Subjects: Marriage equality
SABRA LANE: To discuss the campaign we are joined by Government frontbencher Zed Seselja, who will be voting no, and Labor frontbencher Anthony Albanese, who will be voting yes. Gentlemen, to you both, thank you very much for joining us.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good morning.
ZED SESELJA: Good morning Sabra.
LANE: A quick pitch from both of you. Zed Seselja, why are you voting no?
SESELJA: Well first can I say what a great thing it is that the Australian people will get to have their say, but I will be voting no and for a couple of key reasons. One, I think that marriage between a man and a woman is an institution that has stood the test of time and I think one of the reasons for that is because of the unique and complementary nature of the male-female relationship.
It is no reflection on single people, it is no reflection on people in same-sex relationships to say that marriage is unique and I would say that when you redefine marriage as it has been traditionally understood there are a range of obvious consequences. We have seen in other countries how it affects freedom of speech, freedom of religion and, most importantly I think, parental rights when it comes to decisions about teachings on things like human sexuality. We’ve seen a number of those cases overseas …
LANE: A quick pitch that was supposed to be. Anthony Albanese.
ALBANESE: This is a fundamental human rights issue. It’s about one thing and one thing only – whether two people who love each other, who want to express that commitment to each other in front of family and friends can do so, regardless of whether they happen to be in a same-sex relationship or a heterosexual relationship and with regard to relationships, they are complex and who is anyone to judge someone else’s relationship?
LANE: Zed Seselja, the Deputy Prime Minister says the same-sex marriage campaigners are in his face about this. What do you think?
SESELJA: It’s obviously been pretty aggressive. I think there has been a suggestion by many, not all, same-sex marriage campaigners that those who are opposed to redefining marriage are somehow bigoted or homophobic. I reject that. I think the Deputy Prime Minister was making that point. I think some of the language that is being used – even yesterday we saw Ben Law and his very violent, I think, tweet on this issue yet he is given a platform on our national broadcaster to talk about why Safe Schools should be rolled out. So yes, I think there has been a lot of aggressive language and a lot of people who don’t support redefining marriage feel, I guess, afraid to speak up because they might be called a homophobe or a bigot.
LANE: Anthony Albanese, on that point, there is a large portion of Australia that is still deeply conservative and not comfortable with this idea. Does that make them bigots?
ALBANESE: It certainly doesn’t. I respect people who have different views on this issue. I certainly understand that some people of faith regard marriage as not a civil institution but as something that is a consecration from God. For those people it is not, therefore, about the role of the state if you like. But the fact is we are secular country and what we shouldn’t do is seek to impose that view on others and that’s why marriage equality being granted in this country will not affect anyone’s existing relationship. It will not have any impact on the role of churches and what they can do or can’t do. It will simply mean that one group of society who currently don’t enjoy the rights that I enjoyed when I married my wife in front of my family and friends are able to do so.
LANE: Zed Seselja, this is a debate about marriage and I’m interested, no campaigners are talking about all sorts of other issues; you mentioned Safe Schools before; political correctness, you know, if you don’t like political correctness vote no, that this is about protecting children. They are all pretty negative campaigning points. Why is that and why drag in those other issues?
SESELJA: I think the yes campaigners can’t have it both ways. They can’t say that look, this is happening in many other like-minded countries like Canada and the UK and New Zealand and then when examples are used of some of the flow on consequences in those countries they say well it’s nothing to do with that. Well in the court cases, if you look at them where there is parental rights and other things that have been considered, the issue of same-sex marriage has been cited very strongly as a reason why parents shouldn’t be able to object to a Safe Schools-like agenda. That has been seen as a logical flow-on consequence. So if you are going to argue that other countries are doing it and therefore we should, it’s very reasonable to point to some of the examples in those other countries where there have been negative flow-on consequences as I would see them and I think many Australians would see them.
ALBANESE: It’s a weakness of the merit of the argument, the fact that the no campaign has had to raise issues that have nothing to do with the question that is before this voluntary postal ballot, nothing to do with it at all. With regard to children of same-sex couples, I’ve got news for Zed and other people from the no campaign – there are children of same-sex couples out there now. And you know what marriage would do for their parents? It would give them the same legitimacy, rights as people who have a mum and a dad. This is about respect and it is about acknowledging that we are a diverse society and giving respect and equal rights to a loving relationship regardless of its makeup.
SESELJA: Sabra I might respond to that because again, and Anthony has done it there and many others on the yes side have, they refuse to address those arguments so there is…
ALBANESE: Because they are not relevant.
SESELJA: Well why are they not relevant?
ALBANESE: Because they’re not relevant. It’s got nothing to do with the question. It’s got nothing to do with the question that’s put forward.
SESELJA: Well if you let me finish. They are relevant to people like Steve Tourloukis who said; I don’t want my kids having safe schools type agenda in the schools. And he was told; well now that we’ve got same-sex marriage in Canada you can no longer object because your rights as a parent are trumped by equality. That’s the flow on and we’ve seen similar things in the UK. So these are the examples and I don’t hear either Anthony or anyone actually addressing those questions.
LANE: A quick rebuttal and then we’re moving on.
ALBANESE: Because they are nonsense. The truth is that just as in the UK and New Zealand and Taiwan and all these countries, Ireland, that have marriage equality, people will wake up in the morning after we have marriage equality and wonder what all the fuss was about. This is coming – I’ve met a lot of people who say, I used to not support marriage equality; I do now. I haven’t met a single person who says, I used to support marriage equality and I’ve changed my mind the other way. This is about history moving forward, recognising the diversity in our community and granting equal respect.
LANE: All right, the ballot papers have gone out from today. From both of you quickly, protections around the campaign material proper – they’re not done yet, they’re not through Parliament. How confident are you that there’s going to be an agreement that the rules will be strong enough to stop any vilification happening during the campaign? Zed Seselja?
SESELJA: Well look I would certainly hope there would be good faith discussions. I’m told there are good faith discussions going on in the Parliament to make sure that the usual rules that apply at election time would apply. That’s what would have happened if it got through the Parliament, of course that wasn’t possible because Labor and the Greens and others voted against it in the Senate. So we’ve gone down a different path to give the people their say. I would certainly hope on that question that agreement can be reached between both sides of politics.
ALBANESE: We didn’t want this expensive voluntary postal vote process .We think Parliament should have just done its job. And at the end of the process, of course, Parliament will still have to do its job on the legislation. That’s the way that the marriage act will be changed but, nonetheless, we’re acting very constructively in trying to put around a framework that will provide as much protection as possible.
LANE: Gentlemen; Zed Seselja, Anthony Albanese thanks very much for joining AM this morning.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.