TRANSCRIPT: Doorstop, Parliament House, Wednesday 12 August 2015






SUBJECTS: Marriage equality


TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Many Australians would’ve heard the news from last night’s Liberal Party room with great disappointment. And the first thing I wanted to say today is a message to young gay men and lesbians. The message out of last night’s Liberal Party room might make you feel like second class citizens, but that’s not true. And the movement for marriage equality is a movement that will not be derailed by one decision, one tricky and sneaky decision, in a combined meeting of the Liberals and Nationals last night. This is a change whose time has come. Australia is one of very few countries like us that have not yet legalised marriage equality. It is a change that is inevitable in Australia and no number of delaying tactics from Mr Abbott will derail this change. What you saw in last night’s party room is, as Christopher Pyne described it, a branch stacking exercise. Tricky tactics employed by a desperate Prime Minister designed to delay this change. He’s now talking about a plebiscite. Again, another tactic designed to delay this change. It’s not necessary to have a plebiscite in Australia. We make important decisions in this Parliament every day of the week. This is another proposal designed to derail the achievement of marriage equality. What you know for certain is that there are Members of Parliament of goodwill on both sides, who will continue to fight for this change to be made in this Parliament, either in the House of Representatives, or the Senate, to have a vote on this issue. And you know for certain that if Bill Shorten is elected Prime Minister, there’ll be a bill for marriage equality in the first hundred days. Any questions?

JOURNALIST: Is there a danger that if a plebiscite got [inaudible] it might be held at the same time as a referendum [inaudible] constitution and recognition of Indigenous Australians?

PLIBERSEK: Well, here’s the point. We have referendums in this country when we want to change the constitution. A plebiscite is a completely unnecessary and expensive diversion and delay. We’ve decided in the course of this Parliament to cut part-pensions, to introduce $100,000 university degrees, to cut education and health funding, why won’t Mr Abbott to take those decisions to a plebiscite? Look, we make important decisions in this Parliament every day and we battle it out on the floor of the Parliament. Sadly, more often than not, the Opposition loses those votes. But they are important decisions that this Parliament is trusted to make. The idea that this Parliament can’t be trusted to make a decision on marriage equality is laughable. And it certainly runs in the face of John Howard’s change to the Marriage Act.

JOURNALIST: How confident are you that gay marriage will be legalised if it were put to vote by the Australian people as opposed to the Parliament deciding?

PLIBERSEK: Well, I’ll tell you two things. If this was voted on in the Parliament with a free vote for both sides, this change would pass and it would pass before Christmas. And if it’s put to the Australian people, I’m confident that the Australian people, who have been surveyed many times on this, would support marriage equality. What is the point of spending millions and millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money on a decision that we have good information on already as far as the public sentiment on this. It is simply a delaying tactic and it is incredible that the Prime Minister is saying ‘oh well, we couldn’t make this change now because, you know, we promised before the last election’ – of course not to cut health, they promised not to cut education, they promised no cuts to the ABC or SBS, no change to pensions and no new taxes. Well, there are 17 new taxes, cuts to health and education, cuts to the ABC and SBS, and a raft of broken promises including on things like submarines in Adelaide. It is a ridiculous proposition from the Prime Minister that this is the only promise that he made to the Australian people that he can’t break. It is another absurd delaying tactic. Can I just say one more thing? Right at the moment in the Parliament, we are having a debate about whether the GST will be increased from 10 per cent to 15 per cent, why doesn’t the Prime Minister say that he’s going to take that huge decision to a plebiscite? It’s ridiculous.

JOURNALIST: If the issue does come to a vote on the floor of the Parliament, how likely do you think some of your Coalition colleagues- counterparts rather, would cross the floor?

PLIBERSEK: Look, I think it is an extraordinarily difficult decision for people to cross the floor. But a number of Coalition MPs have indicated that they will. I think that would be brave of them and I would support them and welcome them.

JOURNALIST: Just on the plebiscite itself, would you find it acceptable [inaudible]?

PLIBERSEK: It’s not a matter of whether it’s acceptable to me or not, the Prime Minister will do what he wants to do in this respect. What I would say is it’s a delay, and it’s a waste of money, and the next election, in effect, is a plebiscite on marriage equality because you know that if Bill Shorten’s elected Prime Minister, there’ll be a bill for marriage equality within a hundred days.

JOURNALIST: We heard from a number of Liberal MPs that they voted against the free vote because they believed that was the wishes of their electorates, their constituents wouldn’t want to allow a free vote. Do you believe that maybe the support that is out there for same sex marriage is bunkered down in Labor seats rather than Liberal seats and that they have indeed been listening to their communities?

PLIBERSEK: I don’t believe that for one second. I know that right now in big cities and country towns and small communities right around Australia, there are gay men and lesbians who want marriage equality for themselves. And more particularly, I know that there are a whole lot of parents of teenagers who are same-sex attracted who want to send a message to their kids: you’re alright, we accept you as you are, we don’t want to live in a society, in a community that discriminates against our children.