TRANSCRIPT: Doorstop, Sydney, Saturday 9 April 2016






SUBJECT/S: Marriage equality; the Australian steel industry; Malcolm Turnbull’s chaotic Government; Royal Commission into the banking and financial services sector.


TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: [audio cuts in]…I think Geoff speaks for many Australians, not just for his own son, when he says that a plebiscite is unnecessary and divisive. When Labor was in government, we changed 85 pieces of legislation to remove discrimination against gays, lesbians, same-sex couples. We also introduced a prohibition into discrimination legislation, prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexuality or gender identity. But there is one last great piece of unfinished business, and that is in marriage equality. We know that the majority of Australians support marriage equality, not just like Geoff because they have someone in the family that would benefit personally, but because they see it as an issue of equity and justice; of fairness, so important in our Australian ethos. The other thing to consider of course is the cost of the $160 million plebiscite. Surely this government – intent on cutting education, intent on cutting Medicare, intent on cutting all of the services that Australians rely on, doesn’t want to spend $160 million on a plebiscite. Mr Turnbull says that this plebiscite is necessary to give Australians a say, but we know that conservatives in the Liberal and National Parties have already said that they’ll ignore the results of the plebiscite. So we’re having a $160 million plebiscite in order for the conservatives in Mr Turnbull’s own party to ignore the results.

As Geoff has said, as Ben has said, it’s also absolutely vital to consider the sort of messages that young people will hear during this debate. Young people – teenagers who are just thinking about coming out – will hear in our media, across social media and so on, that there is something wrong with being gay or lesbian. I think it’s appalling, knowing what we already know about the mental health effects for young gay and lesbians of hearing hate speech against people in their community. What about kids who have got same-sex parents? We know that there are thousands of families across Australia with same-sex parents. The messages that little children will hear, that their two mums, or their two dads, somehow make up a lesser family than the families of the other kids at school. Again, deeply harmful messages for those children.

So we say to Mr Turnbull - this can happen now. We know that the Parliament has the power to legislate – we’ve heard that even from John Howard and other conservatives. We know that this is the job of the federal Parliament to legislate, so let the federal Parliament legislate. There are bills ready to be voted on now, and I say this: if Mr Turnbull does not allow this legislation to be debated in the Parliament, then we will ensure that if we are elected, whenever the election might be, that within the first 100 days of a Shorten Labor Government, marriage equality legislation will be introduced to our Parliament and it will pass.  Any questions?

JOURNALIST: [inaudible]

PLIBERSEK: Well of course, Labor is the only party that can deliver on marriage equality because at the next election there will be a choice between a Liberal Government led by Mr Turnbull who has already let down Australians who support marriage equality, or between a Labor Government led by Bill Shorten, who has made a commitment that marriage equality will be debated in our Parliament within the first 100 days of his government.

JOURNALIST: [inaudible]

PLIBERSEK: Whenever we’ve had changes to discrimination legislation – to sex discrimination legislation, or race discrimination legislation, the federal parliament has debated that legislation. At times it’s been very controversial – people said when sex discrimination legislation was introduced that it would change our society for the worse. They said it about race discrimination legislation and it’s interesting to note that Liberal members of parliament are still saying that section 18C of the Race Discrimination Act is a problem when it comes to our society. But what we say is just as the federal Parliament legislated to get rid of sex discrimination and race discrimination, just as it legislated to prohibit discrimination based on sexuality or gender identity, this next step in eliminating discrimination is the job of the federal parliament.

JOURNALIST: Richard Marles refused to back Bill Shorten on [inaudible]… does this represent a split in your party, or do you back the leader?

PLIBERSEK:  Oh absolutely we are consistent on this issue. We want Australia to have a strong steel industry. We’ve been in Whyalla this week with a Parliamentary inquiry set up by Labor into the future of the steel industry. Bill Shorten has written to the Government many months ago urging bipartisanship to ensure that we continue to have a steel industry in Australia. Now there are many ways that the government can encourage the use of Australian steel, and we are united as a party to ensure that we have a steel industry in Australia in the future. If you have a look at what’s happened to manufacturing jobs in this country in recent years, you have a government that has goaded the car industry to leave Australia. You have a government that has been completely inconsistent about the submarines and ship building industries here in Australia. We need to have a government that actually protects and prioritises Australian jobs, and that includes ensuring that we continue to have a steel industry in Australia.  

JOURNALIST: [inaudible]

PLIBERSEK:  Well, I’m not sure what that question is really about. What I’d say is that it’s important in a country like Australia that every person who can work is working. That means that we need a plan for our economy that prioritises growth and jobs to ensure that people in towns like Whyalla have a future.

JOURNALIST: Just on the Prime Minister’s comments this morning about the budget. He says it won’t be about a fistful of dollars, is that fair enough in the current economic climate?  

PLIBERSEK: Well I think it’s extraordinary that just weeks out from the Federal Budget, we’ve had half a dozen different ideas floated and shot down by this Government for what should be in the Budget. We had Scott Morrison first of all saying how vital it was to do personal income tax cuts, well that idea has been shot down. We’ve had a plan for company tax cuts, which of course we know benefit the largest companies most, we’ve had that idea shot down. We had Scott Morrison talking about tackling the excesses of negative gearing, well that idea has been shot down. We’ve had a Prime Minister talking about state and federal income tax regimes, that idea has been shot down. And what have they got left? What they’ve got left is Joe Hockey and Tony Abbott’s 2014 budget. It’s back to cuts: further cuts in health, further cuts in education, further attacks on the pension and family tax benefit. This is a government with no plan for Australia’s economy. It is a government whose only solution to our economic challenges is further cuts. Now let me contrast what the Government has been up to this week and what we’ve been up to this week. This week we’ve had a government that has a Prime Minister and a Treasurer that has to set up photo opportunities to make it look like they’re besties. We’ve got a government that continues to ignore the threat of job losses in Whyalla. We’ve got a government that stands by its massive $80 billion cuts to health and education. In contrast, you’ve got an Opposition that invests in health and education, that is down in Whyalla talking to steel workers and the company that they’re employed by to ensure that they have jobs for the future.

JOURNALIST: [inaudible] the Royal Commission will ruin Australia’s standing [inaudible] globally. Does Labor agree?

PLIBERSEK:  Well I think it’s the banks that have been undermining confidence in banking in Australia, because what we’ve seen is scandal after scandal in the banking sector.  Thank you.