Press Conference, Melbourne

SUBJECT/S: The government’s wasteful marriage equality plebiscite; Brexit


FRIDAY, 24 JUNE 2016

SUBJECT/S: The government’s wasteful marriage equality plebiscite; Brexit

MARK DREYFUS, SHADOW ATTORNEY-GENERAL: We’ve learned today from Prime Minister Turnbull that the Liberal Party does not propose to be bound by the result of the plebiscite. Mr Turnbull has confirmed that on marriage equality, his MPs will have a free vote, regardless of the way in which the Australian people vote whenever this plebiscite is held. Because of course we don’t know when it is going to be conducted or under what rules. I say, what is the point of this divisive, wasteful plebiscite? What Mr Turnbull has confirmed is that his MPs will not even be bound by it. We’ve heard recently, the formulation that some of the conservative MPs on the Liberal Party benches are using which is that they will “respect the result” of this plebiscite. But when pressed of course, they don’t say what “respect” means, what they actually mean is duck and weave. Senator Seselja is the pri me example, who said well actually it might mean he’s going to abstain. That is not respecting the will of the Australian people. With Labor, Australians know what they are getting. If you vote Labor at the next election, there will be a bill introduced to the Parliament in the first 100 days, and that will be a bill to create marriage equality in Australia. Nothing evasive, absolutely clear, that it what the Australian people will get if Labor is elected to Government on the 2nd of July. By contrast, we have a Prime Minister who is effectively reciting the script that was written for him by Mr Abbott when Mr Abbott invented this delaying tactic back in August of last year amid a desperate attempt to save his Prime Ministership. It’s just that we have yet another disappointment from Mr Turnbull that he is continuing to recite the lines written for him by Mr Abbott. It’s long past time that Mr Turnbull showed some leadership in at least this area, where Australians thought that they knew what he stood for. Show some leadership and actually tell the members of your party that they must be bound by the result of the plebiscite because otherwise the plebiscite will be seen as the complete farce that is involved in spending $160 million of taxpayers money for a giant opinion poll, the result of which will be ignored by members of the liberal party.

Any questions?

JOURNALIST: Can we get your reflections on the vote in Britain overnight?

DREYFUS: We’ve had the result of the vote, it’s been called, which appears to be that Britain is determined to leave the European Union. Clearly there are serious consequences in this for Britain. We don’t yet know of course what the full extent of those consequences will be. But I would say that in the case of Australia, I have complete confidence that our Treasury officials have contingency plans for this and of course while the effects might be very great for Britain, it’s of course the case that Australia’s relationship with Britain is not the overwhelming relationship that it once was, Britain is Australia’s seventh-largest trading partner. Ever more so, Australia’s economic relations are with Asia, our largest trading partners are in Asia, and of course the United States. I think this is a time for us to very much be calm, very much watch exactly what the impacts are going to be, not leap to any conclusions, but be assured that our Treasury officials will have contingency plans.

JOURNALIST: Just back to marriage equality, Eric Abetz and Cory Bernardi have said they probably won’t respect the voter’s decision on the plebiscite on marriage equality. Do you suspect there are more Liberals who feel that way and haven’t stated their case?

DREYFUS: I would be certain that there are more Liberals. Some of those that I have just mentioned using that formulation, they will “respect” the result of the plebiscite, when pressed that turns out to be that they might abstain. It certainly doesn’t mean they are going to follow the result of the plebiscite. At least Senator Bernardi and Senator Abetz have been honest enough to say that they don’t care what the result of the plebiscite is, and it’s clearly the case that this plebiscite was invented first as a delaying tactic, second to shore up Mr Abbott’s failing leadership, and third as an attempt to disrupt the whole process of getting to marriage equality in this country. Most other countries in the developed world have long since moved to marriage equality. It’s only Australia, cursed as we currently are with this conservative government, that is not having a vote in the Parliament which I believe would introduce marriage equality in this country. It’s long past time that this occurred, and Mr Abbott – Mr Turnbull sorry, there I go, confusing Mr Abbott with Mr Turnbull but perhaps I can be forgiven for that – Mr Turnbull confirming this morning what a waste of time this plebiscite is.

JOURNALIST: The Prime Minister said he supports marriage equality, do you really think his party would not follow suit, would not fall behind him if the plebiscite were to come in the affirmative?

DREYFUS: If this Liberal Party were falling behind Mr Turnbull, who claims to support marriage equality, then we wouldn’t be having this plebiscite. It’s a disgraceful and shameful waste of taxpayers money, it should never have been proceeded with, it’s one of the many disappointments that Australians have endured under a Turnbull Prime Ministership.