Bill's Transcripts






SUBECT/S: Malcolm Turnbull’s $122 million postal survey; Marriage Equality; High Court decision.

BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good afternoon, everybody. I just want to make a few remarks about the High Court decision handed down a couple of hours ago. First of all, I just want to acknowledge and pay tribute to those campaigners who tried to avoid the pain and the hurt and the vile things which will be said in the upcoming survey and help their community avoid that debate. But nonetheless, the High Court has made its decision.

What Labor wants to say to Australians today is that whilst we believe this $122 million survey is a waste of taxpayers’ money, we want to say to people who are feeling disappointed: please turn your disappointment into determination - determination to win. This is a debate where we need to encourage all Australians to participate in the survey. If this survey must be, then we must win it. I won't be on the sidelines in this debate, nor will the Labor Party and my colleagues. We will be on the front line talking to family and friends, to people in workplaces, to people in shopping centres, on street corners, encouraging people to vote Yes for marriage equality. 


I hope that Mr Turnbull is as fair dinkum as well. It's one thing to say that you support marriage equality but when you have a position of leadership in this country, you should lead, not hide. I encourage Malcolm Turnbull to be fair dinkum and actively campaign, to genuinely use the status of his office, the status of Prime Minister, to encourage a Yes vote. Labor will be very active and I make this promise to LGBTI Australians: wherever we see vilification and vile abuse, we will condemn it. Wherever we see people talking rubbish about unrelated issues, we will call it out. We say to LGBTI Australians you are not on your own. We say to LGBTI Australians that it is not you who has to change, it is our laws. So long as there is a Labor Party, LGBTI Australians are not on their own.


I'd now like to ask Tanya and Penny to make some further comments.

TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks, Bill. In the lead up to this vote a lot of people have been saying, I'll be voting yes for my kids, I will be voting yes for my grandchildren, I'll be voting yes for my brother or my sister, my cousin, my aunty, my uncle. I’ll tell you who I'm voting Yes for; I'm voting Yes for someone I have never met. For some 17-year-old somewhere in a country town who hasn't told anyone that they are same-sex attracted. I'm voting Yes for that person because no one should feel alone. No one should feel that they are being judged by the broad mass of the Australian community for who they are. And same-sex couples don't deserve to have their relationships put to a vote of people who have never met them. So I will be voting Yes because it's the only fair thing to do. I will be voting Yes for love. 


PENNY WONG, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION IN THE SENATE: I know there are many Australians who will be very disappointed by the High Court's decision today, and I just want to say this; we didn't want to be here but now we are here, let's win it, let's get it done. As Bill said, let's turn our disappointment into determination to get this done. When I came into the Parliament this morning, we could see a rainbow over the Parliament and I thought, I wonder what that means for the High Court case.  Well, what I think it means is this: it is a sign of hope. Hope that the fairness and decency in the Australian community can be translated into a Yes vote and into marriage equality becoming a reality. So to all supporters of marriage equality in this country; campaign, talk to people, get out the vote. Let's get this done.

JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, you say there needs for political leadership on this [INAUDIBLE].


SHORTEN: Well again, if the anti-campaign say that, it is yet again another irrelevancy. This is about making sure all Australians enjoy the same rights. This is a debate about not just marriage equality but the fair go all round. This postal survey is an unwarranted waste of $122 million of taxpayer money because at the end of spending this money, at the end of this survey, the issue comes back to Parliament to vote upon. But in the meantime, if we are to have this survey, our promise to LGBTI Australians; you are not on your own. We are recommending a vote for Yes because we believe in marriage equality. It is not because we think this postal survey is the best use of $122 million, it's not. This survey is born in a dodgy deal to keep the right wing of the Liberal Party happy, we all know that. It is a tactic to try and delay marriage equality. We are going to campaign as we have for many years in favour of marriage equality and we will do it again in this postal survey. And I just say to all Australians, what is so objectionable between two people who are in love being able to get married? As has been said by Penny, love is love, equality is equality, and marriage equality's time has come. 


JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten will Labor be supporting a Bill next week to ensure there is protections [INAUDIBLE].


SHORTEN: I will answer some of that, then I will get Mark Dreyfus who has been our lead negotiator on that, but let's be clear. This survey which the government dreamed up in a rush, is not adequately protecting people's rights. It doesn't protect people from abuse and from some of the sort of vile conduct and argument we have seen legitimatised by the presence of the survey. Labor wants to see safeguards so that we have a civilised debate. Labor is concerned that having this survey has given the green light to all sorts of hateful and hurtful things being said. I might just ask Mark to update you on the negotiation so that we can make sure that people are protected.

MARK DREYFUS, SHADOW ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Thanks very much, Bill. Of course Labor will work with the Government on safeguards. The Government has said that it is prepared to put safeguards legislation in place and Labor's position is that the safeguards need to be as strong as they can possibly be. I have met with Senator Cormann a couple of times now. Those meetings are going on as a matter of urgency and the Government said you can expect to see a Bill in the Parliament next week.


DREYFUS: I think there should be protections that, as far as possible, send a message to the Australian community that this Parliament as a whole will not tolerate vilification of any group in the Australian community and that's what we are expecting the legislation to contain.

JOURNALIST: Will it extend to banning offensive material, would it ban false claims, would it be evaluating whether the ads are true?

DREYFUS: The Government has said that it will base the safeguards on existing provisions in the Electoral Act. We don't think those protections go far enough. We don't think they are particularly appropriate for an absolutely unprecedented, unusual, unnecessary postal survey but we'll see what the Government is prepared to go with. Again, I say Labor wants these safeguards to be as strong as they can possibly be.


SHORTEN: We are absolutely committed to legislating for marriage equality. We think there should be a full free vote in this Parliament. We don't think we should waste $122 million of taxpayer money, but in the event that the Government doesn't bring forward a bill or allow a full free vote, we will legislate upon forming a Government, for marriage equality within our first 100 days. Australians actually are sick and tired of this debate. They believe that the Parliament should just get on and make the decision. We're up for that, we're up for that now, and we'll be up for that after the next election if we win, because we are committed to marriage equality and just getting on with it. Again, I want to just put on record, I invite Mr Turnbull to join this campaign. He says that he supports marriage equality, I believe him. But then he says he is too busy to campaign. That is not leadership, that is a retreat, that's an abdication, that is chronic weakness. Mr Turnbull should join with me and should join with all the advocates, to join with the community at large, and put a bit of shoulder to the wheel when it comes to advocating for marriage equality. There is not much point in being Prime Minister if you are too scared to try and go out and argue for your case.


SHORTEN: We will all work with everyone. This is not a Labor issue, it's not a party political issue. This is an issue about human rights and marriage equality, and we always have been willing to work with other parties and other individuals. This is not, and I stress, this is not a Labor versus Liberal issue. This is an issue where we believe that one part of our community should be treated equally with all other parts of our community.

JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, should the Government release the text of the Private Members' Bill that will go forward (INAUDIBLE).

SHORTEN: The Government hasn't really given us much choice on that, have they? They have put the survey before the Bill. So to the extent that they should do something differently, we don't even think we should have the survey, we think there should be a vote in Parliament. But we can't allow a booby trap by the Government conservatives to derail the survey. What I warn the Government against, and the Coalition Members, is they said we've got to have a survey, and without a survey, they can't do their day job. But if the conservatives then argue, we are having the survey but we haven't seen the final details of the Bill, therefore, you must vote no, that is a booby trap by the conservatives. This survey was always a tactic to delay marriage equality. If the anti-marriage equality brigade now argue that because the Private Member's Bill hasn't been circulated before we vote on the survey, therefore you vote no, then we know that the whole thing was just a waste of time to begin with. The survey is pretty straightforward; do you support marriage equality or not, yes or no? I don't think you need to have a whole lot of attached legislation to work out in your heart what you know to be right, which is Yes for marriage equality.

JOURNALIST: We have seen one Bill, Senator Dean Smith’s Private Member's Bill, is that something, if it was chosen to be the Bill, is that something you would support?

SHORTEN: That's certainly something we could work from.


SHORTEN: Well, let's be very direct here. This survey is about one matter only; do you support or not support marriage equality? The opponents of marriage equality are going to chuck the kitchen sink into this debate. They want to distract you about everything else. We've seen people say that if you vote -  actually I'm not going repeat all the arguments, the fringe-dweller arguments and the nonsense and the rubbish. There's one question on the survey, that's the only question you vote on. I will say though, Mr Abbott actually said if you don't like the direction this nation is going in, vote no in the survey. I just want to say on that, if you don't like the direction this country is headed in, vote Labor in the next election. Thanks, everybody. 


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