Subjects; marriage equality; citizenship.
KRISTINA KENEALLY: Welcome to the program.
PETER VAN ONSELEN: I have as much faith in the Government to manage this postal vote plebiscite as I have in everything else that they have managed so far, don’t you?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well I think that Malcolm Turnbull has brought all the skills that he showed when he led the republic campaign in the late 1990s and when he was first elected Leader of the Liberal Party to the prime ministership.
VAN ONSELEN: No, he has learned from those mistakes. When he ran the republic he didn’t have faith in a postal plebiscite. He was very strongly against it. Now when it came to the republic, he’s evolved and he can see the value.
ALBANESE: Well I just think it is a humiliation for Malcolm Turnbull. He has shown that he is just not up to the job. This is now a farce whereby we apparently are going to have a plebiscite that will bind if it says no, so there won’t be any vote of the Parliament, but won’t bind if it says yes.
VAN ONSELEN: That is a joke.
ALBANESE: It is just pathetic.
KRISTINA KENEALLY: The $122 million that the Government is citing – their argument is they are giving Australians a say: to play devil’s advocate, that’s not a lot of money to spend on giving Australians an opportunity or $170 million if they manage to get the plebiscite up.
VAN ONSELEN: Can I take that one? I want to challenge that question.
KENEALLY: I’m playing devil’s advocate.
ALBANESE: I could think of a lot of community-based organisations out there who could fix up their local oval; a lot of child care centres could fix up the access to the child care centre; a lot of local governments could do a lot of local community infrastructure work – creating jobs, doing something. The point about this plebiscite, whether it is a proper one or a pretend one is that, guess what, after it is all over there’s still going to have to be a vote of the Parliament because the way that we change legislation is to vote in the Parliament and I just find it bizarre that of all the other debates we’ll have this week about education and health and social security and everything else, we won’t give Australians a say. But about something that is just giving rights to some people who don’t enjoy them, won’t impact most Australians, we are having this plebiscite.
VAN ONSELEN: Look just moving away – it’s a very partisan combat unfortunately now this issue of same-sex marriage in terms of the mechanism in particular. But stepping away from that for a moment, can you agree with at least, or partially agree Anthony Albanese with this, I didn’t like the plebiscite. Labor didn’t like it. There’s a multitude of reasons why. But, were they to argue that their position now is to take it to the Senate a second time or even take it to the Senate a third time if they want to be particularly belligerent on this, that’s one thing because they took it to an election. I didn’t think they should, but they did. What I have a real issue with looking at it now is that they somehow are trying to morph an election promise to hold a proper plebiscite, whether you agree or disagree with it, into this somehow countenancing the equivalent of sticking to that if they have this disaster that is the postal plebiscite, as opposed to just saying you know what, we don’t like Labor blocking it, we think we had a mandate but hey, we tried three times so now we are going to move on to a free vote and we are still annoyed as hell that Labor didn’t recognise our mandate. I mean …
ALBANESE: It’s pathetic. And the idea that there’s a mandate, the idea that the plebiscite for marriage equality was the reason why the Government won; that people when they went into the polling booths said I would vote Labor but I really want a say on marriage equality, so therefore I will vote for the Coalition, is just quite frankly absurd. They put it up. They lost. Under those circumstances you then move on. They’ve fulfilled the requirement of their commitment that they made. They don’t seem to worry about any other commitments at all. All those people that have had their pensions cut and had their wages cut, had their penalty rates cut; they’ll all be scratching their head going, why is it that this is the one thing that they say they’re going to get stuck on? Let’s face it, frankly it was a stupid idea in the first place. Malcolm Turnbull argued against it in the party room as did anyone else with a slight modicum of common sense.
KENEALLY: Can I ask you on another issue that we understand will be happening in the Senate today; potentially a referral of Malcolm Roberts to the High Court. He’s not producing the documents to show that he was an eligible Australian- only citizen at the time of the election. Do you think he should be referred to the High Court and, secondly, should there be an audit of all senators to determine their eligibility?
ALBANESE: That of course will be a matter for the Senate. Quite clearly there’s an issue with Malcolm Roberts. There’s an issue himself, I’ve seen him, I think it might have even been on Sky, giving himself up essentially about the date in which he renounced his citizenship and when he got the information from the British Government. Under those circumstances of course it’s appropriate for it to be referred.
KENEALLY: Should the Government support that referral?
ALBANESE: That’s a matter for them but the Senate should.
KENEALLY: What does it say about the Government if they don’t support that referral?
ALBANESE: Well the Government’s all over the shop on everything; that it’s inconsistent, that it’s all about politics, none of it’s about policy, none of it’s about substance. This is a Government that has stopped governing. They now may as well just have party room meetings and we can all broadcast that and we can all watch. But the joke’s on the Australian people because it is the Australian people who are suffering from the fact that this Government just simply can’t get its act together.
VAN ONSELEN: Just back on same-sex marriage though, it is a fact, is it not, that if Labor, albeit with regrets, had allowed the initial plebiscite through the Senate we’d have same-sex marriage by now?
ALBANESE: But at what cost, Peter?
VAN ONSELEN: At the cost of avoiding this.
KENEALLY: At the cost of about $170 million.
ALBANESE: The fact is this isn’t our creation; this is the Government’s creation. At a cost of $170 million, but it’s not the money I’ve got to say that most concerns me. That’s an issue, but the real issue is the impact on young gay and lesbians out there coming to terms with their sexuality, a divisive debate…
VAN ONSELEN: I get that, but that debate has happened anyway, and continued, and been elongated as a result of not having done it quickly and sharply and you might not have liked it, and I didn’t like it, but at least it would have been over by now.
ALBANESE: The concentration that will be on whether there’s a plebiscite under voting in booths methodology, or whether there’s a postal vote, will be intense. We’ll see it. I saw it in my electorate during the last campaign. They didn’t worry about the electorate of Grayndler but because of the redistribution I’m in Barton. They thought there was a chance of unseating Linda Burney and quite frankly some of the material that went out in that electorate was just completely offensive and we’re already seeing that offensive material being circulated.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.