TRANSCRIPT: ABC RN Breakfast, Monday 1 June 2015






SUBJECTS: Marriage equality; Dual citizenship; South China Sea

FRAN KELLY, PRESENTER: Tanya Plibersek, are you still going to introduce this Bill this morning even though it has no hope of going anywhere?

TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Well, I think it’s wrong to say it has no hope of going anywhere. I think it’s very important that we introduce the Bill this morning and it would be wonderful if Warren Entsch or one of the Liberals or Nationals who we know are supporters of marriage equality would be prepared to second it today. It’s a very, very simple Bill. It simply changes the definition of marriage being between a man and a woman to saying that it’s between two people and it additionally gives further information about churches not being forced to solemnise any marriage between same sex couples. So, it’s a very simple Bill, it’s only a few lines long, the Liberals and Nationals have had time to consider it. We know that there are supporters on their side on marriage equality. And frankly, Fran, I don’t even think we’d be having this debate if this Bill wasn’t proceeding because last year, about 14 months ago, I wrote to Liberal and National MPs asking them to sponsor an almost identical Bill, to cosponsor something like that with me and none of them have been able to do it with me because they say ‘we can’t cosponsor a Bill until we have a debate in our party room about a free vote, but there’s going to be no debate in our party room about a free vote until there’s a Bill before Parliament’. So, it’s been a classic standoff, a catch-22. This has to proceed today so that we can break the impasse.

KELLY: But in the sense, isn’t this a classic grandstanding to some degree because we already know that Bill Shorten, your leader, has spoken with Liberal MP, Warren Entsch, yesterday and agreed to sit down once the Budget sitting’s over at the end of June to work out a way forward. So doesn’t this make your Bill today a charade?

PLIBERSEK: That’s Warren Entsch’s proposed timing. I don’t see why there’s any need to wait for weeks and weeks. We’ve got many pieces of legislation before the Parliament at any one time and the notion that we can’t actually, during the Budget sitting, work on other issues is- it’s the first time I’ve heard anything like that. It should be introduced today. The usual way that these things proceed is it’s introduced, it sits on the table for a number of weeks, so Parliamentarians can speak with their electorates, so that people in the community who have a view about this may contact their Parliamentarians. But there is an opportunity today for this to become bipartisan by a Liberal or a National cosponsoring.

KELLY: Given the Prime Minister’s words about ‘it needs to be owned by the Parliament’, do you accept though that for a bill to have any chance of success it really does need to be supported by all parties, it needs to be a cross-party bill rather than Labor’s Bill cosponsored by, or seconded by?

PLIBERSEK: It’s the same thing, Fran. I mean, people propose legislation and it’s moved and seconded, that’s what cosponsorship means, that’s what ownership by multiple parties means. That’s what it’s always meant. And I have to return to this point. 14 months ago, I wrote to Liberal and National MPs asking whether one of them would cosponsor a piece of legislation. The legislation was there, they could’ve recommended changes, come into a dialogue with me at any time in the last 14 months, they haven’t done that. It has actually taken this next step of introducing legislation into the Parliament to even allow the room for a debate in the Liberal and National party rooms. We still, frankly, haven’t seen a debate about a free vote in the Liberal and National party rooms. There needs to be some time line for this even to be debated.

KELLY: Do you believe the numbers are there now in the Parliament to support legalising same sex marriage?

PLIBERSEK: I think so. I haven’t done an analysis of the numbers in the Liberal and National party rooms but I can tell you a number of people  in the Labor Party, a very substantial number of people in the Labor Party, who voted against marriage equality last time will vote for it this time. And I believe that there’s been a similar shift on the Liberal and Nationals party rooms so we’ll see. But frankly, Fran, we’ll never know if there’s never a chance to bring legislation to Parliament, we’ll never know. I’d like to see this change made by Christmas at the latest.

KELLY: You’re listening to RN Breakfast. Our guest is the Shadow Foreign Minister, Tanya Plibersek. Tanya Plibersek, on another issue causing divisions, certainly within the Coalition. The notion of stripping citizenship from suspected terrorists. Yesterday the Prime Minister said ‘we are going to strip the citizenship from terrorists who are dual nationals and I want to know where Labor stands on this’. Where does Labor stand on this?

PLIBERSEK: Well, we haven’t seen legislation, Fran. I mean, this is extraordinary. I think the first time this was raised was, I think it was raised last year, but it was certainly raised earlier this year. We’ve seen a lot of commentary by members of the Coalition, members of the Government about this, but we’ve seen no actual legislation. So we don’t know what any of the suggested hurdles are for this. We don’t know what any of the safeguards are-

KELLY: As a notion, though? As a notion, we have been talking about it for a year. Does Labor support it as a notion?

PLIBERSEK: Well, Fran, I don’t think you can say we oppose or support legislation as a notion, we have to see the legislation. I think if people are fighting with the armies of countries that are at war with Australia, they’ve been stripped of their citizenship in the past. I think that there is room for a similar approach when you’re talking about non-state actors. But as for speculating any further than that, I’m not prepared to do it until we see legislation. We don’t know who will be making the determination, we don’t the circumstances in which it would be determined, we don’t know what appeal mechanisms there might be. And it is foolhardy to speculate about whether you could support legislation without ever seeing it.

KELLY: Just on that, the Shadow Attorney-General, Mark Dreyfus, did say yesterday the bedrocks should be nobody should be stateless by an act of the Australian Government which suggests Labor wouldn’t support a move we understand the Government is considering, or the Prime Minister is considering, and as you mentioned the backbench is calling for- to change a law allowing the Government to strip Australians engaged in terrorism of their citizenship if it’s reasonably believed there’s another nationality they could claim. So I’m not talking dual nationals.

PLIBERSEK: I’m not going to speculate, Fran. What I would say is it is extraordinary that we’ve got very long, specific verbatim quotes from Cabinet and from the National Security Committee of the Cabinet saying that very senior members of National Security Committee are opposed to this measure, that they don’t believe there’s enough information about this measure in the public domain and if Julie Bishop and Kevin Andrews and others are concerned then surely that rings some alarm bells.

KELLY: And just finally on China, growing unrest in our region and in the US about China’s activity of expansion in the South China Sea. Defence Minister Kevin Andrews has told the dialogue yesterday that other countries will respond if Beijing persists as called on China to stop its land reclamation. Does Labor support Australia backing the US in taking a tougher stand against China here?

PLIBERSEK: Well, I think the most important thing to say on this issue is that Australia should be part of deescalating tension and it’s very important that we of course say that this is a region that is very important for shipping and for trade, that Australia and our ASEAN neighbours in particular, other countries in the region, have an expectation of being able to move freely now and in the future through this area, and our contribution should be to ensure that tensions are deescalated, that understanding between the parties continue to improve.

KELLY: Tanya Plibersek, thank you very much for joining us.

PLIBERSEK: Thank you, Fran.


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