SUBJECTS: Marriage equality; Citizenship; Sam Dastyari.


PRESENTER: One of those in Parliament for that vote was Deputy Opposition Leader Tanya Plibersek who joins us now from Sydney. Tanya Plibersek, good morning to you.


PRESENTER: Speaking of tears, I just want to play you a snapshot of yesterday when there was some singing in Parliament and we'll just play that now and then I'll ask you about it.

[recording plays]

You may not be able to see it at the moment but we're just watching you and Bill Shorten looking up at the people and about to wipe away a tear.

PLIBERSEK: I'm going to cry again!

PRESENTER: Tell us about it.

PLIBERSEK: It was a fantastic moment. A lot of those people in the gallery had been there all day. They'd been there for hours and hours waiting for this historic moment. And the singing is just such a beautiful moment. I tear up every time I hear up that song anyway, but to hear it at such a special moment I think was terrific. It was a long time coming. A lot of those people hadn't just been there that day for hours and hours, but they'd been fighting for years and decades for equality and to see it happen, it was a good day. It was a good day.

PRESENTER: Some of the people that we've heard from this morning have spoken about it not just being [audio cuts out] how they are able to feel about themselves. What, beyond getting married, has this done for the country?

PLIBERSEK: Look I think it's sent a very strong message, to young people in particular, that it's just fine - whatever your sexuality, it's just fine. We are all equal under the law. And I think for that reason, passing this marriage equality legislation has made Australia a better, kinder, fairer place. It's a benefit for all of us, whether we are straight, gay, whatever, because we're sending a message that we are an inclusive society. And I think that is a good thing. It's a good message to send.  I think it's a shame that it's taken so long and that the postal survey was actually a very hurtful process for a lot of people. The scenes on the floor of Parliament yesterday could've happened without an expensive, divisive postal survey, but it's done now and - 

PRESENTER: But in fact it could've happened years ago, so why has it taken so long to get to that point politically?

PLIBERSEK: Yeah it could've happened years ago. The last time we had a vote like this was 2012, when of course I voted yes for marriage equality then, but there just wasn't enough - there was somewhere in the 40s, 43 I think, Members of Parliament voted in favour of marriage equality in that last big vote. And as you saw from those scenes yesterday, we finally had a very large majority of Members of Parliament vote in favour. Partly because, of course, the Liberals also had a free vote yesterday, and the Nationals. So you saw all of the parties finally having a free vote in the Parliament and then a majority voting emphatically in favour of marriage equality.

PRESENTER: Just one more on this issue. Really the Australian people showed its elected representatives how to lead on an issue.


PRESENTER: What has the Parliament learned that might be helpful in dealing with other issues in the New Year?

PLIBERSEK: I think the Parliament, I hope the Parliament, has learned to trust the people. I mean, the Australian people have been showing in survey after survey for many years now, a strong majority in support of equality. And the Parliament absolutely lagged behind the people on this issue. I think trust the people is a very strong take-out from yesterday. I mean honestly, if you were ever to do a big social change like this again, I do think that the proper place for this debate is in the Parliament. I think it's important to understand that this, the process, was a very damaging process for a lot of people. A lot of people reported psychological distress, and of course we had, in my electorate, people's homes being graffitied, confrontations, in some cases physical confrontations, during the campaign trail. I don't think the process was great, but at the end of the day, fantastic outcome. 

PRESENTER: Let's talk about dual citizenship now. Labor has its problems. Why did the Labor Party try to pretend that it had nothing to worry about here?

PLIBERSEK: We still say that the four Members of Parliament that took all reasonable steps -  the three,  Susan Lamb, Justine Keay and Josh, all took all reasonable steps, as did Katy Gallagher, to renounce citizenship before they were required to. So we don't have any qualms about that. I've got to say, the David Feeney one was a little bit of a surprise to us, so that was a little bit unexpected. But remember, this week we moved to refer all our Labor MPs about whom the Government is saying there are doubts, to the High Court. We said that those opposite who are in similar circumstances should also be referred, and the Government voted against sending our people and their people to the High Court.

PRESENTER: You just mentioned that David Feeney was a surprise.


PRESENTER: We were led to believe that there were no surprises from your side.

PLIBERSEK: I can't say anything other than it was a mistake. David Feeney has told us that he took all reasonable steps, but he hasn't found the documentation to show that. That is a mistake and that's why we have referred him to the High Court ourselves. And remember, this disclosure process was a disclosure process that Labor insisted on. We asked for tougher, faster disclosure than the Government wanted to provide. So the reason we know that David Feeney hasn't got his documentations is because of the disclosure regime that Labor demanded. So we're happy for him to go to the High Court, we would happily send the others about whom we say there are no doubts, but we think that the Government should also be prepared to send people in the same circumstances on their side to the High Court, and the Government voted against this joint referral.

PRESENTER: Tanya Plibersek, just one on Sam Dastyari. He's going to be referred by the Government to the Parliament Privileges Committee for examination of his behaviour. What is the benefit of retaining Sam Dastyari in the Labor Party beyond his two strikes?

PLIBERSEK: Everybody deserves to be dealt with in a way that is procedurally fair and Sam deserves that just like everybody else.

PRESENTER: I mean the two strikes though. You've mentioned that he's had two strikes.

PLIBERSEK: And Sam has paid a pretty high price for those two errors of judgement. Bill Shorten has made very clear to him that he's been stripped of additional positions that he held in the past and that he needs to make sure that there's no more mistakes down the track. But remember, there's a lot of focus from the Government on Sam Dastyari, Andrew Robb as the Trade Minister in the dying days of the last Parliament, took an $880 000 a year job with Landbridge, the company that bought the port of Darwin. Andrew Robb and others have taken money from Chinese donors. The Labor Party has said we won't take money from Mr Huang, who's the fellow that Sam Dastyari's accused of having a relationship with. The Liberal Party's still taking money from him. If this guy's such a worry, then perhaps the Liberal Party should stop taking donations. We have introduced legislation asking for a ban on foreign donations and asking for a register of foreign agents and the Government's refused to do that up until now. So we are very eager to make sure that there is transparency around foreign donations and that, in fact, that they should stop. 

PRESENTER: Tanya Plibersek, thanks for your time this morning. You'll be pleased to know we just heard in the last couple of minutes that the Prime Minister is going to visit the Governor-General this morning where he'll take that same-sex marriage bill to ratify. 

PLIBERSEK: Fantastic.

PRESENTER: Thank you once again.