Subjects; Marriage equality; Sam Dastyari
KIERAN GILBERT: Back to our top story now. With me is senior Labor frontbencher Anthony Albanese, someone who has argued for legalisation of same-sex marriage for a long, long time and you are even offering to DJ weddings?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, I am available. It will be fantastic. Weddings are great. A couple of weeks ago Alan Griffin got married and I was down there with him and Gabrielle.
It was such a joyous occasion and it’s a celebration of a commitment between two people in front of their family and friends and won’t it be a good thing that more people can now do it?
GILBERT: You said earlier this morning and something that resonated with me was there were only a couple moments over the last few decades that really stand out. The Apology was one.
GILBERT: And then this one. It was just extraordinary, the jubilation, but also a sense of relief I think for many of those affected.
ALBANESE: We’ve got to remember that in 1978 when the first Mardi Gras happened – celebrating 40 years next March – people marched not to cheers. They marched for basic, fundamental human rights and they marched into a police cordon that assaulted them, arrested them.
We have come such a long way as a country and for so many people who have directly felt, for them and their families discrimination, not in any academic sense, which you and I would be sympathetic to, but in a real personal sense.
For them you could just see a burden lifted off them and last night the Kingston Hotel was the place to be and just seeing the sheer joy on people’s faces was just great.
GILBERT: If you look back over the years back to Bill Hayden I think it was in the late 60s …
GILBERT: He started, well within Labor he started, he was really pushing for decriminalistion and better treatment.
ALBANESE: Yes, when it was really tough.
GILBERT: That would have been very tough.
ALBANESE: As a former Queensland policeman who saw that real impact of discrimination and raised it. People like him were trailblazers.
In New South Wales, Frank Walker made an enormous difference as the Attorney-General in the in the Wran Government. Right around, wherever you look, people have taken big steps. I spoke in the Parliament …
GILBERT: But even in your party, you and Penny Wong and others have had to fight …
ALBANESE: It wasn’t always a consensus view Kieran, let me tell you.
GILBERT: I remember it.
ALBANESE: It was pretty tough. But people like Paul O’Grady who was the first MP in Australia to come out, who had a lot of vilification as a result of that. I told that story in my contribution this week.
I think for all of those people it’s a fantastic thing and what we have seen is just over a period of time people get on board, people think about it and I think for those people who have changed their mind – even in 2012 we had a vote in the Parliament.
Many people have said to me over the recent weeks: “Gee, why didn’t you put it to the Parliament when you were in Government?’’ We did. It didn’t have a majority. Forty-two members. So many people who voted ‘no’ then voted ‘yes’ yesterday in the Parliament.
That is a good thing – that people are prepared to think through these issues and change their mind and I give credit to all those who did that. I respect those who disagree as well.
GILBERT: Because there were millions who did – who voted no.
ALBANESE: Absolutely. And their views have to be respected. But I think what will happen over a period of time – we have seen it already – so many people have said to me “I used to not support marriage equality; now I do’’. No-one has ever said to me the phrase: “I used to support marriage equality; now I don’t’’.
GILBERT: We spoke of the Apology and both occasions really, a fairness is at the heart of both of those occasions.
ALBANESE: That is right.
GILBERT: What do you think it is that sees the Parliament at its best like that? In your view, as you reflect on it as a veteran of this place now, how do you reflect that?
ALBANESE: I think yesterday was a historical moment in the Parliament. I argue as a progressive that history does move forward. From time to time, conservatives will argue for the status quo and reactionaries will try and push it back.
But progress is made in human rights. The march toward equality isn‘t easy and it takes people to make it happen. It takes activists to make it happen. But it does happen over a period of time.
If you think about in our lifetime we have seen – well in my lifetime I’ve seen – I was too young to remember it of course – but the recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders wasn’t even there. We’ve seen changes in attitudes toward gay and lesbian people.
The sort of racist attitudes that might have just been taken for granted decades ago are now unacceptable. We are talking about ways to recognise the First Australians in the Constitution. All of these issues are important.
My predecessor as the Member for Grayndler, Jeanette McHugh, was the first woman elected from New South Wales to the House of Representatives.
Eighty three years, not a single woman elected from the biggest state to the House of Representatives. Yesterday follows the 84 pieces of legislation we amended to remove discrimination against same-sex couples and people who happen to be LGBTI.
GILBERT: This is the final bastion of it?
ALBANESE: This is it.
GILBERT: Alright. We’ll just do a quick one on another matter given the big focus on that historic moment yesterday but Sam Dastyari could be in a bit of trouble here with a Privileges Committee referral from the Attorney.
ALBANESE: Well, I am not aware of what happened in the Senate.
GILBERT: It happened late last night.
ALBANESE: I was at the Kingston Hotel by then Kieran, celebrating the outcome.
GILBERT: But Senator Dastyari – it must be so frustrating for senior figures in the party to sort of have to mop this up?
ALBANESE: Senator Dastyari concedes that he made mistake. He has paid a price for it. The idea that we will have an ongoing attacks on Senator Dastyari – I think the Government needs to get on with governing and one of the things that they need to do is less politics and more governing. If I could give them that bit of helpful advice for 2018, that would be it.
I think people are sick of the tit-for-tat and one of the things that happened yesterday, I think, was that people look at the Parliament acting as it should, not trying to play politics or score points, but trying to get reform done. That’s what happened.
GILBERT: But it’s a big criticism of Senator Dastyari, acting against the national interest. I mean that is not an everyday political scalp.
ALBANESE: One of the things that I am concerned about with this issue is how some of this information got out there. It seems to me that Senator Dastyari is accused of talking about national security to someone but the Government, including the Attorney-General have been talking about national security to everyone, including on your television program.
GILBERT: Mr Albanese, appreciate your time. Thanks.
ALBANESE: Good to be with you.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.