Dec 2, 2011

Transcript of interview – ABC 702 Sydney

Subjects:   National conference, gay marriage, Elton John

PHILIP CLARK: There was a gathering for World AIDS Day last night in Sydney.  Singer Elton John was there, he’s performing up at the Hunter Valley this weekend but he had some things to say on the subject of AIDS as you’d imagine but also on the subject of gay marriage.

[Excerpt]

ELTON JOHN: People have a right to live with dignity, where all treated equal and it’s about time Australia’s got the same sex marriage together was well. [Applause]

[End of excerpt.

PHILIP CLARK: Well preaching to the converted perhaps but it’s a debate that’s going to take centre stage at the ALP’s National Conference too.  Pushing the cause of gay marriage will be the Left of the ALP, Anthony Albanese’s Federal Transport Minister, Senior Cabinet Minister and Member of the Left, he joins me on the line this morning. Mr Albanese good morning to you.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: G’day Philip.

PHILIP CLARK: Are you going to win on this one?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: I think we will win in terms of a change of the platform. I think a majority of conference delegates will determine that it is appropriate that we have marriage equality, that we recognise that relationships are legitimate regardless of the sexuality of those people engaged with them and that by giving one group of the community equal rights, we’re not actually taking away rights from any other section of the community.

PHILIP CLARK: It’s shaping up as a test of support for the Prime Minister, is that an appropriate political battleground on a subject of social importance such as this?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, some of the media try and characterise everything [indistinct] simplistic are quite silly really. The Prime Minister herself has said very clearly what she wants is a real conference. The Labor Party is made up of people who are passionate about issues, be it the economy, social issues, environmental issues. They come to the conference, they participate in Labor Party affairs. The overwhelming majority of them as volunteers giving up their time and they want to debate the future of Australia and that’s what they’re interested in. The Prime Minister wants a real conference, we’re going to get one.  There’ll be a range of issues debated on the floor of the conference. The media are focusing on this one of course but today we’re debating the economy and jobs and other issues.

PHILIP CLARK: That’s true but it’s an issue which goes to the heart I suppose of how these things are conducted in a democratic sense because I read this morning that the Right faction has bound its delegates, that is they’re not even allowing them to vote on what they might think about things, they’re saying you must vote this way which does smack of a highly authoritarian approach to the conference, some say reminiscent of how Mr Rudd would run things.  From your position how do you view those actions by the Right?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: I’m of the view that people should be able to express their views. I’ve never been told by anybody in terms of what to do and people are adults. I think what you’ll see tomorrow is a majority of conference delegates support reform, that is something that I support. Sir Elton John adding his weight to it really just brings home that there are people in all spheres of life in the community who happen to be gay or lesbian and we should move on as a modern society and recognise that that is a fact and that relationships are real.

PHILIP CLARK: Yes, all right, okay.  What are you going to actually win though because you on the Left presumably would like a change to ALP policy to support gay marriage, whereas Ms Gillard’s really saying no, I just want a conscience vote in the Parliament.  What’s likely to win, Ms Gillard’s position or yours?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: I expect that there will probably will a conscience vote and it probably will be carried but the numbers are reasonably close on that.  There’s an argument that what we need to do is to make sure that people across the Parliament are able to have a say on these issues.  It’s unfortunate that Tony Abbott is locking in the Coalition in one way against any change.  I think that will change over time as well.  These debates have progressed enormously. I remember back in 1998 when I introduced the first ever private members bill about same sex rights into the House of Representatives on superannuation – that was seen as a very controversial issue.  I had to introduce it three times.  The Coalition stopped it even being debated.  Now it is a consensus across the Parliament and it went through unanimously, we approved 84 changes of legislation that took away discrimination across a range of areas in our first term of office across health and immigration and a range of other areas.  So I think society’s moving pretty quickly on these issues and same sex marriage will happen, it’s just a matter of the circumstances in which it occurs here in Australia.

PHILIP CLARK: Okay.  I mean some might suggest that in the midst of important debates about climate change and the economy, the collapse of the euro zone and so forth that this is an odd issue to be spending a lot of time on.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: We’re not spending a lot of time on it.  You’re choosing to talk to me about it but I’ve been spending most of my time on the infrastructure, transport and economic sections of the platform.  That’s where overwhelmingly the debates will be at the conference over the next three days.  There is a focus on this from the media but delegates will be looking at the whole range of issues affecting Australia’s future.  That’s a good thing.

PHILIP CLARK: All right, good to talk to you Mr Albanese.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good to talk to you Philip.

PHILIP CLARK: Appreciate your time, thank you very much.  Anthony Albanese the Federal Transport Minister, Senior Cabinet Minister of course too on the line there.  ALP Conference starts at Darling Harbour this morning.