ABC RN Breakfast

SUBJECT/S: Marriage equality, postal survey







SUBJECT/S: Marriage equality, postal survey


FRAN KELLY, HOST: Mark Dreyfus is the Shadow Attorney-General, Mark Dreyfus welcome back to breakfast.


MARK DREYFUS, SHADOW ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Thank you for having me Fran.


KELLY: So Bill Shorten made that speech in the Parliament yesterday, he’s saying the time to complain is over and urging same-sex marriage advocates and supporters to drop their resistance to the postal vote and come out and vote yes. Isn’t that the exact opposite of what you’re doing? You’re complaining about it still.


DREYFUS: We think this is a shambles. And that the government has foisted a mess on Australia. It’s a perversion of our system of democracy. But if they must have this survey then we’ll have to participate in it. We’re going to campaign, Bill Shorten made that clear yesterday. And we’ll be campaigning for yes. Because what we can’t have, if we must have this survey, is a “no” result.


KELLY: So just to be clear here, you’re calling for people to come out and vote, and vote yes, but at the same time you’re also drawing attention to the fact that the process itself is flawed and the legal protections around it are flawed. That is a confusing message.


DREYFUS: I don’t think so. This is a vote that has been rigged against getting a positive outcome from the start. It’s always been – the plebiscite was a delaying tactic, invented by Tony Abbott and carried on by Malcolm Turnbull. This vote, or survey conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics is the same. It’s a delaying tactic, and it’s a mess already. The fact that the government is talking about needing some legislation to regulate the conduct of this survey shows what a mess it is. It shows it’s a shambles. But despite all that, we’re going to have to participate. And we are calling on people to get out there, campaign, and make sure that there is a resounding yes majority for marriage equality in Australia.


KELLY: As you say, the Acting Special Minister of State Mathias Cormann has come out, has told the Parliament that the government is open to tightening restrictions. He’s offered to draft a bill that would subject the campaign to the usual electoral rules, including those protections against malicious publication, bribery, various other things you’re concerned about. Doesn’t that show the government is responding to your concerns and you would welcome that?


DREYFUS: It shows what a mess the government has made here. And we’ll have a look at whatever the government proposes. But it also shows that contrary to what the Prime Minister was trying to say yesterday, that we were being disrespectful to Australians in suggesting the debate was going to be nasty…


KELLY: Well he’s not actually talking about it being nasty, he’s talking about whether it’s fraud and things like that isn’t it?


DREYFUS: It’s all those things. It’s fraud, it’s intimidation, and misleading and untruthful information and hurtful information, non-information. Hurtful slanders are being used in this campaign. The sorts of things that would be regulated if this were an actual election. But instead it’s something being conducted, we’re now told, by the Australian Bureau of Statistics. It’s the government’s idea, they should have thought of all of this well in advance. They haven’t. And yes, of course we’ll be looking at it. But our main call is to Malcolm Turnbull to actually campaign rather than the half-hearted “yes, I’ll support it” sort of thing that he’s come out with. And for him to say, loud and clear from his position as Prime Minister that any kind of disrespectful, demeaning language, any kind of slurs on lesbian and gay people in Australia is completely unacceptable. We haven’t heard that yet from Malcolm Turnbull. It’s shameful the way in which he’s approaching this, it’s shameful the sort of mess that he’s foisted here on Australia.


KELLY: Every day I get text messages and messages on Twitter saying well why didn’t Labor do this when you were in government? You had five or six years to do this, why didn’t you enact marriage equality when you were in power?


DREYFUS: We had a free vote in the Parliament in 2012. That’s exactly what we’re calling for now and I’m…


KELLY: But, the Prime Minister didn’t support it. The Labor Prime Minister didn’t support it.


DREYFUS: That’s correct Fran. The Prime Minister Julia Gillard was not a supporter of marriage equality but we did have the vote in the Parliament and that’s the way Australia’s laws are made. We should have that vote again. We should not be engaging…


KELLY: Yes but it goes to the point, you were just criticising then, of Malcolm Turnbull not coming out and advocating here. At that point Labor, in government, was not advocating for a change to the marriage laws. In fact, on the contrary.


DREYFUS: Our party policy was for a free vote, and very very many Labor people supported marriage equality including me, in that vote in the Parliament. And unfortunately we didn’t have the numbers to carry the whole Parliament.


KELLY: Including your own party?


DREYFUS: Including in our own party. But this government has rejected the idea of a free vote, this government is making sure that the Parliament can’t do its job. It’s for the Parliament to change the Marriage Act, just like John Howard in 2004 changed the words in the Marriage Act when he put in the words “between a man and a woman”, so too it’s still the job of the Parliament to get on and change the Marriage Act and create marriage equality in Australia. That’s what we’re calling for, that’s what we offered in the Parliament in 2012, and we want to have that vote again now.


KELLY: You’re listening to RN Breakfast, it’s twelve past eight, Mark Dreyfus is the Shadow Attorney-General, he’s also a QC so knows a bit about the goings-on of the High Court. There are going to be two legal challenges listed by the High Court this afternoon to this, on this ballot. What’s your view, do you rate the chances of winning? Or do you think this ballot is legal?


DREYFUS: I’m always very hesitant to give legal advice, particularly over the radio. I haven’t seen exactly what is being put forward by the two cases. I am certain they will be heard together. Chief Justice Kiefel at the directions hearing this afternoon is certain to say they should be heard together. They’re both raising pretty much the same two points. One is that this survey, this instruction to the Australian Bureau of Statistics can’t take place without legislation in the Parliament because it’s a completely extraordinary expenditure and you need an appropriation by legislation to spend $122 million. And the second point that is being made is it is beyond the power of the statistician, the Australian Bureau of Statistics under the Australian Bureau of Statistics Act to engage in this kind of survey. Well they’re both very arguable points and they deserve to be absolutely dealt with by the High Court, we’ll see what happens. But they are both, to my mind, claims worth advancing which have some prospects of success.


KELLY: Back to the notion of tone, earlier I was speaking to Michael Jensen, the director at St Mark’s Anglican Church at Darling Point, in Sydney, he opposes same-sex marriage. And he is concerned about the tone of the whole debate. But he says the “no” camp will have a tough time too. Let’s have a listen.


MICHAEL JENSEN, DIRECTOR OF ST MARK’S ANGLICAN CHURCH: I do feel like some of the rhetoric from the yes campaign is designed to shut down the no campaign by saying any opposition to same-sex marriage is bigotry. I don’t accept that and I think it’s possible to make the no case but to do so respectfully and without bigotry.


KELLY: Can I get your response to that, do you think it’s possible to make the no case respectfully and without bigotry, and do you think it’s possible to conduct this campaign, this debate, and this ballot with kindness? Which is the word that Michael Jensen used. And would you urge both sides to take that message to heart?


DREYFUS: I would urge both sides to conduct this debate with kindness, indeed with love. We need to conduct this debate in a way which is entirely respectful of every Australian. Which understands the equality of all Australians. And I’m not confident because I’ve seen some shocking material already used by people like Bronwyn Bishop and other former Liberal members of Parliament. I’ve seen some shocking material produced by no campaigners in the past, I’ve seen disgraceful material that’s been used in the United States. I hope that none of that material plays any part in the campaign. I’ll be condemning it as soon as I see it, and I don’t see any lack of respect coming from the yes campaign. I have seen a great deal of disrespectful and demeaning material coming out of no campaigners in the past, and I hope that the Anglican minister you’ve just had on then is right, that it will be conducted respectfully.


KELLY: And just finally and briefly, the High Court still has to rule, but if this ballot goes ahead, if this process goes ahead will you commit to accepting the result? You’re campaigning for yes but if the majority vote is no will you accept that?


DREYFUS: We’ve made our position clear. Labor will have a free vote in the Parliament within 100 days of coming to office. We will bring legislation to the Parliament if we are elected at the next election. I’m assuming that the government won’t bring forward legislation if there is a no vote.


KELLY: No it won’t, the Prime Minister made that clear.


DREYFUS: Demonstrating…


KELLY: Because they’ve asked the country and they’ll say the country said no, so…


DREYFUS: And yet they won’t be bound by a yes vote, and that’s one of the extraordinary things, the shambles of this survey that the Liberals are saying they won’t bring it forward if there is a no vote and if there is a yes vote, they won’t be bound to vote yes. But many of them are going to continue to vote no.


KELLY: But you’re doing the same thing, if there’s a no vote you won’t accept it either.


DREYFUS: Our policy is clear, we don’t accept that this is a proper way to run Australia’s representative democracy. Laws are made in the Parliament. We’ve rejected the plebiscite, we reject this vote or survey whatever they’re calling it, and our policy remains, we will bring legislation to the Parliament after the next election to create marriage equality in Australia.


KELLY: Mark Dreyfus thank you very much for joining us.


DREYFUS: Thanks very much.