THURSDAY, 16 NOVEMBER 2017
SUBJECT/S: Marriage equality; Christopher Pyne; citizenship crisis, SA bank tax.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good afternoon, everybody. First of all, let me congratulate South Australians for voting in such strong numbers to support marriage equality in Australia. I think the whole nation is pleased the survey is now out of the way. And certainly, the discussions I had as I went to the street party in Melbourne with Chloe and my family is that a lot of people were coming up to me and saying alright Bill, now we've had this latest survey, it confirmed that Australia yet again is ready for marriage equality - when will it happen?. And what I have picked up loud and clear as I have travelled around in the last two days, is that Australians know that it is not if marriage equality happens, but when.
So I am committing, as I know Senator Penny Wong has on Labor's behalf already yesterday in the Senate, Labor is committing to working with all of those in the parliament who want to see marriage equality, to make it happen ideally before parliament ceases for the year by 7 December. And I want to make it very clear to the Australian people that Labor is committed to no undue delay. This debate about marriage equality has been going on for a very long time and there's been an awful lot of money spent to get to this point. The parliament owes it to the people to get on with it. Labor will certainly, neither see any delay nor will we allow any new discrimination to creep in in the treatment of gay and lesbian Australians. They have been through enough in this survey, enough is enough, it's time to get the job done.
I also briefly want to comment about the jobs numbers. Labor is always pleased when Australians can find work. But what we also need is jobs that pay enough so that people can make ends meet. Too many Australians record being underemployed. Too many Australians are suffering from wages paralysis. Too many Australians are suffering from prices of everything going up except their wages. Labor is committed to policies which will see wages improve so that people have got jobs where they can afford to live as well as afford to work.
Happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: On same sex marriage - the Bill as it currently stands, what kind will amendments will you look to bring in?
SHORTEN: Labor doesn't have a lot of its own amendments. We just think we should just get on with it. The Smith Bill was actually the result of cross-senate committee. What that means in plain English is Senators from a range of political parties, and of course including Labor thought that the bill which is currently now in the Senate did a pretty reasonable job, an excellent job at both delivering marriage equality and protecting religious freedom. Labor will look at any amendments which the right wing of the Liberal Party or others move. But we put these people on notice. We will not support any delay and stalling, and we are not interested in extending discrimination against gay and lesbian Australians. They have been through enough in this very difficult survey and I think that now is the time for us to just get on, do marriage equality and get onto all of the other issues including making sure that Australians are getting properly paid.
JOURNALIST: Do you think that celebrants should be able to refuse marrying gay and lesbian couples?
SHORTEN: We’ll go through the details of the amendments, I’m not going to make policy on a grandstand here in Adelaide, but I know that we have got pretty clear principles. We are interested and committed to religious freedom and the ability of churches to practise wedding ceremonies and marriage ceremonies according to their own tenants, and we respect that. And I might just add before I go to the rest of the question, I am pleased as someone who actively and strongly supported marriage equality during the survey, I am pleased at the result, and I am looking forward to the legislation passing. But I also just want to remind Australians that the people who voted no were entitled to their opinion and that I respect that. Having said that, with the legislation, let’s get it done, it is an amendment to the Marriage Act. I think a lot of issues have been well canvassed, and we will obviously consider and have look at any amendments, but we are not up for new discrimination and new delay.
JOURNALIST: Would Labor ever consider extending that to the churches and to celebrants, saying that celebrants can no longer discriminate or churches can no longer discriminate?
SHORTEN: In terms of the question of celebrants, we have to look at the religious beliefs of the celebrants and make sure the law doesn't have any unintended consequences for them, and that is the sort of common-sense approach that I and our Labor team will adopt. But let's also be clear, the Australian people have said yes we want marriage equality and I think the cross parliamentary or cross-party Senate bill, in the name of Senator Smith and Senator Wong, I think that pretty much gets us there. We will keep an open mind if there are some practical observations made to improve the operation of that bill. But now I think people just want us to get on with it and I know we can.
JOURNALIST: On another issue, Christopher Pyne tweeted this morning claiming that his account had been hacked. Are you concerned about national security when the Defence Minister claims that his twitter account has been hacked and what do you make of Cory Bernardi’s assertion that there should be an audit looking into his to social media?
SHORTEN: I feel for Christopher Pyne. But I actually think when any minister has their account hacked, but in particular any minister when they are the Defence Minister, this is serious. So I do think there should be some investigation and explanation. We want to make sure that important military and defence information can’t be hacked. In terms of Senator Bernardi’s resolution that's not due to be voted on straightaway, we will have a look at it. But I think it is most serious when any minister, but especially a Defence Minister, is the victim of hacking and I do think we need to get to the bottom of it. There have been other problems with preserving the security of our defence information with private contractors, so I think it is a worry and I think the Government should take it seriously.
JOURNALIST: So would you support Cory Bernardi's motion?
SHORTEN: Well it is not due to be voted on for two weeks and we'll have a look at it between now and then. I do think it is serious if you have a Defence Minister whose accounts are getting hacked. Defence, our national secrets, we need to make sure they have top protection, and I think a lot of people are more than just a little bit concerned if our government information doesn't have adequate protection.
JOURNALIST: Would you want that to look at all of his social media accounts, not just Twitter?
SHORTEN: Well no, I think it's about the hacking and again, what I would just say is I feel for Christopher Pyne, it's an unpleasant experience. When any Minister, especially a Defence Minister, has their accounts hacked, I do think this deserves serious investigation. We can never be too careful with our cyber security especially where defence is involved.
JOURNALIST: Does this make you think twice about your own account, you're not planning on changing your password anytime soon?
SHORTEN: Cyber security is a growing issue and perhaps there may be lessons out of the hacking of Christopher Pyne's account which we can be used to apply to improve our security more generally.
JOURNALIST: On another issue again, the British authorities have said they don't have the paperwork to make a decision on Susan Lamb's citizenship status. Should this be going to High Court now?
SHORTEN: I understand why the Government wants to distract the nation from their own citizenship woes. I was as shocked as everyone else last night when the replacement to Turnbull Government Minister Nash, who wasn't eligible under Section 44, when the Liberal replacement also was not eligible under Section 44. I think the Liberal Party has a major crisis in the government about the eligibility of their people. In the case of Ms Lamb I have very strong confidence, and indeed her circumstances have been well canvassed in the News Limited papers, by the Courier-Mail. I am confident she has done everything that can be reasonably expected.
JOURNALIST: Just because you're confident, is that enough to reassure the rest of Australia? Should this be going to the High Court, that is the ultimate body for this kind of arbitration?
SHORTEN: I understand the concern of Australians, but a lot of this crisis has been because now nine MPs have found to be not constitutionally eligible. There are not a lot of restrictions on running for Parliament in Australia but Section 44 of The Constitution does set some of the road rules. You are required not allowed to be a dual citizen or citizen of another country and Australia, and if you are by virtue of birth or descent, it is important to take all reasonable steps. I am very confident about Labor’s systems, but to put the nation's mind at ease, I think the very first step that we should do is have a universal disclosure to the parliament.
I am grateful to the media, it’s their investigations which have uncovered some of the constitutional problems that we have seen and which have cast crisis to the Government. I have invited Mr Turnbull to set all of the records straight - Liberal, Labor, everyone, by 1 December. Interestingly, Mr Turnbull’s colleagues in the Senate have agreed to Labor's peace plan to be able to draw a line under the constitutional crisis engulfing the Government, but somewhat strangely Mr Turnbull hasn’t agreed for the House of Representatives. I would encourage him to meet me halfway. And now if upon presentation of all of the material, then an ongoing debate about High Court referrals, Labor will certainly listen to that. But I think there should be one rule for everyone, and from that basis the nation can move forward with confidence.
JOURNALIST: In the meantime you’ll take Susan Lamb’s word for it and hope that it all works out?
SHORTEN: No I don’t just take her word for it, we’ve certainly looked at the matter and certainly had legal opinion.
JOURNALIST: A legal opinion’s different to evidence. British authorities say they don’t have that evidence.
SHORTEN: No I am confident, full stop. I am confident. Any other questions?
JOURNALIST: Can I ask you a very question Adelaide, Mr Shorten? What do you think of our wonderful pontoon?
SHORTEN: It is a charming pontoon. I look forward to running past it later on and I’m looking forward to being in Adelaide. I’m catching up with dementia and aged care advocates today. And one little issue I might just put a plug in, it’s actually not that little an issue, is we’ve got a real challenge in Australia with people diagnosed and living with dementia. There’s 412,000 people across Australia currently diagnosed with dementia, 35,000 of them are South Australians. I for one intend to do more work and draw the national spotlight the crisis in aged care – the waiting lists, the lack of support and challenge for Australians living with dementia.
But it is also nice to look at the pontoon, I'll study it. I did say last question.
JOURNALIST: Can I also just -
SHORTEN: I did say last question but why not.
JOURNALIST: Any thoughts on the bank tax locally? We had it scrapped finally yesterday. Do you think it should be a Federal issue or do you think -
SHORTEN: The bank tax is a Federal issue, and Mr Morrison the current Treasurer and Mr Turnbull introduced a bank tax and now the South Australian Government endeavoured to do that. But somewhat unfortunately, Nick Xenophon and the South Australian Liberals have protected the banks in South Australia, although they were happy to see a bank tax nationally. It does seem very inconsistent policy, but I’m sure the Liberals can explain their ongoing defence of banks and the reasons why they refuse to have a banking royal commission, which will certainly be one of the issues we will be pursuing with some vigour on behalf of Australians when Parliament resumes on 27 November.
Thank you very much.