WEDNESDAY, 15 NOVEMBER 2017
SUBJECT/S: Australians vote Yes to marriage equality.
LEIGH SALES, HOST: Obviously we invited the Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, to join 7.30 this evening to discuss this important day for Australians. He has instead left the space to the man who’s pursuing his job and ahead in the polls – Opposition Leader Bill Shorten. Bill Shorten, Warren Entsch’s view is that there’s zero appetite in the community for politicians to play silly buggers on this anymore. Is he right?
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: He’s spot on. I mean, a lot of us think that spending $122 million to do another survey is probably an example of unnecessary delay. But what’s done is done. I promise Australians that Labor will be supporting the resolution through the Senate and the House of Representatives before Parliament rises on about 6 December, 7 December.
SALES: The bill that Dean Smith is going to put forward which looks like the bill that’s going to be debated – would Labor be proposing any particular amendments to that? And do you have any concerns about issues to do with freedom of religion or freedom of speech?
SHORTEN: I think this afternoon, Penny Wong has become one of the co-sponsors of the Smith Bill. The Smith Bill was the result of a cross-party Parliamentary Committee. In other words, this Bill is already a compromise bill to amend the Marriage Act to allow same-sex marriage. I don’t see the case is made for massive amendments. There might be one or two technical matters which if people make the point well, then we need to clarify. But no, I think fundamentally we know what the law change is required to look like. We’ve got this cross-party bill, so no, I’m not in the brigade for having a lot of changes at this stage. Let’s just get it done.
SALES: Do you see any potential barriers to getting this Bill through by the end of the parliamentary year?
SHORTEN: It’s only if people in the conservative party try and delay it and say that somehow, having marriage equality offends religious freedom. So there might be delaying tactics. But the mood of the nation won’t tolerate it. I actually think most of the nation can’t understand why we haven’t dealt with it already. But I can guarantee people who participated in the survey that the vast, vast majority of Labor MPs will be voting Yes and will be voting to get the marriage equality legislation sorted in the remaining two weeks of House of Representatives sitting time.
SALES: On that point, how many Labor MPs do you think will vote for same-sex marriage on the floor of the parliament?
SHORTEN: Well, it’s a matter of conscience within the Labor Party. We have about 96 Labor MPs across the Senate and the House of Representatives. I think it’ll be around 90 who’ll vote Yes – could be a couple more, could be a couple less. We have a conscience vote though, and I respect that. But let’s be really clear for Australians who are trying to work out will these laws pass. Labor will decisively, in very big numbers, be voting for marriage equality. And I think if the Liberals finally allow a conscience vote in their own side, those Liberal conscience votes, plus Labor’s votes, plus of course smaller parties, that’ll create an overwhelming force for change.
SALES: Do you think this is the final hurdle for LGBTQI Australians to have full equality in Australia? Is there anything left after this?
SHORTEN: This is certainly I think, the biggest remaining hurdle. You’d have to speak to members of the community about other particular matters they might have in mind. But I do think this is the missing link. I wanted to say about this survey that I really respect LGBTIQ Australians, what they’ve had to endure in this campaign. They didn’t ask for this survey because what effectively the survey was, was asking millions of Australians to judge the relationships of their fellow Australians – the legitimacy of it. Now what is good, is that 61 per cent of Australians have said Yes. So the Australian people, when asked, have come up trumps and now I think it’s up to the Parliament to do our job. As I said at the State Library of Victoria today, to thousands of people: today we celebrate, tomorrow we legislate.
SALES: When you look at the No vote, the seats with the highest No vote are all Labor - Tony Burke’s seat, Watson; Jason Clare’s Blaxland; Chris Bowen’s McMahon; Ed Husic’s seat of Chifley – does that tell you anything about the values of people in the Parliamentary Labor Party versus the values of people that you represent in some of these very safe Labor electorates?
SHORTEN: No, it just tells me that the Labor Party represents seats with people from various backgrounds. I have quite a religious seat myself in Maribyrnong, in Melbourne’s north-west – about 42 per cent of my seat are Catholics, and I think about 84 per cent of them expressed a belief in some god or deity. No, I just think it shows the Labor Party represents a diverse range of working Australians. But when it comes to marriage equality, that’s Labor’s policy. We have a conscience vote in this parliament. I think what we’ll see is our MPs exercise their conscience and support party policy, which is equality for all.
SALES: Would you anticipate any blowback in those Labor seats against the sitting MPs on this issue?
SHORTEN: No, I don’t.
SALES: There’s a by-election in the seat of Bennelong coming up. It returned a slight majority No vote as well. Is it realistic to think that what is largely a conservative seat and has been a conservative seat for much of its history would have any chance of going to Labor in this upcoming by-election?
SHORTEN: First of all, on the marriage equality survey it was pretty finely balanced – 50.4 to 49.6 against and for. In terms of the by-election, we’ve managed to produce an excellent candidate, Kristina Keneally. She’s served New South Wales before. She’s got a pretty distinguished record in public life, and she’s willing to serve again.
We are behind the eight ball, so to speak – the Liberals won that seat at the last general election – 60 per cent to 40 per cent. What I admire about Kristina is she’s a fighter. She knows that at the moment, the other fellow’s probably ahead. But she’s standing up because she wants to give the people of Bennelong the opportunity to send a message to the Turnbull Government that people in Australia aren’t happy with the way they’re handling issues, from power prices to housing affordability to penalty rates to a whole range of matters – health care cuts and school cuts.
SALES: Bill Shorten, thank you.
SHORTEN: Thank you.