Subject: marriage equality.
DAVID SPEERS: Another supporter of same sex marriage, Anthony Albanese, who is with us, actually not from Sydney but from Melbourne this morning. Thanks for your time. Your electorate, not surprisingly, voted fairly strongly in support. What do you make of the overall result?
ALBANESE: This is a great day. We’ve said that it’s time for equality and that time is here. Now, we need to legislate and we need to to get it done as a matter of urgency, it’s time to stop the games now. The fact is that today’s result – notwithstanding the fact that Lyle Shelton is still holding out hope of resistance down the track – human rights progress and they progress in one direction. From time to time there is pushback, an attempt to hold that progress up. From time to time reactionaries even try to push it back, but the truth is that the march towards equality and removing discrimination on the basis of race, gender, sexuality, does go forward and marriage equality is unfinished business.
In my first term, I introduced a Private Member’s Bill to give same-sex couples equal rights on superannuation. I couldn’t even get it debated properly and voted upon on the floor of the Parliament. It was seen as radical legislation. We got all that done in the Labor Government, with some 84 pieces of legislation that removed discrimination in immigration and health, in social security, a range of areas. But this is the last piece in the puzzle, it needs to be fixed and it will be.
I congratulate those senators from across the spectrum. Dean Smith has put forward this Bill, it has been through a process of the Senate committee. To get a unanimous recommendation is pretty hard in the Parliament today, given the adversarial nature of politics. But it’s there, it’s been considered it has protections in it, let’s just get it done.
SPEERS: Let me just ask you on those Labor seats in western and south- western Sydney, who voted very strongly, perhaps the strongest against same sex marriage – seats held by the likes of Jason Clare, Chris Bowen, Tony Burke and so on. Is that because of the strong Muslim population there do you believe?
ALBANESE: It’s not just the strong Muslim population. The Orthodox Christian community in particular had a very strong position about this issue and advocated strongly for a No vote. I think it reflects in areas like Parramatta as well, it reflects the diversity that’s there. But essentially the religious-based, faith-based organisations, whether they be Islamic or Christian, campaigned strongly and had those views. The issue of religious freedom is …
SPEERS: In those communities now, what sort of protections should they have to maintain that religious view? You know those who may be servicing, potentially servicing, same-sex weddings?
ALBANESE: They don’t have to under the Smith bill of course. They don’t have to – be it religious ministers, don’t have to solemnise a marriage between same sex couples. Religious-based structures, churches or mosques, or even buildings, don’t have to participate.
SPEERS: And that goes far enough? You wouldn’t extend that to the people who aren’t actually of the cloth?
ALBANESE: No. I think the protections that are there in the Smith bill have been thought through. I’m a strong supporter, as you know David, of a conscience vote being a process. I’m a strong supporter of religious liberty. I think the question of religious liberty should be viewed very separately from the issue of marriage equality. You know it’s not just about the rights of gay and lesbian people and whether religious institutions have a right to have views. I think that it is unfortunate that those issues have been mixed up, or attempted to be mixed up by Senator Patterson, who frankly, I had barely heard of – puts up a Bill that no one, I certainly haven’t seen, he hasn’t attempted to show anyone. I don’t know whether there is a bill or not. But Senator Smith’s Bill has been around for many months. We now have had a survey that’s produced exactly what we thought it would do. I think one of the things that will happen here David is that – I will make a prediction to you. If I’m on your program, which I hope to be in a few months’ time, we won’t even be talking about this issue because it won’t impact most Australians. It won’t impact people’s right to practise their faith.
All it will mean is that some people who now don’t have the opportunity to celebrate their lifelong commitment to their partner, who happens to be of the same gender as them, because of their sexuality, will be able to do it in front of their family and their friends. Won’t that be a great thing? I look forward to going to more weddings in the next year.
SPEERS. I’m sure, Anthony Albanese, there will be plenty in your electorate. We just flashed up the results for Grayndler and 79.9 per cent voting yes, about 20 per cent voting no.
ALBANESE: My local council, David, under the Mayor Darcy Byrne, has decreed that within 100 days of the legislation being passed, all the council buildings, town halls etcetera, will be made available free of charge for same sex weddings. I think it will be very good for the economy and for jobs as well, in terms of – as the Shadow Tourism Minister, Australia has now become a great destination once the legislation has passed, and won’t that be a good thing.
SPEERS: Anthony Albanese we will have to leave it there, but thank you very much for joining us this morning as this result is digested.
ALBANESE: Thanks very much, it’s a great day.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.