Doorstop, Parliament House

Subject/s: Marriage equality plebiscite; omnibus bill











Subject/s: Marriage equality plebiscite; omnibus bill


MARK DREYFUS, SHADOW ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Mr Turnbull has shown again why he has so disappointed the Australian people. Apparently the cabinet last night has resolved to go forward with this plebiscite but with conditions that would include public funding of both the “yes” and “no” campaigns. Make no mistake – this was an idea, the plebiscite was an idea dreamed up by the right wing of the Liberal Party. It is still being driven by the right wing of the Liberal Party. The wording of the question is the idea of the right wing of the Liberal Party, the public funding of the “no” campaign is the idea of the right wing of the Liberal Party, their intention as it has been all along is to obstruct the path of marriage equality in Australia. The wording is concerning and of course there’s been no consultation, certainly there’s been no consultation with Labor. There appears to have been no consultation with the LGBTI community about how the question should read, and just on the funding - the LGBTI community has made it very clear that they do not need public funding. The pro-marriage equality group in Australia does not need public funding. This funding is because the people that wish to run a hateful “no” campaign want to have public funds. The reports suggest it’s up to $7.5 million of public money that is to be spent on the “no” campaign. Presumably, there will be an equal amount for the “yes” campaign. That would be $15 million of public money added to the already known cost, $160 million, that it’s going to cost just to conduct this plebiscite. How is it that this Commonwealth Government cannot adequately fund the redress scheme that was recommended by the Royal Commission into child sexual abuse in institutions, but can somehow find $15 million which is not needed for this plebiscite. These elements take the plebiscite even further away from something that Labor could support. We’ve said all along that the plebiscite was an absolutely terrible idea. It was a thought bubble dreamed up by Tony Abbott to save his Prime Ministership. The only shock has been that more than a year on since this thought bubble was first produced by Tony Abbott, we find that Mr Turnbull, someone who was supposed to be committed to the cause of marriage equality is going forward with this terrible idea.


JOURNALIST: So Labor will definitely be voting against the plebiscite?


DREYFUS: As with all government proposals, as with all legislation we will wait to see the bill that is produced and has not yet been produced by the government despite various indications that it would have been with us sometime earlier. Just bear that in mind as well – this idea, this thought bubble was produced in August 2015. Here we are 13 months on and we still don’t even have a firm proposal from the government. Instead we’ve got some reports coming out of, apparently, consideration of this matter in cabinet. So no, we won’t be announcing a formal decision but I can say very clearly that this idea that there should be public funding of the “no” campaign is something that takes this plebiscite even further away from something that Labor could support.


JOURNALIST: Is it fair enough to say that you’d be very surprised if the Labor caucus supported this?


DREYFUS: Well, I would call on the government to reconsider this reported idea that they are going to fund both sides of this argument in a campaign for the plebiscite. We’ve already said that we think the government should be considering getting over the problem caused by their right wing not even being bound by the result of this very expensive plebiscite by introducing a process where the plebiscite would in fact be self-executing so that the Parliament is bound, so that the Parliament does not need to further consider the matter, that a plebiscite would produce the result of marriage equality in Australia. But it appears that the Government is not even considering that. As I say, the government has not consulted Labor. The government has not consulted the LGBTI community about what this plebiscite should look like. We’re getting in dribs and drabs what the government’s proposal is. When the government produces a final proposal in the form of a bill, Labor will consider it in our normal processes and we will announce our position.


JOURNALIST: You say that the wording is concerning, what exactly is it that concerns you, it seems pretty straightforward?


DREYFUS: Well, it’s wording selected by the people who want this plebiscite to fail. We think that they have selected these words, as in changed the law on same-sex marriage rather than use the words “marriage equality” because what they want is for this plebiscite to fail. They don’t want marriage equality to take place in Australia.


JOURNALIST: The Australian Christian Lobby this morning was suggesting that they would use the funding to campaign on the issue of safe schools – what do you make of that?


DREYFUS: Well that would be a complete abuse, if they were to do so. Safe schools has nothing to do with the cause of marriage equality in Australia. Marriage equality is about rights of all Australians. It’s about the rights in particular of LGBTI Australians to marry whom they please, that the institutions of our country are available to all Australians. And that has got nothing to do with safe schools, it would be an appalling abuse if, as you’ve just suggested to me in your question, the Australian Christian Lobby were to misuse funds provided for a plebiscite campaign to campaign on other political matters.


JOURNALIST: Regarding the omnibus bill, there seems to be a deal struck between Labor and the coalition on this. What else are the details of those cuts that you proposed elsewhere that weren’t in the original bill?


DREYFUS: I’m not going to go into the detail of what we discussed in shadow cabinet last night, I can say that this is going to go to the caucus this morning and we will be in a position to announce where we’ve got to. I can say that it will be budget repair that is fair, that Labor is committed to. A compromise that reflects Labor values.


JOURNALIST: Is it in education, is it in welfare, is it in your portfolio….


DREYFUS: I’m not going to go to the elements of the package that we have been negotiating with the government but what you will see, what Australians will see is Labor conducting the task of budget repair in a fair way, Labor acting very responsibly, Labor appreciating the fiscal situation that Australia is in and looking for means, fair means to repair the budget in this country.


JOURNALIST: There was a bit of a lull in the Senate yesterday where Senators were forced into filibustering. Mitch Fifield has blamed this on the same-sex private members bill that Labor introduced, wasting time in the House.


DREYFUS: That’s absurd – Mitch Fifield understands that the House of Representatives has private members business on Monday mornings. The House of Representatives has had private members business on Monday mornings for decades, and what was revealed yesterday by the absence of business in the Senate was that this government not only can’t manage its own numbers in the House of Representatives, it also can’t manage parliamentary business. It is a matter for the government to make sure that there is a flow of legislation to be considered by both Houses of Parliament and for the government to be blaming the Labor Party for bringing forward our private members bill, introduced by the Leader of the Opposition and seconded by the Deputy Leader yesterday morning, is an absurdity. It is the government’s failure to manage its own legislative process.


Thanks very much.