SUBJECTS: Marriage equality; Section 44
THE HON MARK DREYFUS QC MP
SHADOW MINISTER FOR NATIONAL SECURITY
MEMBER FOR ISAACS
SKY NEWS AM AGENDA
THURSDAY, 16 NOVEMBER 2017
SUBJECTS: Marriage equality; Section 44
KIERAN GILBERT, HOST: Mr Dreyfus thank you for your time. Observing an historic day yesterday from afar but you must be encouraged, the government moving quickly via that Private Senators’ Bill and Dean Smith, to legislate this before Christmas?
MARK DREYFUS, SHADOW ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Very good to be with you Kieran and good morning. It was a great and historic day for Australia yesterday. It’s something that is now clear, what the task of the Parliament is which is to get on and legislate this before the end of the year and I am very confident that is what is going to happen.
GILBERT: In relation to the approach of Senator Brandis for example and others within the government, they’re saying it was obviously an emphatic win for the yes vote, nothing should be done to not honour that over coming weeks. And again encouraging sounds from the government at this point?
DREYFUS: Well we’re now on track – there is a bill in the Senate, a Private Senators’ Bill drafted by Liberal backbenchers, Labor has already said about that bill that we think it is an acceptable compromise and there is now a schedule for a debate about that bill in the Senate, and then it will come to the House probably in the last sitting week of the year. And we’ll sit as long as we need to to make sure that everyone who wants to have a say on this bill can do so, but that it will get passed by the end of the year. That’s what Australians now expect. This has taken far too long already Kieran and we’re going to get on with it.
GILBERT: It’s incumbent upon Labor and others as well not to be trying to stoke divisions within the coalition isn’t it given this is – well this is not a government bill now as the Attorney points out. This is a Private Senators’ Bill and will be voted on according to people’s conscience.
DREYFUS: I think that the coalition are doing a pretty good job with stoking divisions within themselves without any help from Labor. That’s not our objective. Our objective is to get this done, to get marriage equality a reality in Australia, accepting the will of the Australian people and having the Parliament do its job. We’ve got a couple of sitting weeks left, the Senate is sitting today. After that there is a couple of sitting weeks left. That is enough time to pass this bill and marriage equality will be a reality in Australia.
GILBERT: Are you comfortable with the two amendments that have been put forward by the Attorney-General since the vote?
DREYFUS: Well they haven’t yet been put forward. He’s talked about them, we’ve seen this a lot from Senator Brandis. He likes to talk about legislative change, and legislative proposals but until we see the text of the amendments that he’s proposing, I’m not going to give you a view on it. Of course we’ll treat what he proposes with respect, we’ll treat any amendments that are put forward in the course of this debate with respect and we’ll consider them, but I’d say to you again Kieran there has been a great deal of work done already. There’s an all-party Senate Select Committee that produced a model. Liberal backbenchers worked through the middle of the year producing the bill that is now in the Senate. We think it’s an acceptable compromise and speaking for myself, I’m going to take a lot of convincing that there need to be any amendments at all. But of course we will look at what Senator Brandis puts forward if and when he does so.
GILBERT: Is there room within other legislation to try and placate concerns of those - 4.9 million people voted no, but many of them had concerns about education and so on, to protect parents’ rights. Is there any other move or legislative change that can be done in that regard? I guess most controversially there is the Safe Schools program that was raised during the campaign.
DREYFUS: I think a lot of fears were stoked during the campaign, and what I’m hoping is that when marriage equality becomes a reality in Australia – many of the people who may have voted no out of a concern, or fear of the unknown, will see that there is nothing to be concerned about. And that has been the experience right across the developed world when same-sex marriage has been legislated or has been brought about by a court decision. Let’s see what happens. I think that we’ve got a bill now in the Parliament, that takes care of the religious concerns directly relating to marriage. If there’s other issues that relate to other matters, then the time for having a debate about them is not now, the task now before the Australian Parliament is to get on and legislate for marriage equality. So of course I recognise the views that have been expressed, I recognise the fears that are held.
GILBERT: And a lot of them were Labor seats. Nine out of the top 10 no votes in electorates were Labor, among them Blaxland, Jason Clare’s seat in southwestern Sydney; Watson, the seat of Tony Burke – should those members of Parliament be voting in line with their constituents? Many of them new migrants, ethnically diverse seats. Big Islamic populations, also Chinese populations in seats like Bennelong and McMahon, the seat of Chris Bowen. Should those members be voting in line with their electorates?
DREYFUS: I don’t think that’s the job of members of Parliament. These members of Parliament, all of them have been pretty courageous in taking the positions that they have in favour of marriage equality. Knowing – and they do know their electorates very well obviously – knowing that the prevailing view in their electorates might well be a vote for no. All of them will be voting – if they vote yes, because it’s a conscience vote in the Labor party – all of them will be voting, if they vote yes, in accordance with the national will which has now been made completely clear, Kieran. I don’t think any of them have suggested that they’re going to change their positions because of the particular vote in their own electorates.
GILBERT: In relation to that trend though, it was interesting you look at those numbers. Big no votes, in say Blaxland and Watson, large populations – among the largest in the country of people of Islamic faith and also others, Chinese heritage and so on in Bennelong as I pointed out. What do you put that down to? Is it just a more conservative view in religious terms? What’s your take on that?
DREYFUS: I think people will be analysing this vote for a long time. A vote we didn’t need to have but we’ve now had, and I think when the analysis is done people will conclude that many people who voted no, voted for a whole range of different reasons. Some of them because of fears of the unknown, as I said before. Some of them because of concerns that had been raised about extraneous matters. About matters that have got nothing to do with marriage equality. And I think that once marriage equality happens in Australia many of those fears will simply go away. I don’t think that in the long term this is going to be a concern even for those who have voted no. And I say that with the greatest of respect for their views and the concerns that they’ve had.
GILBERT: Finally, Hollie Hughes ruled ineligible to fill the place of Fiona Nash in the Senate – are there any implications here for other cases like that of David Gillespie for example or Senator O’Sullivan in terms of profit under the crown in your view?
DREYFUS: Well David Gillespie is a quite different part of section 44. The concern there, the matter that has been raised by Peter Alley the candidate in the seat of Lyne at the last election, is that David Gillespie has a direct or indirect pecuniary interest in a contract with the crown. That’s another ground of disqualification under section 44, separate from the office of profit under the crown that disqualified Hollie Hughes and separate again from the citizenship concerns that have now been arising for many months. What’s striking about the case of Hollie Hughes of course is that again, the Prime Minister and Senator Brandis who expressed complete confidence – everyone will recall – in the eligibility of the former Deputy Prime Minister – they were wrong then and they’ve been wrong again in the case of Hollie Hughes because again they said she was going to be held to be eligible. The High Court has held otherwise. So I think Australians are starting to learn if they haven’t already that the views on the law expressed by our Prime Minister and our Attorney-General are not to be trusted. They’ve got it wrong twice now. And one can only wonder what else is lurking in the Liberal cupboard there that they haven’t disclosed. We’re going to know soon enough because the government has of course agreed with our proposal that by December 1 everyone has to put their facts on the table.
GILBERT: Well we’ll know a few things by December, we’ll have the legislation for the same-sex marriage vote as you say and those disclosures as well by the end of their Parliamentary sittings. Mark Dreyfus live from London, appreciate it. Talk to you soon.