TRANSCRIPT - ABC AM, Monday 27 April 2015






SUBJECTS: Earthquake in Nepal; Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran; Marriage equality

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN (PRESENTER):  Shadow Foreign Minister and she joins me now. Tanya Plibersek, welcome to the program.

TANYA PLIBERSEK (ACTING LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION): Michael, it’s good to talk to you.

BRISSENDEN: We'll get to the gay marriage issue shortly but first to Nepal, obviously this is a terrible tragedy unfolding there?

TANYA PLIBERSEK: Well, it's the shocking and as the hours pass the death toll rises. Yesterday in the first reports we were talking about 1300 lives lost. We already look to be close to double that number. Of course, if there are further aftershocks the concern is that the death toll might increase even more. It's very hard obviously to get reliable information. The area affected is quite isolated anyway and with roads and power out as well it's difficult to get certain information.

BRISSENDEN: And just quickly on the Bali Nine, you've spoken to the families of both Chan and Sukumaran in the past. Have you spoken to them since they were given the 72 hours notice?

PLIBERSEK: I have spoken to their families in the past and I have spoken to their lawyers as well. We have regular contact. They are obviously very concerned about being given the 72 hours notice and particularly as the legal processes are not yet complete.

As the Foreign Minister said on your program a moment ago, there is of course a constitutional court matter that is still pending and of enormous concern is this issue within the Judicial Commission where very serious allegations have been made about impropriety during the sentencing or before the sentencing. It is absolutely completely unacceptable for this sentence to be carried out while those legal matters are still pending.

We have said all along that we hoped that the Indonesian President would show clemency in this case but whether or not he is prepared to show clemency, at the very least we would expect all of the legal processes to be allowed to be completed before this sentence is carried out. What would it be like, Michael, if these legal processes find that there have been irregularities in the sentencing and these young men have already lost their lives?

BRISSENDEN: There have been obviously a lot of top-level diplomatic appeals to the President directly. He doesn't seem to be listening, does he?

PLIBERSEK: He doesn't seem to be listening to top-level appeals from Australia or from other nations. Sadly, he's also not listening to public opinion in his own country. There are very many Indonesians saying now that it is a very serious issue to proceed with these sentences before the legal processes are complete. There was an article in the Jakarta Globe, again critical of the point that the President seems to be trying to make, that he can't be swayed by international pressure.  And I think it's important to note that this domestic pressure against the death penalty in Indonesia is at least in part, because as we have always said, it is impossible for Indonesia to argue for its own citizens on death row in countries around the world while it is carrying out these sentences against not just Australians but the nationals of many other nations within Indonesia.

BRISSENDEN: What are the consequences to our relationship if this goes ahead?

PLIBERSEK: I think it's important not to start talking about potential consequences yet. Our focus today and in the coming days needs to be 100 per cent on asking the President of Indonesia, pleading with him indeed, to show clemency or at the very least to allow these legal processes to be seen to their conclusion.

BRISSENDEN: Let's move to the issue of gay marriage. In 2011 the ALP national conference voted 208 to 184 to allow MPs and Senators the right to opt out if it came to a vote in parliament. Do you have the numbers to overturn this?

PLIBERSEK: That's something we'll determine over coming months and when we get to conference.

BRISSENDEN: Why should they be compelled then?

PLIBERSEK: Because in our national platform, issues like abortion and euthanasia, that people consider to be issues of life or death, allow a conscience vote for ALP members. This is not that type of issue. This is an issue about legal equality, and marriage of course for some people is a religious sacrament but for many, many people it is, as well as that or indeed instead of that, it is a legal agreement, it's an acknowledgment by our community of the rights and responsibilities that a permanent relationship presents and I think when you're talk about an issue like this, which is an issue of legal discrimination it is important for the Labor Party to say, "We don't agree with legal discrimination."

BRISSENDEN: You would have seen your colleague Catherine King on the weekend suggesting that compelling MPs to do this risks becoming a distraction from the whole issue. Is this a fight you don't need to have?

PLIBERSEK: Obviously Michael, it's not on the same scale as the issue of the loss of life of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, it's not like the earthquake in Nepal, I'm not saying it's the most important issue in the world but when presented with the question: do we support legal discrimination or do we not? I think the answer has to be we don't.

BRISSENDEN: Tanya Plibersek, thanks very much for joining us.



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