Subjects: Marriage equality; New South Wales council elections.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well Australians have had imposed on them this voluntary postal vote on marriage equality. Now that Australians will be voting in this postal vote it’s important that Australians say yes. One of the things that has happened over the recent period is that many Australians who were previously reluctant to embrace marriage equality have changed their mind. There are many, literally, hundreds of thousands, if not millions of Australians, who, if you asked them two or three years ago do they support marriage equality, they would have prevaricated or said no. What we have seen, just like we have seen from colleagues in the House of Representatives and the Senate, is more and more Australians embrace marriage equality, understand that it will strengthen the institution of marriage. Understand also that it will not undermine any existing marriages or relationships. It will just give two people who love each other, who want to make that commitment public in front of their family and friends the right to do so.
That’s why you see lots of Australians saying I now support marriage equality. I haven’t met anyone yet who says I used to support marriage equality but I have changed my mind. And that is why the polling is headed one way on this. So we need to get this done because it is very clear what the future is. Just like around the world, countries like Ireland, Malta, Taiwan; in Europe, the United States, around the world they have embraced marriage equality. Under the leadership of the conservatives in the United Kingdom and New Zealand, they embraced marriage equality. We have an opportunity to do that. Australia will embrace marriage equality. The only question really now is we do it now and get it done or do we continue to have this debate over months and years. I say vote yes, get it done and then we can move on to the other major issues that are facing our nation.
Today also people in this area of the Inner West Council and in some councils throughout New South Wales will be getting their democratic say in local government elections. These are critical elections. We have a New South Wales Government that is out of touch; that is arrogant and has taken its support for granted. Contrary to the commitments that it gave it forcefully imposed amalgamations and imposed new boundaries on communities, many of which frankly are simply rorts, distortions and gerrymanders simply to shore up Liberal Party support in particular areas. In this area, we had three councils that were all functioning effectively that got all amalgamated together against the interests of the community.
But people are voting and it’s an opportunity to say no to the Berejiklian Government on council amalgamations which are forced; to say no to the Berejiklian Government on its mishandling of major infrastructure issues where the community hasn’t been properly consulted and in many ways has simply been misled. There are people in this community who have had their houses acquired and under circumstances whereby they have been underpaid because the State Government withheld the report that said just that. It is also an opportunity to say no to over-development. Gladys Berejiklian wants to impose enormous developments. In the Inner West Council there is a proposal in Marrickville to turn an area that is currently two storeys and industrial into a 28-storey series of highrise. That’s not appropriate for that community. There hasn’t been proper consultation with that community and this is an opportunity to send a message to Gladys Berejiklian and her Government and I hope that people throughout New South Wales do just that so that maybe they wake up to themselves, forget their arrogance, put that aside, and start governing in consultation with the community.
Here our candidate for Labor is Darcy Byrne. He’s been a champion for the local community. He is Labor’s candidate for the Mayor of the Inner West Council and I would ask him to say a few words.
DARCY BYRNE: Thank you very much Anthony. I join with all of the Inner Westies across our region today in welcoming the return of democracy. For the last 18 months local residents haven’t had any say because the Liberal Party’s hand-picked dictator has been running our local government. Today the people of the Inner West and people across Sydney are going to send a message to Gladys Berejiklian and the NSW Liberals through the ballot box. They’ve had enough of the arrogance and the high-handed approach which saw our local councils abolished and they know that the Liberal Party is just ruling for its political interests and its developer mates. Here in the Inner West we want every single person to come out and vote, to have their democratic say and let’s restore a new council which will push back against the New South Wales Liberals’ agenda.
REPORTER: Would you also encourage voters to show their frustration if they are unhappy about the whole plebiscite situation?
ALBANESE: Well I think that it’s an opportunity for voters I think, in particular, to target local issues today. There will be different views on marriage equality but I do think this just shows the lack of leadership that is there from Malcolm Turnbull. I think people are really disappointed in Malcolm Turnbull. I don’t doubt his sincerity in supporting marriage equality. What I doubt is his courage and his capacity to lead. And I think that will also be a factor, the disappointment that is there with the Federal Liberals over issues like marriage equality, over its failure to lead on energy policy, over the fact that they seem incapable of providing leadership on the major issues and I think that will feed into the discontent when people go to the ballot box today.
REPORTER: Darcy have you picked up on that? Are people unhappy in this area, in the Inner West, about having to vote in the postal plebiscite?
BYRNE: I think Gladys Berejiklian and Malcolm Turnbull should be worried because people right across Sydney know that that Liberals are on the nose.
REPORTER: Do you feel that residents here are really disenchanted or is it really (inaudible)?
BYRNE: I think people realise that our councils were abolished so that the government could give the green light to Westconnex and over-development in this neighbourhood. And everybody knows that the Liberals are doing things here in the Inner West and across Sydney that they would never do in blue-ribbon Liberal electorates. So I do think that Gladys Berejiklian might get a bit of a shock at six o’clock tonight about the message that people are sending her and her Government.
ALBANESE: I’ll give you just one example on that that I think is very important. When, with regard to the northern beaches tunnel it was suggested there be a smokestack near schools on the North Shore, Rob Stokes, the Education Minister, held a media conference and said he would fight like hell any proposal to have a smokestack near a school in that region. Well there are going to be nine – including one just down the road near this school at Annandale North – nine here in the Inner West that are unfiltered. That is a policy that is unacceptable. If you are going to say that smokestacks unfiltered are a problem near kids on the North Shore, then kids in the Inner West deserve exactly the same care from the New South Wales Government and it is that duplicity that is alienating so many people from the Berejiklian Government.
REPORTER: What do you make of the fact that not one single State Government minister is speaking publicly today, including, of course, the Local Government Minister?
ALBANESE: Well I’m not surprised that the Liberals are in hiding today, because they are on a hiding to nothing because of what they have done, because in this area over-development, forced council amalgamations, removal of democracy, failure to consult the community on major infrastructure. This is a State Government that is out of touch.
REPORTER: On another issue, what do you think of George Christensen trying to ban the burqa (inaudible).
ALBANESE: Well I think George Christensen needs to work out for himself whether he wants to be a Nationals MP that is involved in mainstream politics, or whether he wants to be a part of One Nation. Barnaby Joyce has clearly rejected such a proposal and surely the Nationals, if they are not going to be regarded as just a junior wing of One Nation, need to reject this proposal as well.
REPORTER: Are you worried by the poll in that paper today showing that support for the yes campaign for same sex-marriage has fallen?
ALBANESE: Well this is not a done thing. The no campaign are out there trying to distort what this postal survey is about. Let’s be very clear, it’s only about one thing – whether two people who love each, who are committed to each other and want to express that in a formal way in front of their family and friends will be able to do so. This will strengthen the institution of marriage and I think true conservatives, true conservatives, should be supporting this postal survey and should support marriage equality because it will strengthen the institution of marriage.
REPORTER: Do you think the yes campaign is cutting through especially when it comes to encouraging people to actually fill out the form and send it back?
ALBANESE: Well that’s going to be a big challenge. There’s no doubt that when Tony Abbott proposed the plebiscite it was all about blocking marriage equality. It’s not about anything other than that. But now that it is there, we need to make sure that people get the message that they need to have their say and I would encourage all people, whether they are going to vote yes or no, to have their say. With the postal survey, the more people that vote, the better. I respect people who have different views to the one that I have come to. I respect that and we need to have a respectful debate. But at the end of the day I don’t know anybody, including some of the advocates of the no campaign – we need to be honest about this – they all say it’s inevitable. They know it’s going to happen. They are just trying to block it and the longer it is delayed the more this debate has potential to cause division in our society. I hope that is not the case and I call on people to be respectful to people who have different views to the ones that they hold. But this is going to happen and it needs to happen before Christmas rather than have the country continuing to deal with this.
When I speak to people engaged internationally – I travelled to the UK last year – they shake their heads. Australia is seen as a progressive country. We’re a country that had the universal franchise, one of the first countries to give women the vote. We are seen as being ahead of the world in so many areas. On this we are way behind.
REPORTER: Bill Shorten says the advertising safeguards for this survey should go further than those under the Electoral Act. Why should there be one rule for this poll and (inaudible)?
ALBANESE: Well this is a different process of course. This isn’t something that is a part of the normal electoral process. No-one in a federal election campaign says if you vote here this will determine what will happen in California. No-one here during a federal election campaign says things that simply aren’t relevant, because a federal election campaign is about a whole range of issues. This is about one issue and one issue only and people who actually have confidence in their own view should debate the issue that is before the Australian people – whether two people of the same sex should have the right to marry – and they should debate just that, because that is the issue. When they raise other issues, when people hear them raise other issues, what they are really saying is that they don’t have confidence that their opposition to marriage equality stands up and that they are prepared to debate in a practical and a serious way that issue which is the only issue before the Australian people.
REPORTER: Just one more. Does Labor support sending a small number of troops to The Philippines?
ALBANESE: That’s a matter for Penny Wong and for Richard Marles to discuss. We haven’t had discussions on those things. But in general as well can I say that Labor’s attitude is to consult with the government and to try and play a constructive role when it comes to issues of national security. Thank you.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.