PARLIAMENT HOUSE, CANBERRA
MONDAY, 1 JUNE 2015
SUBJECT/S: Marriage equality; National security.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good morning everyone. Today I will move a bill to amend the Marriage Act to allow marriage equality in Australia. It’s a great day, this is a long overdue debate. There is no reason left for delaying marriage equality in this country. I call upon Tony Abbott in coming days and weeks to allow a free vote for Liberal and National Party members just as the Labor Party has a free vote on marriage equality. Happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: The Greens leader Richard de Natale says it's a mistake that you’re putting this bill before Parliament today because it doesn't have the support of all major parties. What do you say to that?
SHORTEN: Well if the Greens leader waits until all major parties to support marriage equality, it won't happen. What we want to do is allow a free vote. We want to see a free vote of the Liberal Party. If Richard Di Natale’s waiting for Tony Abbott to support marriage equality, then it will never happen. I, like many Australians, woke up two Sunday mornings ago after the Irish referendum and thought well if the Irish can do it why can't we? I voted for marriage equality back in 2012. I spoke to the Australian Christian Lobby in 2014 but the only way that change happens in this country is if people decide to lead and not follow. There's bipartisanship in terms of who can sponsor it. I welcome the contribution of other political parties and the role that their members can play in this important debate about marriage equality. But we can't keep waiting past 2015 for marriage equality. The time is right now for marriage equality in Australia and I’m really pleased that today we’re pushing the debate forward to where it needs to go.
JOURNALIST: Your bill explicitly precludes people of religion having to marrying people who they don’t want to, should that then mean that people in your party can accept the binding yes vote? It doesn’t actually impinge on their religious beliefs or practices more importantly.
SHORTEN: The bill which we are moving, and it’s great that you’re going to some of the detail, has been basically on the books for the last 14 months. There's not a lot new in terms of the actual propositions around marriage equality. It would simply change the definition of who can get married. What it does make very clear is that priests and other ministers of religion would not be required to consecrate a same-sex marriage in their church, or their temple, or their mosque or their synagogue. But what we do say is that, just as I believe in extending respect to all the faiths in Australia I also believe we should extend respect to people who live in committed relationships and who don't currently have the ability to get married.
JOURNALIST: Is Labor dumping the idea of discussing a binding vote at conference?
SHORTEN: I believe fundamentally in a free vote. You know, there's been a bit of debate in recent days somehow that Labor shouldn't be talking about marriage equality. We would be negligent in this country as parliamentarians, if following the Irish referendum we just shrugged our shoulders and put it in the too hard basket. Now I do believe in a free vote and I believe Tony Abbott should allow a free vote. The obstacle to marriage equality in this country –
JOURNALIST: Do you believe in a free vote for your parliamentarians?
SHORTEN: Sorry, this is an important issue - yes, I do. I believe fundamentally that the real obstacle to marriage equality in Australia is Tony Abbott's refusal to allow a free vote. I just say we can be bipartisan but let's also say that there should be a free vote. I say to the members of other political parties allow a free vote for your MPs and we’ll have marriage equality in this country this year.
JOURNALIST: So is that definitely off the agenda at conference, the idea of a binding vote?
SHORTEN: Our party is not afraid of debate. People can debate whatever they like at our National Conference.
JOURNALIST: Just on national security, any closer to where you will land on dual citizenship changes, stripping that citizenship for terror offences?
SHORTEN: I think Australians are very concerned of the division and the debate at the heart of the Abbott Cabinet. You know, this wasn't just a leak, this was the whole transcript of the debates that the Abbott Government are having on national security. Clearly there’s disunity and personal politics being put in front of legitimate discussions on national security. For Labor we will wait until we see the legislation. We’ve always been open to sensible suggestions which deal with the new and metastasising form of terrorism in the world. We will be as constructive on this legislation as we have on all the other parts. Two more questions thanks.
JOURNALIST: Kevin Andrews has called on China to halt land reclamation activities in the South China Sea. Do you back that call?
SHORTEN: Well we are most concerned at some of the increasing tensions in the South China Sea. The only path to working out all of these issues not just these very tiny atolls and islands but freedom of the seas around it is through international negotiation and discussion. There's no other path to long-term peace than that.
JOURNALIST: Do you back that particular call though [inaudible]?
SHORTEN: We’ve asked for a briefing from the Government. We sometimes see what they say in the newspaper, you know, we work with them and let me just repeat again because there's been a couple of questions - Labor believes that when it comes to fighting terrorism or promoting international stability we're all in this together but I think that we’ve all been greatly concerned by the disunity and dysfunction of the heart of Abbott Government. When you see such significant leaks and counter leaks and attacks on each other, backbenchers writing notes to the frontbench, frontbenchers attacking each other in the Abbott Government then that’s not good for our national security.
Thanks everyone, see you in Parliament. Alright, very last, because it’s you Tom.
JOURNALIST: Thank you. The option of possibly stripping a sole citizen if they have the ability to get citizenship elsewhere but don’t yet have it, would you consider that statelessness?
SHORTEN: Well first of all I think we do the best interest to the Australian people in terms of national security not to sort of jump at the rumours and the options in the discussion: let’s see what is proposed. But what I can also say to Australian people is that the Labor Party that I lead has taken a mature and considered view on all of the national security legislation so far. I think what’s happened in recent days is this damaging disunity in the Abbott Government is sending confusing messages about what the priorities are. We will work through intelligently, pragmatically and in the long term interests of the Australian people and when it comes to the sort of measures that you’re asking about with citizenship, we’ll just look at the fine print and the detail but we start from the position that we are most committed to keeping Australians safe, both here and abroad.
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