THE TODAY SHOW
THURSDAY, 5 OCTOBER 2017
SUBJECT/S: Las Vegas massacre; Gun amnesty; Marriage equality
LISA WILKINSON, HOST: Well, the horror in Las Vegas has been a wakeup call for America and the world. Over here, Labor leader Bill Shorten is calling for gun smugglers to face life in prison and the extension of the national gun amnesty. And Bill Shorten joins me now. Good morning to you.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good morning, Lisa.
WILKINSON So what lessons do you think Australia should learn from the massacre in Las Vegas?
SHORTEN: It's a shocking tragedy. The scale of death and destruction is almost beyond comprehension and imagination. But what we need to learn is to never weaken our gun laws, nor to be complacent. I think every Australian who woke up after the massacre in Las Vegas thought thank God we live in Australia with the gun laws.
But we can't afford to just assume that everything we have done is enough. So today, I'm calling for a further extension of the gun amnesty. The Turnbull Government proposed an amnesty for a period of time. That was a good idea. 28,000 weapons emerged. I think we need it extend it. And I also think that we need to put our foot down and say that if you are a gun smuggler, if you're running a criminal syndicate bringing illegal firearms in Australia, you could face up to life imprisonment.
WILKINSON: 28,000 guns were surrendered in that amnesty. There's still 600,000, an estimate, illegal weapons still on our streets. Is extending the gun amnesty going to be enough?
SHORTEN: Well, I think it is one of the tools we've got. The fact of the matter is that we have more guns or firearms in Australia now than we had at the time of Port Arthur. And as you said, the experts estimate there's 600,000 illegal firearms. I think we have got to make sure that our law enforcement bodies have got all the powers they need. But I think that gun amnesty just let's people come forward. There will be more guns out there that people aren't quite sure how to resolve, and we want to encourage them to come forward.
But I also think we need to say to the crime gangs, that if you get caught bringing in these terrible firearms – I'm talking about the automatics, the semi-automatics. Remember when we see the film of that hotel room and the crazy gunman, he had an army, an arsenal of weapons and we have just got to make sure none of those weapons are coming here.
WILKINSON: President Trump said of the Las Vegas massacre, in many ways it was a miracle. He is becoming well-known for having a bit of a tin ear when it comes to moments of crisis. In your Press Club address last year, you called him 'barking mad'. Do you still hold that view?
SHORTEN: Well, during the American election, I said that I really fundamentally disagree with some of his views. The American people have elected him so he's the person we have to deal with. But in terms of Las Vegas, I don't think anyone thinks it was a miracle. I think it was a tragedy.
Now, he's right to congratulate the the law enforcement authorities, they responded pretty quickly. But the real issue here is, in Australia, what are the lessons? And we have just got to make sure that we don't develop the gun culture that we see in America. Because you can't stop mad and terrible people being mad and terrible, but you can stop them having the weapons to commit these acts of evil.
WILKINSON: So you're saying you can't stop President Trump being barking mad as well?
SHORTEN: Well, what he says is up to him. I think we have all learned not to necessarily focus on what he says. The real issue, I think, for Australians, is that America is a great country, and a lot of good things about America, but we never want to go down the path of their attitude to guns. Because I think we see the horrendous consequences.
WILKINSON: Moving on, former Prime Minister Bob Hawke has labelled the $122 million same-sex marriage postal survey as the worst economic decision by any government since Federation. But Mr Shorten, the only reason this postal survey exists is because your party blocked the plebiscite. Wouldn't Bob Hawke's criticisms be better directed at you?
SHORTEN: No, not at all. What Bob is saying is that we're going to spend, or that Turnbull has spent $122 million telling us what we already knew.
WILKINSON: But if we had the plebiscite, if you allowed that through Parliament, we wouldn't be spending $122 million taxpayer dollars –
SHORTEN: Bob Hawke is one of the greatest Prime Ministers we've ever seen. One of the things which made him a great Prime Minister is his knack of summing up a situation in a sentence. The point about this plebiscite or the survey is that it all has to be voted on in Parliament. The sheer sort of silliness of what we're doing is that there's still going to be a vote in Parliament.
We know that the plebiscite or the survey was designed by Turnbull to keep the right wing of his party happy. So you and I and all of Australia have contributed $122 million in taxes just to stop an internal fight within the Liberal Party. All the survey is going to tell us is what we've known.
WILKINSON: But Malcolm Turnbull says he's going to push it through Parliament if the Yes vote does gets up. What are you going to do to make sure that actually happens?
SHORTEN: We're going to do what we would have done before the survey vote. We are going to vote in overwhelming numbers for marriage equality in this country, the freedom to marry. The point is, did we need to have a survey to tell us what all Australians already think?
WILKINSON: So will you be thrilled if Malcolm Turnbull is the Prime Minister that sees same-sex marriage get through Parliament?
SHORTEN: I will be thrilled when we're finally done with marriage equality.
WILKINSON: So you will be thrilled if Malcolm Turnbull has that as part of his legacy as Prime Minister?
SHORTEN: Yes, I would be really wrapped. And I am happy for Turnbull or anyone to be part of getting this done. I just don't think that we needed to spend $122 million.
And the other thing is, the reason why I'm not a big fan of the survey is the human cost of it. I have had a lot of my gay friends come up to me and say for the first time in 20 years, they have wondered if they're actually equally valued in our country.
Because what we have done is they have had to participate in a vote where 16 other million strangers are asked to assess the merit of their relationship. You and I don't have to go through that public opinion poll about our relationships. And gay Australians now feel that somehow they're second class.
I was walking my little daughter to a play during in the school holidays, she and a little seven-year-old friend. And I had some of the No people come up to us at traffic light and start telling me that my seven-year-old daughter could become a boy by the time she was 17.
This has been a weird, unhealthy debate. It's because we've been too weak to vote in Parliament, and it's all going to end up in Parliament. So, as Hawkey said, that $122 million could have spent a lot better. But I am happy if we have marriage equality. Absolutely.
WILKINSON: We still have got a month to go on this too. Bill Shorten, great to have you in the studio. Thanks very much for your time this morning.
SHORTEN: Have a lovely morning.