Aug 12, 2015

Transcript of doorstop – Parliament House, Canberra

Subject: Marriage equality

ALBANESE: Good morning. Yesterday afternoon and into yesterday evening Tony Abbott gave everyone a reminder of how behind the times he is. Tony Abbott is not a man for the times and his time is almost up. The problem isn’t that Tony Abbott is stuck in the past; it’s that he wants the rest of Australia to go back there and keep him company.

The fact that Tony Abbott was prepared to manipulate his party room processes and subvert the Liberal Party of Australia making a decision as a Liberal Party yesterday shows just how prepared he is to put ideology before all else. The problem with this Prime Minister is that it’s always his own personal ideology that comes first, rather than the interests of the nation, whether that be marriage equality, whether it be in his pathetic and inadequate climate change targets or whether it be the way that he conducts himself in this Parliament.

The fact is that Australians want marriage equality. That will grant rights to some people who currently don’t enjoy them but will not take away the rights of anyone else.

I’m a strong supporter of a conscience vote. I’ve argued it consistently for a long period of time because I believe that the Parliament is at its best when we’ve had conscience votes in the past, whether it be debates like voluntary euthanasia or stem cell research or other issues.

Now there’s an irony, I think, in the comments of the Prime Minister and others defending what occurred yesterday in that they say: “Oh, we had a respectful and civil debate in the party room”. Well no-one knows that because there weren’t cameras there. It wasn’t exposed to the Australian people.

How about we have a civil debate on the floor of the House of Representatives and the Senate? That’s what Tony Abbott said would happen when he declared that it was up to the Parliament to decide this issue just a couple of months ago.

But what we see is a bloke who still thinks he is president of Sydney University Students’ Representative Council. He’s not up to the job of being Prime Minister and leading this nation and he gave everyone a reminder of that yesterday.

JOURNALIST: Will Labor make this a key election issue?

ALBANESE: I think the Australian people will make this a key election issue. I think the next election will be across a range of areas about whether Australia moves forward; about what sort of future we have; over whether we have leadership in this nation; over the skills and jobs of the future; over tackling climate change; over bringing our community forward as a whole. This will be one element of that. But it will be a powerful element.

Now Tony Abbott had the opportunity to say: “I disagree with marriage equality, but I am going to allow a proper debate on the floor of the Parliament.”

I respect people and I have made it very clear, my position inside and outside the party, that I respect people who want the current definition of marriage to remain. If, for reasons of faith, they view marriage as a religious institution, rather than a civil one, I understand that perspective and I respect it.

What I don’t respect is a Prime Minister who doesn’t respect the views of others who want that change to occur. It’s very clear to me that there’s a majority right now on the floor of the House of Representatives and the Senate for marriage equality and what you have when you have a majority have a particular view, then procedural trickiness in order to subvert that view and undermine it being expressed is never successful.

Think about this: I’ve heard from both sides of Parliament and indeed in the community many people say to me: “I’ve changed my mind on marriage equality. I now support a view that I didn’t hold a year ago, two years ago, five years ago, 10 years ago and I will support marriage equality because I get that it doesn’t undermine the institution of marriage but indeed strengthens it.” I haven’t heard anyone say: “I used to support marriage equality; I now have changed my mind, I’m now going to change that view and support the existing definition”. The movement on this and the momentum is all one way. That’s why there’s a majority on the floor of the House of Representatives and the Senate.

You have a look at the vote that was held during the last term on Stephen Jones’s bill, which was defeated quite comfortably. There were a range of people who thought about the issues and changed their mind.

The momentum is one way. Tony’s Abbott’s roadblock is just a stalling. It won’t stop change. You can’t stop change. We need a Prime Minister that understands that, that understands that, is prepared to at least respect that if not embrace it and we haven’t got that. Tony Abbott reminded us of that just yesterday. Thanks very much.