SUBJECT/S: Marriage equality plebiscite
THE HON MARK DREYFUS QC MP
SHADOW MINISTER FOR NATIONAL SECURITY
ACTING SHADOW MINISTER FOR JUSTICE
MEMBER FOR ISAACS
FRIDAY, 23 SEPTEMBER 2016
SUBJECT/S: Marriage equality plebiscite
MARK DREYFUS, SHADOW ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Good afternoon. I would like to reflect on the news today that a smear campaign in the form of leaflets that are being distributed in the northern suburbs of Sydney contain a whole range of false, misleading and quite vicious material directed at the same-sex marriage debate. It is of course the case that Mr Turnbull and Senator Brandis have both repeatedly tried to reassure Australians that any campaign that might be conducted in the context of the proposed plebiscite would be a respectful campaign. Senator Brandis has in fact used the words “sober, respectful and serious-minded”.
I would have to say how can these Liberal ministers, how can the Prime Minister, how can the Attorney-General be believed when they try to give these assurances about the supposed respectful tone of the anti-marriage equality campaign when members of their own party, members of the Liberal Party of Australia, have been caught red-handed distributing this false, misleading and vicious material?
It is apparent from this material that, for example, children of same-sex couples are going to be used as pawns in the debate. It's apparent that these members of the Liberal Party were quite prepared to put false material into these pamphlets as part of this campaign. Another example of extraordinary falsity is the use of the image of Nelson Mandela in an attempt to suggest that he might have opposed marriage equality. The truth of the matter is that Nelson Mandela was the first African leader to introduce anti-discrimination legislation about sexual orientation. So much for this campaign or these Liberal Party members seeking to use the image of the great Nelson Mandela.
This, I would suggest, is Mr Turnbull's Jackie Kelly moment. It is members of his own party caught red-handed distributing this false and offensive material. Mr Turnbull needs to assure Australians that this kind of material will not be distributed by members of his party. In fact, he needs to explain whether he is happy for members of his own party, the Liberal Party of Australia, to be distributing this kind of material and Mr Turnbull needs to explain to Australians how he is going to make sure that no material of this kind, at the very least, is distributed ever again by members of the Liberal Party of Australia. Are there any questions?
JOURNALIST: Are you genuinely hoping to reach a compromise with George Brandis at your meeting on Monday?
DREYFUS: I wouldn't seek to put that characterisation on this meeting. Senator Brandis called me to ask me to come to a meeting with him and we have arranged to meet in Brisbane on Monday morning. Senator Brandis is going, he says, to raise matters to do with the plebiscite with me but, in no sense do I know what it is that he is going to say and the point that I've made to him and the point that I have made publicly is that it is a matter for Mr Turnbull and for Senator Brandis to explain how it is that they might be prepared to change the plebiscite that is described in the Bill that they put before the Parliament last Wednesday.
It's a matter for Mr Turnbull and Senator Brandis to explain what it is that the right wing of the Liberal Party is prepared to compromise on and, at the moment, it does not appear to me that the right wing of the Liberal Party is prepared to compromise on anything. Right at the start of this week, we have heard from George Christensen, the member for Dawson, saying in no uncertain terms that the public funding, something which Labor has criticised, that the public funding of this plebiscite campaign, the 'No' campaign and the 'Yes' campaign, is not negotiable.
That doesn't suggest we are off to a very good start in terms of the Government being prepared to put forward any changes but I'd stress again it's a matter for the Government to explain the ways in which it is prepared to change the plebiscite that it's put forward and to give assurances that whatever changes it's putting forward will, in fact, be agreed to by the right of the Liberal Party who dreamed up this plebiscite in the first place.
JOURNALIST: What makes you think that George Brandis may agree to the conditions you have placed upon it?
DREYFUS: I'm not putting any conditions. I want to make that clear as well. I'm not going to this meeting with a list of conditions. I'm going to listen because the Attorney-General of the Commonwealth has asked me as a representative of the Labor Party to meet with him and discuss the plebiscite. As I understand it, he is going to suggest to me ways in which the plebiscite model that's contained in the Government's bill might be changed and I will say again, unless the right of the Liberal Party is prepared to agree to change this plebiscite model, then we won't be getting anywhere in these discussions.
Further questions? Thanks very much.