THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP
DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION
SHADOW MINISTER FOR EDUCATION
SHADOW MINISTER FOR WOMEN
MEMBER FOR SYDNEY
TUESDAY, 11 OCTOBER 2016
SUBJECTS: Marriage equality
JOURNALIST: Will Labor decide to block the plebiscite in the Caucus meeting do you know?
TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Well our Caucus meeting will happen at 9.30 this morning and I don’t announce the outcome of meetings before they happen but anybody who has been watching this debate over the past couple of weeks would know that our misgivings about this proposal, the proposed plebiscite have only grown. We know that this Plebiscite is expensive; in fact the Explanatory Memorandum that was released with the legislation a few weeks ago increased the cost of the plebiscite from around $175 million to $200 million. We know that it will be divisive - we are already seeing some extreme arguments on both sides of the pro and anti-marriage equality debate. We are seeing young Australians saying that they are experiencing increased harassment, teasing at school; we’re talking to families with two mums and two dads who are saying that it’s very difficult to explain to their children why people think there is something wrong with their family. We are hearing from advocates for marriage equality who are saying that they have had death threats. So we know that the debate is expensive, we know it is divisive and we know it is unnecessary. The High Court has said that the Australian Parliament should determine whether Australia has marriage equality, we could do that this week, we could have done it anytime, this is a simple matter that should be determined like many controversial issues put before and by the Australian Parliament.
JOURNALIST: The Prime Minister is warning that if the plebiscite doesn’t go ahead that it could be years before marriage equality is reached. Would you rather that then go ahead with the plebiscite?
PLIBERSEK: Well I have spoken very extensively to both supporters and opponents of marriage equality in my electorate and I can tell you that even the most dedicated supporters of marriage equality don’t support this expensive, divisive plebiscite. We will have our discussion in Caucus this morning, I don’t want to pre-empt that, but I can tell you that everything I have heard from supporters of marriage equality, particularly for people who were, who found it really difficult as teenagers to be honest about their sexuality, young people who say that they were suicidal, that they were isolated, that they were lonely when they were at school because the environment around them told them that it was not okay to be who they are. They say that they can imagine the fourteen year olds, sixteen year olds, eighteen year olds in families of communities listening to this debate, listening to the harmful messages and they are worried about their mental health. Experts like Pat McGorry, the former Australian of the Year, mental health practitioner, he says this will do harm and when he says that I listen.
JOURNALIST: Warren Entsch has raised concerns though that if there is a free vote in Parliament that Australians who don’t support gay marriage could mount a challenge to that and that a plebiscite is the only way to avoid that, does that matter, have any bearing?
PLIBERSEK: Mount a challenge? I don’t know what basis he would make that up. This is like any other law. If the Parliament has the power to legislate and the High Court say that our Parliament does have the power to legislate then I can’t imagine what Warren Entsch thinks he is talking about. The High Court has already made it plain that it is the job of the Australian Parliament to legislate in this instance. Think about some of the debates that we have had in our Parliament, we didn’t have a plebiscite when John Howard last changed the Marriage Act, we didn’t have a plebiscite when John Howard overturned the Northern Territory’s voluntary euthanasia laws and I think for many, many people that issue was one that easily, as controversial and as a difficult as this one relating to marriage equality. We send people to war without even a debate in our Parliament; it is our job as legislators to reflect the views of our communities. That is our day job, that is what we are paid to do. The notion that we can’t do it on this one issue is ridiculous. This is a delaying tactic determined by the right-wing of the Liberal Party as their price to Malcolm Turnbull for him being allowed to limp along as Prime Minister of this country.
JOURNALIST: Haven’t they been successful though, if this is going to take years to get through, isn’t the way to prevent the delaying, approve the plebiscite, go to a vote on February 11th and it could all be done by March next year?
PLIBERSEK: No. The way to get this through our Parliament is for the people in the Liberal Party who support it to have some back bone and actually back a vote, back a free vote in our Parliament. I know there are supporters of the Liberal Party, they tell me they think this plebiscite is ridiculous, expensive, divisive, unnecessary; well they are going to have to have the courage of their convictions, as many of them already have, to stand up and say this is not the way to do it, there is a better way and I know that there is a significant group within the Liberal Party who feel that way.
JOURNALIST: That’s not going to happen - does this mean that Kevin Andrews, Eric Abetz have won?
PLIBERSEK: Why do you say that is not going to happen? Truly this is such an easy thing to solve, this is a tiny piece of legislation, a few words to be changed in the Marriage Act. We have Private Members Bills, including the one that Warren Entsch has sponsored in the past. It would be the easiest thing in the world and you talk about it is not going to happen because Malcolm Turnbull made a commitment, well Malcolm Turnbull made a commitment on Backpacker Tax; Malcolm Turnbull made a commitment on Superannuation; Malcolm Turnbull made a commitment on savings he took to the last Election; Malcolm Turnbull has made all sorts of commitments that he hasn’t kept. He has also said in the past that he is a supporter of marriage equality and he knows that a free vote in the Parliament is the best way to go. A very short time before he became Leader he was still arguing for a free vote in our Parliament. He knows in his heart of hearts that this is the best way forward, to have a free vote in the Parliament. It really is only a small part of the Liberal Party, the tail wagging the dog in this instance, but the tail wagging the dog and it is going to cost us, as tax payers, $200 million and we are going to have young Australians hearing day after day, week after week, month after month that there is something wrong with them and something wrong with who they are.