SUBJECT/S: One year anniversary of the marriage equality postal survey.
WARREN: For most of us, last year's same sex Australia marriage law postal vote was simply an unnecessary waste of taxpayers’ money and many of us were frustrated why the Government couldn't just get on with their job and pass marriage reform. And the national discussion and debate was challenging and resulted in an increase in requests for mental health support from LGBTQ people. The vote unleashed smear campaigns against same sex couples and their children, hate mail, fear campaigns, violence - we even heard of dogs owned by LGBTI people being kicked in parks.
During a Parliamentary speech, Federal Opposition Leader Bill Shorten directed his anger at the vote towards the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull saying, "I hold you responsible for every hurtful bit of filth that this debate will unleash". Well it sure did unleash it. Well today marks one year since the result of the postal vote. Federal Opposition Leader Bill Shorten was at the State Library when the result was announced and he joins us in the studio this morning. Bill, good morning.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Great to be on your show.
TOM: Fantastic to have you on and thank you for your time. We know you're a very busy man.
WARREN: Bill, did you really think we would be here celebrating one year since the Yes result?
SHORTEN: Yes, I thought the vote would be successful but what I realised on the morning of the vote being declared was the amount of pressure that a lot of people - LGBTQ people felt because what it was is this silly process which got the right outcome. It put a lot of pressure on our fellow Australians. And the pressure was this, all of a sudden your relationships, your choices were going to be the subject to an opinion poll of friends and strangers alike.
TOM: Well the people who bullied us at school - that's how I looked at, those people that bullied me were going to now make the decision.
SHORTEN: It was just madness. My view is that people's relationships are their own business. And also, under our system of Parliament, we make laws. Why is it that when it came to gay people, all of a sudden we had to have a special law making process? It just seemed to me, weak.
But having said that, let's also switch to the positive. I mean it was a hard campaign. I remember at the local theatre near where I live, a lot of the staff were wearing badges supporting marriage equality and there's a big intersection at the front of the road and it was a school holidays and I was taking my then seven year old and her little friend to see a play. And there were some No case protesters - of course it was my good luck to run into them because there weren't that many of them - but they were all holding in their wobble boards and their views. And they started telling me off with more intensity, that my seven year old daughter would grow up to be a 17 year old boy. And I'm just looking at -
SHORTEN: I did say to them: listen, you're the reason why the vote is going to go down. Which wasn't necessarily diplomatic -
TOM: But that's hard not to when they're attacking your child.
SHORTEN: Of course not. I just thought it was wrong and so, that was only a tiny taste. I just say it to just remind people that perhaps now as the memory recedes, people think it was all this sort of joyful process - it wasn't.
SHORTEN: But we got the right outcome. That day, in front of the State Library was awesome.
SHORTEN: And did you know since then - what is it? 5,420 marriages have occurred. That's good.
TOM: Correct. We will be talking to someone later on to actually talk about the financial impact that marriage equality has had. You know, spending more money. I tell you what, us gays know how to do it and we're going to spend extra money on shoes, let me tell you.
WARREN: Bill, originally the Marriage Act of 1961 had no definition of who could or couldn't get married in Australia. Why was it so easy for Prime Minister John Howard to amend the Marriage Act to prevent same sex marriages in 2004 yet it took so much effort and this public survey to change it back?
SHORTEN: Well good point. I think back in 2004, the then Labor Party in Parliament felt a bit stampeded. So yeah, I don't think they got that call right. Although, people like Tanya and others registered their concern at the time.
It shouldn't have been as hard as it was. You're quite right. You know, there have been something like 20 changes to the Marriage Act which hadn't required a plebiscite.
TOM: No, never.
SHORTEN: Anyway, so we get the hypocrisy of the process but today's a good day. It's a year on. You know, I always said to people that the sun will come up, you know the chickens will still lay eggs, the curtains won't fade and cows will still be milking. We're all going to realise once the vote happened in Parliament, what was the fuss all about.
WARREN: Absolutely, the sky didn't fall in.
TOM: No but it was hard. And I'm going to say, you know, Wayne and I have been on TV on Gogglebox, we became poster boys for hate. We got so many private messages but I had to realise that as an older Australian, an LGBTI, I had to take that on board for the younger generation and we walked through it very well. But I'm going to say, that night what a relief because I was stressing -
SHORTEN: It was a relief. That was the point. The pressure was taken off your shoulders you'd submitted your relationships and identity involuntarily to the opinion of your peers, Australia could have either made a fool of itself or not and we didn't.
TOM: Look we are going to thank you for it - getting the Labor Party on board as well as the trade unions. You really, guys coming out there, you were there at every rally we saw you. It made a difference to the average working Australian, so look, thank you for that.
SHORTEN: Well I made the decision, when they first proposed having the plebiscite I thought it was the wrong process, I thought it was an abdication of leadership but then I thought why on earth should we let some Australians go through this process on their own. And so that's why we decided to strongly encourage participation because we couldn't leave people on their own.
TOM: Well you are the leaders of the country and we do look towards Canberra to lead us and thank you for standing up and doing it.
SHORTEN: Occasionally we do.
HOST: Well I mean that's what we're meant to do, that's what we stand there and do you know?
SHORTEN: That's right.
WARREN: Bill there's some significant issues facing the world at the moment, climate change being one of the biggest. We wasted over a year being distracted by same sex marriage, what could have been done quite quickly you know there's Safe Schools, keeping people in detention, there's other preoccupations of this current government. As a nation do you think we fear change and have we dropped the ball on major new economic opportunities that the rest of the world is developing?
SHORTEN: I think that we can miss out on what's happening around the world, you know climate change and the investment in renewables is one example but I think your question is going to a deeper point. Is change too hard in Australia and I don't think it is.
I just think the quality of advocacy has got to lift, the amount of preparation you put in the case must change, must improve. I think Australians are up for a vision of the future. I think Australians want to see their political leaders explain not only what we think we'll do next Monday but what do we think Australia will look like in the 2030s and 2040s. They don't expect leaders - political leaders in this country to be in their lounge room - unlike Gogglebox - telling us what to think but they do expect us to be partners in the journey to know where the future is and to help the nation navigate to it, make the big calls.
TOM: Well when the politicians are talking to the average person we then feel part of the process, we then can move along with you, we understand what laws are changing, why we're moving in that direction, if we're just thrown stupid law at us we're going to fight them back.
SHORTEN: Well a good analogy I've always used because when I was a union rep sometimes we'd have to have change in workplaces was quite often I saw corporate leaders say to everyone - use the analogy of a railway station - you're at railway station A and the corporate leaders would say righto to the workforce, you've got to get to railway station B.
And then they'd hop in the train at the front and drive off and halfway between A and B they'd look out and see everyone else, the work force would be back at railway station A because no one had explained to them where they fit in.
TOM: Okay yeah.
SHORTEN: You've got to tell people where they fit in. Change is not too hard but you do have to make sure that you don't leave people behind.
TOM: And that's right people are scared.
SHORTEN: And if you don't have an explanation for how you're going to educate the kids or look after the sick or deal with our environment or make sure that we've got economic growth which is in the interests of everyone not just the lucky few, then people are going to say, they're going to look for more extreme solutions and just say no, we're not interested in this version of change which doesn't have a place for us in it.
TOM: And then we ended up with the extremist political parties coming in who seem to be getting all the airtime. They seem to be the ones that cop it.
SHORTEN: It's always possible to get airtime if you're willing to say silly things but if you want to have a strong, sensible, centrist debate and this is what Mr Turnbull perhaps missed the opportunity to do, he came in with a lot of good will, is you have to lead but you can lead from the centre. You don't have to say extreme things to get things done. You know, but you've got to explain to people and you've got to think it through. I reckon people are smart and if you put the case in front of them, you say why you're doing it, this is where you fit in, this is where we're going to end up, this is what we want the place to be like, people - not everyone is going to agree with you but most people give you points for trying.
TOM: If people see a direction they're happy and that's what you said, you explain where you're taking us, why you're going and if it's not going to work in 12 months, 2 years, 3 years we reevaluate and move back through. We don't just go -
SHORTEN: Well we set up the National Disability Insurance Scheme when I was last in government.
TOM: Well done. And that was fantastic.
SHORTEN: And it didn't exist before we got there but I spent a lot of time talking to people with disability and their careers and then we built up a coalition of people who really wanted to see a better deal.
The actual politics of it was five per cent. It's building up the community support for the proposition.
TOM: And Australia always has been a country where we've taken care of the underprivileged or those who are unable to take care of themselves.
SHORTEN: But it's interesting, when you get off a plane at Tullamarine or at Mascot when you come from overseas, whilst you've enjoyed your visit overseas you know there's things about this country we're proud of, but we don't - when we get back to Australia - when we're overseas do we talk about our Medicare system or our tax deductions?
TOM: Well we talk about Medicare.
SHORTEN: Of course.
TOM: We talk about the wonderful things that we do.
SHORTEN: We talk about a strong minimum wage, we don't talk about the top two percent of Australians not having to pay tax. It's interesting what we're proud of.
WARREN: Bill if elected you've committed $10 million towards construction of the Victorian Pride Centre.
TOM: Yay well done!
WARREN: You've also promised $600,000 towards building new digital studios for this radio station.
TOM: Yes, and you can see we've shown you Joy is falling apart, and I promise I won't spend that $600 grand on my shoes. It will go to proper things here at Joy.
SHORTEN: It mightn't be enough, I get that so -
WARREN: Do you think the marriage equality debate highlighted the need for such community outlets?
SHORTEN: Yes, we've got to have more diversity in our media, got to hear more voices, can't just be the same old couple of large media companies in Australia. We've got to have more diversity. That's why I'm such a strong fan of the ABC. But I think your radio station caters to a market, it provides an alternative voice, and I think that's healthy.
TOM: Definitely. And that's - when you're talking about the ABC at moment, I mean, they're in a bit of shambles. We don't want to go near there, but it is very important that that is protected because we all know as an Australian, we don't trust the other networks.
SHORTEN: We need an independent national broadcaster.
WARREN: And they were the most trusted news outlet in the country.
SHORTEN: They still are. They still are.
TOM: Are we still trusting them?
SHORTEN: I think we are, but I think some of the shenanigans at the top level and the personality conflicts has left people disillusioned, but the way we will get around that is that we'll just go back to a more independent process to pick the senior leadership of the ABC.
SHORTEN: Politicians out, independent transparent process in.
WARREN: You've likened political interference in the ABC to a dictatorship, we're sick of the ABC bias towards Playschool. We want Mr Squiggle back.
TOM: Oh really? Are you about getting (inaudible)?
WARREN: Yep, absolutely.
TOM: Well -
SHORTEN: Maybe we need to have a plebiscite - I don't know.
WARREN: No, let's waste some more money -
SHORTEN: That's an issue for a plebiscite.
TOM: But I was reading this morning on the train that your lovely Deputy, Tanya Plibersek, actually is putting through a Senate Bill to actually try and remove the discrimination for the religious schools.
SHORTEN: Yes, she and Penny and myself, we think that the time has come to revisit that. What's happened is that over time we've started to provide protection against sex discrimination. What's happened is as that wheel has turned there was still some exemptions to that law in place, one of them was schools. I think now the debate is coming - really, what's the point of having a clumsy exemption. This is not about schools not being able to manage their employees, and that's fair enough. We're going to have proper consultation, proper chat with those bodies, but the idea that you just rely simply on a crude outmoded exemption to anti-discrimination laws, it's run it's race, now I think we need to be smarter and cleverer and fairer.
TOM: Well we do need to do something because our now Prime Minister, what's his name again? I can't keep up with which one we've got.
WARREN: Scott Morrison?
TOM: Yes, who promised that during the Wentworth election that he would have that removed within two weeks after that there. Hasn't happened.
SHORTEN: Well, maybe - but he hasn't moved to embassy either, so -
TOM: So, I mean as you are going to be Australia's next Prime Minister -
SHORTEN: Oh, we don't know that yet. We're working very hard on it.
WARREN: In the latest Newspoll Labor is ahead of the Coalition on a two party preferred basis, 55-45 meaning you and Labor would win any election held today. We've got Scott Morrison, he's got his bus up in Queensland, are you going to have a bus with -
SHORTEN: We had a bus long before Scott had it, and we've even been on the bus!
WARREN: You have been on the bus.
TOM: That's really good, but -
SHORTEN: But we don't take this election for granted at all.
SHORTEN: We want to put forward positive views. Some people say the Government's such a disorganised shambles, just sit back and buy a box of popcorn, but the point is that puts more pressure on us, because people think the system is broken. And they want to see us produce better policies and better ideas, so that's the pressure we have - to demonstrate to people that politics can work in the interests or ordinary people.
TOM: Well do you know what, I've put a bet on, one of those Sportsbets, I think I've got like a 1000:1, that you'll have a different Prime Minister that you'll be going up against. What's the bet that he'll still be there when the time comes?
SHORTEN: The place would erupt if if they rolled him.
TOM: But is this true, this is what we want to see -
SHORTEN: Mind you, I didn't think they'd roll Malcolm, so what would I know.
WARREN: Bill, importantly, according to a La Trobe University study, 80 per cent of homophobic bullying involving LGBTI young people occurs at schools, and has a profound impact on their wellbeing and education as you can imagine, let alone the ongoing impact on their adult life. Will you be open to funding a national Safe School's program again?
SHORTEN: We're committed to putting in place anti-bulling programs. Keeping kids safe shouldn't be the matter of the politics that it is. We'll obviously talk to everyone about what are the best programs, but we start from the position kids have got a right to go to school and be safe. And once that is your guiding principle, and by the way, most school administrators think that, most parents think that, I'm sure we can get it. I get frustrated by this debate that it's X, Y or Z programs, and they're all sinister, that's not right. The motivation for me and I think 99 percent of Australia is make sure that kids are safe when they go to school and any parent will know, it's not just sexuality they can be bullied on, and we've just got to keep kids safe.
TOM: Yep. Very much true. Look, thank you so much for coming in and talking to us today.
SHORTEN: Super. Thank you.
TOM: Look, the money is fantastic, you know you've got my vote - well you've definitely got out vote.
SHORTEN: That's good.
TOM: And it's not just that, but the Pride Centre is going to be a very important thing.
SHORTEN: It'll be great. Long overdue.
TOM: Yes. Look thank you so much for your time.
WARREN: Bill Shorten, thanks for your time this morning on this important one year anniversary of the "yes" result.
SHORTEN: Yes it's good. It's really good.
TOM: And thank you for your help.
SHORTEN: No, it was everyone. It was a collective effort.