Subjects; Marriage Equality, Tourism, Barnaby Joyce, the Greens Political Party.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Unless the High Court intervenes Australians will have to vote in a postal survey on whether marriage equality will occur. Of course the most important thing about that survey is giving equal rights to people to be able to marry their life partner, whether they are in a same-sex relationship or a heterosexual relationship.
But there’s also an economic case for it. As Shadow Tourism Minister, I know that the tourism sector understands how important this could be for our economy – literally, a boost to our national economy of billions of dollars as a result of ceremonies taking place, honeymoons taking place, people visiting Australia from international destinations as well.
Take for example the fact that 270 Australian couples in same-sex relationships got married last year in New Zealand alone. That’s foregone revenue to Australia of the ceremonies that took place, the after-honeymoons and other activity that takes place. That’s jobs foregone here in Australia. So I think part of the debate that will be taking place as people think about whether they’ll support marriage equality in this postal survey should be not just about the individuals, but about our national economy and there’s a real argument of why it is an important boost to our economy if marriage equality occurs.
At the moment so many Australians are going overseas to marry. There’s the other circumstances whereby people aren’t visiting Australia from overseas destinations in Europe and the United States and others, either to marry, to conduct the actual ceremonies, or to have honeymoons and other after activities. There is very much an economic case for marriage equality as well as a case, primarily, which is about giving human rights to people on an equal basis. Human rights, that currently heterosexual couples enjoy, that should be given to people who happen to love someone of the same gender as themselves.
JOURNALIST: Opponents of same-sex marriage have been in the media today cautioning corporate Australia against campaigning on the issue. Do you think that perhaps this economic argument is one that the big companies could take on?
ALBANESE: Companies are taking it up. Companies, whether they be banks or airlines, or other businesses, understand that their workforce is impacted by this. They also understand that there’s an economic benefit to it. At the moment the fact is that it is revenue foregone for the fact that you don’t have ceremonies taking place in Australia. They’re either not taking place at all or they’re taking place internationally.
As I said, 270 couples in the last year in New Zealand alone. That is 270 times a lot of money. Perhaps the average figure is around about $65,000 for a wedding to take place, that is revenue foregone. The fact is that giving people the right to marry, surveys have shown that a slight majority of same-sex couples would take up the option of marriage if they were able to do so. Business understands that it is good business and equality is good for business.
I find it extraordinary the attempt to intimidate business for speaking up for its workforce, primarily, but also speaking up for its own business interest.
JOURNALIST: Barnaby Joyce referred himself to the High Court over citizenship issues. No one from Labor has been in this boat yet. Is that incompetence on the other parties’ behalf or a good system for you guys?
ALBANESE: I guess the other parties will have to explain their own circumstances. Labor has in place a very rigorous process when we nominate of providing evidence that we’re eligible to nominate and that’s, I guess, one of the reasons, no doubt, why there is no one from Labor caught up with these issues.
JOURNALIST: Have you had any legal advice about your own circumstances given, I guess, the coverage over the years of your family story?
ALBANESE: Well my circumstances as you would know because I am sure you have read Karen Middleton’s book available in all good book stores. There is a new edition with a new chapter out published by Penguin, by the way, available here in the Parliament House bookshop. The fact is the circumstance of my birth is that I had a single parent; there is a single parent legally on my birth certificate, that was my mother who was born in fact in the same hospital in which I was born at St Margaret’s at Darlinghurst. Her parents were both born here. Their parents were all born here as well. So my circumstances are perhaps a lot clearer than many others as someone who legally had just one parent.
JOURNALIST: St Margaret’s is a great hospital, I agree with that, but do you have any legal advice? Or do you feel like you should get any legal advice given the questions…
ALBANESE: My circumstances, I’ve indicated that it’s 300 page book of my circumstances and they’re very clear, and my birth certificate is very clear as well.
JOURNALIST: Albo on infrastructure, the West Gate Tunnel has come up in Victoria – this is obviously a Labor project – said the report today saying there was deliberate distortion and misrepresentation of some of the figures. Do you still back that from a Federal perspective?
ALBANESE: Well there hasn’t been an application for Federal funding and I’m not the Federal Infrastructure Minister. But can I say this – that Victoria is getting on with the business of building infrastructure, building the Melbourne Metro, getting on with road infrastructure as well, in spite of the fact they are getting less than 10 per cent of Commonwealth infrastructure funding. The fact is that Victoria is being shortchanged by the Turnbull Government and just as Queensland is being shortchanged by a failure to fund the Cross River Rail project. They ripped out $3 billion from the Melbourne Metro; they ripped out $500 million from the M80 road project and only put it back a number of years later. They ripped money out of the Managed Motorways Program. Victoria is getting a raw deal from the Commonwealth Government when it comes to infrastructure.
JOURNALIST: Back on Barnaby Joyce. His advice seems to be similar to that given to Matt Canavan and yet Matt Canavan has stood aside from Cabinet. Do you think that Barnaby Joyce shouldn’t be voting or should stand down as Deputy Prime Minister while this is sorted out?
ALBANESE: Well certainly that’s a matter for the Government to give proper consideration of. I don’t wish to politicise this issue. There’s been a statement made very recently by Barnaby Joyce in the House of Representatives. I wasn’t expecting that statement and I’m sure you weren’t either. So under those circumstances I think that running commentary doesn’t assist this process, and it’s up to Matt Canavan, and I guess up to Barnaby Joyce, to explain what the distinction is between his case and Senator Canavan’s case.
JOURNALIST: Do you think it’s strange though that there is a rule for one member of Parliament and another rule for another?
ALBANESE: That’s really up to Barnaby Joyce, with respect, to explain what distinction the Government is clearly drawing between Barnaby Joyce’s circumstances and Matt Canavan’s circumstances. Both of them have been referred to the High Court, and I think it is clearly in the Australian Parliament’s interests for these issues to be resolved one way or the other in an expeditious manner, and I’m certain the High Court will do that.
JOURNALIST: Is Labor likely to take up the PM’s offer to refer a block of MPs, anyone who could possibly be under a citizenship cloud?
ALBANESE: I’m not going to – the PM should worry about getting his own house in order. Labor has had our house in order, and I think the referrals that have been made are appropriate. They’ve been made in a self way except of course a One Nation senator – which seems pretty clear cut really – seems to have been reluctant to be referred, but that has been dealt with as well. It clearly is in the interests of Barnaby Joyce and Matt Canavan, as well as Senator Roberts – or Senator-elect Roberts perhaps – to be dealt with as quickly as possible.
JOURNALIST: Has the Labor Party as a whole sought any legal advice on the status of some of its members? Tanya Plibersek being another person…
ALBANESE: I’m not going to give you running commentary about individuals. There are 150 Members of the House of Representatives. I’ve gone through my own circumstances; it’s up to others to speak on their own behalf. But the Labor Party has in place a very rigorous process when we nominate for public office.
JOURNALIST: Do you think, does Section 44 need changing, given that foreign citizenship laws seem to be able to be changed, and therefore could alter the status of somebody living in Australia, not even aware of what is happening in another country?
ALBANESE: The Labor Party’s platform, which I’ll refer you to, which I am amazed that no one seems to read. A big tip for journalists in the Press Gallery, go and read the Labor Party platform. On various issues when they come up, you would be surprised what a modern sophisticated political party gives consideration to. Unlike the Tories, who just do a fundraiser, and who knows what the Greens do? I mean, who would know, because their conferences of course are not open to anyone, and they have leadership challenges without anyone knowing. But I’m sure you will see some more on the Greens political party tonight on Four Corners.
JOURNALIST: But on Section 44…
ALBANESE: Well it’s in the platform that we support reform.
JOURNALIST: A referendum?
ALBANESE: We support reform. I refer you to the Labor Party platform; that is better than me saying something; have a look at the Labor Party platform. But of course a referendum is very difficult to get through, both because of the circumstances of the way that our constitution has to be changed. I should imagine it would be challenging to get through a referendum about politicians and whether they are eligible or not. I think that’s a fact.
There are a range of uncertainties there, not the least of which I think the Labor Party platform is primarily referring to the office of profit under the Crown, because that has been a grey area, in some circumstances, over a long period of time. The Labor Party does support constitutional reform in a whole range of areas, but it is difficult to achieve. But back on the Greens, given that you asked…
JOURNALIST: I didn’t.
ALBANESE: The Four Corners program this evening will outline, I think, the conflict that is there, the contradiction that is there in the Greens. A secretive political party who don’t open up their processes, who have leadership challenges without the public even knowing that it has occurred, and who have a bunch of people essentially in my electorate and in others, particularly in the New South Wales branch, who are former members of far left political parties. They have gone into the Greens political party, to give credibility, whereby if they ran as a member of the Socialist Labor League or the Democratic Socialist Party, or the International Socialist Organisation, which is the party to which my last opponent at the election ran for. If they ran under those banners, they would maybe receive one per cent of the vote.
So instead they run as the Greens political party and what is surprising perhaps, isn’t that I am saying that, as someone who has been challenged with heavily funded campaigns by the Greens in my electorate, over a period of time. But what is surprising is that the leader of the Greens historically, Bob Brown, is calling out these members of the NSW Greens. He is quite right in calling out people who have gone into his party but who aren’t really loyal to that party, are loyal to a very different ideological position.
JOURNALIST: You don’t think that there is anyone in Labor who was formerly a member of far left political movements, who have gone into Labor to seek candidacy?
ALBANESE: No, I certainly don’t. I do think that from time to time people change their political views, and that has happened. The distinction here is whether entryism, as a political tactic of Trotskyist groups, as a part of a philosophy of entryism. If you go back and have a look at the work of Leon Trotsky, he advocated that essentially being a democratic centralist model, which would go into political parties, whereby a few people could control an organisation by having a disciplined position.
And what’s happened to the NSW Greens is that they don’t talk much about environmental issues. They concentrate on attacking Labor and trying to replace Labor and they do so in a very unprincipled way. They particularly attack progressives in the Labor Party and the fact is, that has been called out on Four Corners tonight. I look forward to watching the revelations that are there on the record from former leaders of the Greens about what Bob Brown and others think about some of the members of the Greens Political Party. Thanks very much.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.