 JUNE 2015
SUBJECT: Marriage equality
LINDA MOTTRAM, PRESENTER: 702 Mornings Linda Mottram with you. ‘End of the year’; that’s the prediction that has emerged in recent days from advocates of a change to the Marriage Act to enable gay couples to wed in this country. ‘Inevitable’ is another word being used, especially after the Irish Referendum success on this issue just over a week ago and the political momentum that seems to be well and truly underway. What is less likely to succeed though, is Opposition Leader Bill Shorten’s Private Member’s Bill to amend the Marriage Act, which is going before the Parliament today. The Deputy Opposition Leader and Member for Sydney, Tanya Plibersek, co-signed the Private Members bill and she joins me from Canberra this morning. Good morning Tanya.
TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good morning Linda.
MOTTRAM: You’re not in Government, you don’t have the Government’s support for this, this Bill is going to fail, isn’t it?
PLIBERSEK: Well it doesn’t have to fail. Bill Shorten has said that he will introduce the legislation today and of course I am available to second it, but I have offered to step aside if there’s a Liberal or National MP who’s prepared to second the Bill today. We know that there are many members of the Liberal and National Parties who are supporters of marriage equality and it would be terrific if one of them were brave enough to put their hand up today to second this Bill.
MOTTRAM: Unlikely though?
PLIBERSEK: Well I don’t see why Linda, I mean, if you actually agree with the proposition in the Bill, which is a very simple bill, it simply changes the definition of marriage in the Marriage Act. At the moment it’s defined as being between a man and a woman, it changes that definition to being between two people, and it strengthens the language that makes clear that no church would be forced to marry a same-sex couple. Two very simple propositions, very short bill- the Liberals and Nationals have had time to examine it, and indeed I wrote to Liberal and National MPs fourteen months ago, asking them to co-sponsor a similar bill. They’ve had a lot of time to debate this, I don’t know why one of them wouldn’t come forward today if they agree with what’s proposed in this Bill.
MOTTRAM: If this fails though, won’t it just fire up those people who oppose Marriage Equality and set you back even further?
PLIBERSEK: No, not at all. The usual way that Private Member’s Bills are introduced- and remember that this is something that happens very frequently in our Parliament- they’re introduced; Bill will speak today and describe the intention of the Bill and then it’s normal process for it to be laid on the table for some weeks for Members of Parliament to be able to discuss this proposition with their electorates, and it should be voted on sooner rather than later. There is no reason now for a Liberal or National MP who supports what’s proposed in this Bill to come forward as a sponsor or a seconder of this Bill. One of the problems that we had, Linda, was a classic catch-22 situation; when I wrote to Liberal and National MPs fourteen months ago asking them to co-sponsor a similar bill for marriage equality they said, ‘we can’t do that because there is no free vote in our partyroom’, and I said ‘when will you have a free vote, when will you know whether you’ve got a free vote?’, they said, ‘we can’t even have a debate about free vote in our partyroom before there’s a bill before the Parliament’. So, we had a stand-off. By introducing this legislation today, we’ve cracked through that stand-off, at the very least, and the Liberals and Nationals who are supporters of marriage equality are able to go to their partyroom and say, ‘It’s time that we had this debate in the party room about whether there’ll be a free vote’, and then they can come forward and be sponsors of legislation like this. To be honest, Linda, it’s not clear why those supporters in the Liberal and National partyrooms aren’t able to say about this legislation before the Parliament at the moment whether they would support it or not because it is very simple legislation.
MOTTRAM: One of the issues that was raised last week when I was chatting to a couple of people actually in Canberra was concern about continuing opposition or resistance to the idea of gay marriage, marriage equality among migrant communities. Do you think that that’s a legitimate concern, that more time is needed to discuss issues in that context?
PLIBERSEK: Well, I certainly think it doesn’t do any harm for Members of Parliament to have discussions with their electorates about this and every other issue that we debate in the Federal Parliament. I spent Saturday morning doing street stalls in my own electorate, I can tell you that this came up, but so did some of the measures from the last Budget and a wide variety of other issues. Members of Parliament should be talking to their electorates all the time. The last survey I saw had support for marriage equality in the Australian community at about 72%. I think this is an issue where the Australian public has been well ahead of the Australian Parliament for some time.
MOTTRAM: Tanya Plibersek, thank you very much indeed.
PLIBERSEK: Thank you Linda.