Subjects; marriage equality, republic.
PRESENTER: It is that time on a Wednesday morning when we are joined by Christopher Pyne and Anthony Albanese for Two Tribes. Good morning to you both.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Good morning Will, good morning Grant, and Anthony.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good morning Will, good morning Commissioner.
GRANT STEVENS, SOUTH AUSTRALIAN POLICE COMMISSIONER: Pleasure to be talking to you gentlemen.
ALBANESE: See I know when it’s appropriate to suck up to authority.
PYNE: That’s because you’re used to being in trouble with the law.
ALBANESE: I bet you you’re not in the studio.
PYNE: No, I’m not in the studio.
PRESENTER: Read into that what you will, let’s turn our attention to issues in Canberra gentlemen, and Christopher, starting with you. Are you expecting at the party room meeting next Tuesday for this potential backbench private members bill regarding same sex marriage to be debated?
PYNE: Well Dean Smith, who’s a senator from WA, has indicated that he wants to have a discussion about a Private Member’s Bill and that’s a matter for him if he wishes to raise that in the party room. We have of course got a policy which is to support a national vote, so that every Australian has a say in whether we have marriage equality. I’m in favour of marriage equality and I would vote yes if there was a plebiscite for marriage equality. But we want every Australian to have a say in that decision because it’s a big social change.
PRESENTER: Christopher can I get a sense then, from what has come out in the media over the course of the last week, there seems to be a very strong feeling within the party that should a Private Member’s Bill be put to the House, and people like Tim Wilson cross the floor, that is an indication that the Prime Minister has lost control over the parliamentary team. Do you except that is a reasonable criticism should that come to pass?
PYNE: No, that’s complete rubbish, and everyone knows that who’s involved in the parliamentary process. When Anthony was the Leader of the House in the Gillard Government, Labor lost 76 votes on the floor of the House of Representatives and the media didn’t even bat an eyelid. So let’s not get too carried away with some of the commentary. The reality is that we have a policy and the policy is that we support a national vote, and we could have one tomorrow if Bill Shorten wasn’t standing in the way. So ironically, the people who actually also support marriage equality, most of the Labor Party, are led by a man who’s actually stopping a plebiscite from occurring by voting against it in the Senate and as a consequence we haven’t got marriage equality. We could have had it by now. We could have had the vote in February.
PRESENTER: To you then Anthony Albanese, should this, the Dean Smith bill eventuate, and with the support of some of the Libs, is the plebiscite going to be something that is just purely an academic debate come a couple of weeks’ time.
ALBANESE: Well it is already. It’s dead. It’s gone. Buried. Cremated. Never coming back. No one supports it. It was a joke when it was put up. It was put up to block a vote on marriage equality. Christopher opposed it being put up when it was put up. It’s not going to happen. Marriage equality will happen after a vote of the Parliament, and even if a plebiscite had have happened, it would still require a vote of the Parliament. There was no point to it except to have a damaging and divisive debate that would hurt people. So the truth is that there will be a parliamentary vote. The real question is does it happen now, or does it happen during the next term, and common sense tells you that it should happen now. The Liberal Party have tried to implement their policy, they’ve tried to get a plebiscite through, and the Senate didn’t support it.
PRESENTER: So Albo then what’s your message to Dean Smith? What’s your message? Introduce it and get this happening?
ALBANESE: Good on you. I think it’s in the Liberal Party’s interests and the Government’s interests to get this issue dealt with. It certainly is in the nation’s interests. This is a piece of legislation that will give some rights to people who happen to be in same-sex relationships who currently don’t have the same rights that I enjoy, and Christopher enjoys, and other people have been able to marry the person that they love. It won’t impact on the overwhelming majority of Australians, and people will wonder what the fuss was about. But it shouldn’t be held hostage to the internal politics of the Liberal Party.
PRESENTER: Christopher Pyne, what’s your personal position on the prospect of a non-compulsory postal vote to satisfy the plebiscite pledge?
PYNE: Well we have a policy to have a national vote. Now how that is brought about is a matter for the Cabinet and for the party room.
PRESENTER: Do you have a view?
PYNE: Well of course I have a view and I express those views internally within the party and will continue to do so. I am sure there will be a discussion about this next week. But the reality is we want to have a national vote. We want every Australian to feel they are part of the decision-making process. It’s a very popular policy. That is what the public voted for at the last election. In fact Bill Shorten indicated that he supported the plebiscite. And Nick Xenophon indicated that he supported a plebiscite. So if anybody has changed their position it is Bill Shorten and Nick Xenophon. They are the two people who stopped it happening.
ALBANESE: That’s a good attempt by Christopher to actually put the blame on us. They are the Government and the fact is there is not a single person in – I represent an electorate that has a substantial gay and lesbian population – there is not a single person has said to me: “Gee I wish you had of voted for the plebiscite”. Not one in my electorate or anywhere in Australia for that matter has said that to me. No-one who is directly affected by this wants a plebiscite.
PRESENTER: Speaking of Bill Shorten Anthony Albanese, I might introduce the Police Commissioner here, Grant Stevens, with in regard to a promise that was made last weekend about an age-old question in this country.
STEVENS: Yes, thank you Will. I am just a bit curious about the views you gentlemen night have about the republic. It is now back on the agenda and it is now a point of discussion. Chris, what are your thoughts?
PYNE: Well Grant I am in favour of the republic. I supported the referendum in 1999, in fact campaigned for it and got a yes vote in my electorate of Sturt and I organised the Coalition republicans at the time in the party room. I think it is an issue that we dealt with in 1999. I am sure it will come back on the agenda at some point, but I don’t think that the public have an appetite for discussing the republic while our head of state remains Queens Elizabeth II. But I think it is some years into the future; they will be prepared to discuss it again.
STEVENS: Albo, what is your view?
ALBANESE: Well I think its time has come and what we are arguing for here is a two-stage process whereby Australians would be asked do they support Australia becoming a republic with an Australian head of state. So you have that settled and then we can have a national discussion about the model. I think it is a common sense position to advance this issue. I certainly have every respect for the Queen. I think she is a remarkable person and I was very pleased to have the honour of meeting her. That doesn’t mean that I don’t think that an Australian should be our head of state. So I don’t think the two things are contradictory at all and I think that Australians should be given the opportunity to advance the republic.
STEVENS: Maybe for the benefit of the people listening, how does an issue like this, the republic, find its way into the debate at this point in time? What is the catalyst for bringing this up now?
ALBANESE: I think that fact that it has been off the agenda for a while and someone had to. I mean, someone has got to show leadership in this country and Labor is showing leadership from Opposition. The fact is that it did fail last time. Malcolm Turnbull brought all the skills that he has showed in his prime ministership to running the campaign last time round and simply wasn’t able to get the job done. But it is just time. It is increasingly an anachronism to have someone as a head of state who inherits the position; someone who lives on the other side of the world. We are a very different nation today from the one that we were at the time of Federation and this is a modern reform just as … (inaudible) countries around the world. It is still the case that when you attend a formal gathering as a head of state, there’s something that irks when you toast the head of state of the United States or any other nation in our region, and then the return of serve is to toast the Queen of Australia. It jars with people.
PRESENTER: You phone is dropping out a bit there Albo. We might leave it there. Thank you very much.