Subject: Marriage equality
THE HON MARK DREYFUS QC MP
SHADOW MINISTER FOR NATIONAL SECURITY
MEMBER FOR ISAACS
PARLIAMENT HOUSE, CANBERRA
TUESDAY, 8 AUGUST 2017
MARK DREYFUS, SHADOW ATTORNEY-GENERAL: On marriage equality, the Liberals are lost in a maze of their own making. We’ve been told now, after hours spent in the Liberal party room, again debating issues of marriage equality, that the Senate is to again be asked to vote on whether or not there should be a national plebiscite at a cost of $170 or $180 million. The Liberal Party also told us, in multiple statements made by Liberals leaving this building last night, and particularly from Senator Cormann, that they’re going to threaten the Senate to vote in favour of the plebiscite, threaten them by saying if the plebiscite doesn’t get up, they’re going to engage in a postal vote. A postal vote which could cost up to $100 million, a postal vote which would be voluntary, which would be non-binding, and just to add to the problems, probably is illegal. We’ve had two opinions now obtained of senior counsel and other barristers, one obtained by the Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, and the other one obtained by Australians for Marriage Equality. I’ve seen both those opinions, they both raise extraordinarily serious legal problems about whether or not a postal vote can even be undertaken without legislation. To add to all of that, the Liberals are saying this course that they’re now set on is completely stacked against marriage equality ever being achieved. Because what they’re saying is that if this plebiscite produces a ‘no’, or if the possibly illegal postal vote produces a ‘no’, then there won’t be any vote in the Parliament. And if either of these processes produces a ‘yes’, many of the Liberals are going to vote no anyway. It’s an extraordinary state of affairs. As I said at the start, the Liberals are lost in a maze of their own making on this, and it’s time for all of this to end. We just need to get on with it and have a free vote in the Parliament. That’s Labor’s position, it couldn’t be clearer, and I just wish that more of the Liberal Party would understand that that’s what needs to happen and that we need to get to a vote in this Parliament, so that Australia is not going to be – as it presently looks like – the last country in the developed world to achieve marriage equality. Are there any questions?
JOURNALIST: What are your estimates on what the postal plebiscite could cost, do you have any estimates?
DREYFUS: Well, estimates have ranged from $40 million to $100 million, and clearly it will depend on exactly how the government chooses to conduct it. But obviously if the Australian Electoral Commission has said $170 million for a full plebiscite, a vote conducted as if it were a national election, and that’s $170 or $180 million, you can readily understand why a nationwide postal vote is certainly going to be very expensive as well.
JOURNALIST: Should the government release its legal advice as to the constitutionality of [inaudible] a postal plebiscite?
DREYFUS: The government should absolutely assure the Australian people that it’s got proper legal advice from the Solicitor-General, from the Australian Government Solicitor, as to the lawfulness of a postal vote. The problem that’s been identified by two legal opinions that have now been obtained by pro marriage equality groups, is that legislation is needed. What the government is saying is that it can go ahead with a postal vote without legislation – that’s seriously in doubt. The government needs to explain why it is that these legal opinions that have been obtained are wrong.
JOURNALIST: We’ll have the two Greens Senators referred to the High Court this week. What do you make of calls for an audit of all MPs in terms of their citizenship?
DREYFUS: I think these are legal questions that when they arise, need to be sorted out by the High Court. That’s what’s going to occur, we’re going to see referrals to the High Court and of course of Senator Canavan, and the High Court will rule on the problems that have come to light. I don’t think that at this point there is any suggestion or any need for an audit of every single member of the Parliament. It’s a matter for every person who stands for election to this Parliament to be aware of the requirements of the Constitution, to make sure that they comply with the requirements of the Constitution. That’s what’s occurred certainly in the case of all the Labor members of the Parliament.
Thanks very much.