THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP
DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION
SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS
AND INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT
MEMBER FOR SYDNEY
WEDNESDAY, 27 MAY 2015
SUBJECTS: Marriage equality; Domestic violence
TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good morning everyone. When Labor was in government, we changed 85 pieces of Commonwealth legislation to remove discrimination against gay men, lesbians and same sex couples. There was one unfinished piece of business and I am delighted to say that on Monday, Bill Shorten and I will introduce legislation into the House of Representatives for marriage equality. Marriage equality is a social change whose time has come. Australia is one of the very few countries with similar culture and background that have not moved to marriage equality. If you look at countries like the United Kingdom, New Zealand, indeed many parts of the United States and Europe, marriage equality has been legislated. More than 20 countries now have marriage equality. We believe that the Australian community has shifted very substantially on this issue and the most recent public polling suggests that 72 per cent of Australians support marriage equality. But sadly our Parliament has been slow in catching up. Bill Shorten and I will introduce this legislation on Monday and it will sit on the table for some time giving parliamentarians an opportunity to talk with their communities and to decide on their position for marriage equality.
JOURNALIST: Ms Plibersek, why doesn’t Labor support Rosie Batty’s call for ten days mandatory leave for domestic violence victims so they can go to court and seek legal advice?
PLIBERSEK: Well certainly Labor is very supportive of the agreements that have been signed that cover 1.6 million workers - that give domestic violence leave. Large companies like Telstra, large employers like the University of New South Wales in my own electorate have agreed domestic violence leave with their staff. It is worth noting that wherever this position or this provision exists in employment agreements, very few people will ever need to use it. Indeed, very few people have used the provision of the 1.6 million employees that are covered. It is certainly something that we are interested in hearing further about. What Brendan O’Connor said this morning is that when you have small employers it can be quite complex to manage the sort of provisions that are being asked for.
JOURNALIST: [Inaudible] said she’s disappointed and blame [inaudible] same sex marriage bill that it’s playing politics. Is there a risk here that you’ll set back the cause?
PLIBERSEK: Look, I don’t think so. I first drafted a bill for marriage equality more than a year ago. And I wrote to all Liberal MPs and asked if one of them would co-sponsor my bill. For a year, I’ve been asking for bipartisanship on my original private member’s bill. I have spoken to a number of Liberal MPs directly and asked them to co-sponsor my bill and sadly, that movement hasn’t happened. I know that there are a lot of Liberal MPs who support marriage equality and I think by bringing this issue to the Parliament, they have the opportunity now within their partyroom- to argue for a free vote in their partyroom. We were simply just waiting too long. As I say, more than a year ago I asked for a co-sponsor to my bill and without a Liberal co-sponsor, Labor has had to go it alone.
JOURNALIST: There’s [inaudible] had reservations about this and it is a matter of conscience, why are you voting against it?
PLIBERSEK: And I understand that-
JOURNALIST: You want to make it a binding vote though.
PLIBERSEK: I understand that for people for whom this is a- they see marriage as a religious sacrament, this is a very difficult ask for them. But marriage is more than that. Marriage is also a legal arrangement between two people that gives responsibilities as well as rights, it’s also an acknowledgment by our community of a status of a relationship. So I believe that any couple that is above the age of 18 and meets all the other legal requirements should be able to go to a registry office, to see a marriage celebrant and have that relationship formally recognised by the state. I do not expect churches to recognise or provide same sex marriage. The bill specifically makes very clear that churches will not be expected to solemnise same sex relationships. But in the case of the state recognising a relationship between two people, our community recognising a relationship between two people, to me that is now just an issue of equality and it is no longer acceptable, I believe, in the Australian community to discriminate against two people on the basis of their gender.
JOURNALIST: You acknowledge that the community has shifted, do you now concede that putting forward a binding vote for your party could’ve set back in train, was the wrong platform to put forward?
PLIBERSEK: No, I think that the fact that we’ve been having this discussion in our community and in our parliament in recent weeks has given the opportunity and a number of Labor MPs who were previously opposed to marriage equality to make clear that their views have developed alongside the views of their communities. And so I think it’s been a very healthy debate for us to have.
JOURNALIST: Are you still pushing for a binding vote?
PLIBERSEK: Well I’m pushing for this private member’s bill to be introduced to the Parliament on Monday and-
JOURNALIST: But it’s likely-
PLIBERSEK: To- well-
JOURNALIST: It is likely that this vote will be after the Labor conference so will you at the conference still be pushing for this vote to be binded?
PLIBERSEK: I’m pushing for the private member’s bill that we introduce on Monday to be debated in our Parliament. I’m pushing for a free vote in the Liberal Party because the only thing that can guarantee that this legislation is defeated is if the Liberal Party room and the National Party room don’t get a free vote. For me, the issue has never been the mechanism, it’s been the outcome. It’s been the end result. For me, recognising same sex couples and same sex families have the same legal status as opposite sex couples, is the outcome I’ve always wanted.
JOURNALIST: So you’re dropping your call for a binding vote in the Labor Party?
PLIBERSEK: I’m focused right now on this private member’s bill that I’ll be introducing with Bill Shorten on Monday at getting that through the Parliament. That’s my whole focus at the moment.
JOURNALIST: Does that mean you’re expecting [inaudible]?
PLIBERSEK: Certainly the timing for any further debate will be up to the Parliament, it will be decided by the selection committee that decides the timing of these debates. But I would certainly prefer to see this dealt with sooner rather than later, it’s important to have a few weeks for Members of Parliament to consult their electorates to consider their position but this really is a reform whose time has come.
JOURNALIST: Can I just clarify though, why are you pushing for a binding vote still? Why were you going to drop that?
PLIBERSEK: The issue is not about mechanisms at our conference-
JOURNALIST: This is an issue that you’ve pushed.
PLIBERSEK: The issue is we now have a private member’s bill that we didn’t expect to have. I certainly have always said this is not an issue of life and death, which is what conscience votes are normally confined to, this is an issue of legal equality and that is still my position. But what I would say is our focus now, our whole campaigning focus has been brought forward because we now have a piece of legislation before our Parliament for activists in our community who care about this issue, who want to see marriage equality. Their focus must also be on our Parliament, not on mechanisms, but on the substance of this legislation. The substance of this legislation would allow same sex couples to have their relationship recognised by our community and by the state.