TRANSCRIPT: ABC NewsRadio, Thursday 28 May 2015






SUBJECT/S: Marriage equality; South China Sea; FIFA corruption


MARIUS BENSON, PRESENTER: Tanya Plibersek, good morning.


BENSON: The Prime Minister is saying now this is an important issue. He believes, or he’s indicated, that the Liberal partyroom will consider a conscience vote on it but he says if it comes to Parliament, let’s do it as an all-Parliament exercise, not a partisan party issue. And that would mean abandoning Bill Shorten’s private member’s bill for next Tuesday. Is Labor prepared to do that?

PLIBERSEK: Well certainly I have been asking for a Liberal co-sponsor for my private member’s bill for more than a year now. I wrote to all Liberals over a year ago and asked them to co-sponsor a bill with me. What I was told by all of those Liberals was that it was impossible to do that because they didn’t have a conscience vote. And they said there was going to be no discussion of a conscience vote in their party until there was a bill presented to the Parliament. So we had a classic catch-22 situation where they weren’t allowed to co-sponsor because it hadn’t been discussed in their partyroom, but they wouldn’t discuss it in their partyroom until there was a bill before the Parliament-

BENSON: But what about Warren Entsch?

PLIBERSEK: I would be delighted-

BENSON: Can I just ask- oh, sorry-

PLIBERSEK: I would be delighted to have bipartisanship on this and I’m sure we’re open to negotiations but none of this would’ve happened unless Bill had taken that step and introduced this legislation.

BENSON: So if there is that readiness for bipartisanship, that private member’s bill from Bill Shorten won’t be needed next week.

PLIBERSEK: Look, it won’t matter who the bill comes from. I think we’d be delighted if there’s bipartisanship.

BENSON: And Warren Entsch in particular has been talking about working quietly behind the scenes on this. Is that not the case? Has there not been a bipartisan effort involving Warren Entsch on the Liberal side to come up with a joint position on this?

PLIBERSEK: Well, I wrote to him more than a year ago and he has never raised this with me. I have spoken to other Liberals, I have asked them directly to co-sponsor a bill with me and I’ve spoken to three individuals specifically. As I say, Marius, I wrote to all of them more than a year ago. And I’m sure that there are people of goodwill on the Liberal side and I know that there are people who want to support marriage equality on the Liberal side. My point is there has been no progress with the approach they’ve been taking and it has taken introducing this bill into the Parliament to focus the minds of the Liberal Party and to, I think, give them strength, to those in the Liberal Party who have been arguing for this change.

BENSON: You’ve been calling for Labor to move from a conscience vote to a binding vote requiring all federal politicians to go with same sex marriage. Is that still your position? Are you still advocating that or has that been overtaken by events?

PLIBERSEK: My position is that this is an issue of rights and it’s not fair for one group in our society to be discriminated against when it comes to the legal status of marriage and the social recognition that marriage brings. I understand that there are some people who have religious objections and it is very important to state that nothing in this bill forces any church to marry a same sex couple, in fact that is specifically mentioned in the bill as something that the bill does not do. I think it’s very important for us now though to focus on what is the most practical next step for getting this through the Parliament and the most practical next step is for a bill to be introduced on Monday, for this issue to be debated in partyrooms, certainly also in the community. I know a lot Members of Parliament are being contacted by the communities that they represent and if the Liberals have a free vote and Labor has a free vote, I believe this measure will pass our Parliament.

BENSON: So, just to clarify, you will be, Labor will be moving ahead next week with this private member’s bill as indicated?

PLIBERSEK: Certainly we will but we are completely open to talking about co-sponsorship or any other measure that makes it easier for this to be acceptable and for a free vote to be achieved in the Liberal partyroom. Because our interest has always been getting this done and frankly, there has been no progress in recent times. This is a change whose time has come, it has taken too long, the Australian community are way ahead of their Parliamentarians on this and our interest is achieving this result.

BENSON: Can I just ask you about a couple of other issues in the news this morning. Fairfax is reporting that China is putting weapons on those artificial islands in the South China Sea where they are already building airfields. Is that worrying and should Australia do anything in a way of protest?

PLIBERSEK: Well, certainly the pace of building has escalated on these artificial islands in the last year. We're interested to receive any briefing from the Government about any non-civilian use of the islands. There are a number of countries in our region that have an interest in this issue and I think it's very important for people to work calmly to a resolution that says that the contested area remains open for shipping for everyone, and that any disagreements about sovereignty are actually worked through in a calm way, using international law as the basis.

BENSON: And Tanya Plibersek, just a quick final question on the biggest story in the world today which is the FIFA corruption scandal. Do you think that raises questions about how and why Australia lost its bid for the 2022 hosting rights to Qatar? Was Australia beaten by crooks?

PLIBERSEK: I read this with the same amount of concern as every Australian. I mean, these are extremely serious allegations, very large amounts of money during a period that the bid for Australia’s hosting was considered, of course we hear those suggestions with a deep concern and we want to see very quickly the people who are accused of this very large money laundering operation brought to account.

BENSON: Tanya Plibersek, thank you very much.


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