TUESDAY, 11 OCTOBER 2016
SUBJECT/S: Marriage equality
WALEED ALY: Opposition Leader Bill Shorten joins us now. Bill, the plebiscite's off the table. What's the plan now?
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: We can vote to make marriage equality a reality if Mr Turnbull will just allow a free vote of Liberal and National Party MPs. The majority of Australians and the majority of our politicians are ready to vote for it in parliament.
ALY: I understand the point you're making, that it's possible for the Parliament to vote on this tomorrow. I also understand, and you also understand, that's not going to happen because the Coalition has made that clear and Malcolm Turnbull probably loses his job within the party room if he does that. So, are you anticipating that you'll be able to do something about this sooner? Are you banking on the Turnbull Government falling over or something?
SHORTEN: Well, first of all, Mr Turnbull's back flipped on other issues. In fact - I mean, when he says he's rock-solid on something, to be honest, he was rock-solid on having a vote in Parliament –
ALY: This is different, because it would cost him his job. I'm interested in whether or not you think there is a prospect you can somehow - you've got a political strategy or something to bring this on so that it's not 3-6 years down the track?
SHORTEN: I'm optimistic that, at a certain point, Liberal and National Party MPs will say, "anyway isn't it just time to get on with it?"
TODD SAMPSON: Bill, I've seen some of the ads that were going to be run, and they were horrific. I agree it would have been very damaging at a public level. But what do you think would have been the result of the plebiscite?
SHORTEN: I think probably, on balance, a majority of people would have supported marriage equality. But again –
SAMPSON: So the end goal would have been achieved?
SHORTEN: Well, the end goal, at what price? I have to say, I did speak to Australian of the Year and mental health expert Professor Patrick McGorry. He said harm will occur.
SAMPSON: Bill, I agree with that, but how much harm is going to occur over the next three years? Because - what would you say to the people that wanted to get married in March? This has been a long battle, and actually I just think it's embarrassing for Australia to delay it any longer.
SHORTEN: I agree. What I would say is, don't give up hope. Again, the position that I and Labor took was informed by talking to people. I had plenty of couples say to me, "Bill, we are prepared to wait a little bit longer."
ALY: I completely understand the argument that the plebiscite would have caused psychological harm to people, and that was something you wanted to avoid - completely understand that. But do you believe that that will not happen anyway? That the debate will suddenly become more civil than it's been, that it will suddenly go away?
SHORTEN: Well, that's a good point. My view is that, where there was going to be an official ‘Yes’ case and an official ‘No’ case, funded with taxpayer money, it would legitimise views which are not currently legitimised in the community. We had the referendum in 1967 on giving Aborigines citizenship, recognising them as citizens. The ‘No’ case didn't receive any taxpayer money. Once Malcolm Turnbull said $7.5 million for the ‘Yes’ case and $7.5 million for the ‘No’ case of taxpayer money, all of a sudden it gave equal right to all the critics of marriage equality. To be honest, I think that would have taken this nation backwards.
CARRIE BICKMORE: We'll have to leave it there, Bill. Thanks for your time.
SHORTEN: Thank you.