Subjects: Marriage equality; Omnibus Savings Bill; Newspoll
BOLT: Anthony, thank you so much for your time.
ALBANESE: Good evening Andrew.
BOLT: Given everything that Labor has said about this plebiscite to date, will it now finally decide: No, it cannot back plebiscite?
ALBANESE: I think that is certainly most likely. We’ll wait and see the legislation before caucus meets and makes a determination, but I haven’t heard anyone arguing on the Labor side, or indeed in my local community, that the idea of a plebiscite is a great idea. It’s $170 million or thereabouts. It won’t change anything. You’ll still need to have a parliamentary vote. We’re not having parliamentary votes about superannuation, education, health – issues that impact all Australians – and we have to remember that what we are talking about here won’t affect most people. It will just give some people who happen to be same-sex couples and want to have a lifetime commitment to each other through the institution of marriage the right to have that.
BOLT: And what would you like Labor to decide?
ALBANESE: I am an opponent of the plebiscite. I see no reason why of all issues this should be singled out. I see that as discriminatory in itself. This is just a fix for the issues that were there inside the Coalition Party room and I see no reason why Members of Parliament aren’t able to vote, just as we voted to change the Marriage Act under John Howard; just like we vote on individual issues in the Parliament each and every day and I think that it is incumbent upon us to play our role as members of the House of Representatives or the Senate.
BOLT: So that leads you to a conundrum. I mean, you are saying it’s got to be decided by politicians. The Liberals are saying no, it’s a plebiscite. So if the plebiscite doesn’t get up, you’ve got nothing. There will be no same-sex marriage in this term of government. Are you happy with that?
ALBANESE: Well I would prefer for there to be. But that’s an issue for the Government. There should be a conscience vote. I’ve been consistent on this for a long time Andrew including taking positions such as supporting a conscience vote. I respect the fact that some people disagree with my position on marriage equality. I’ll fight very hard for their right to do that and that is why I support a conscience vote of the Parliament. But if the Government chooses to block the right of members of Parliament to vote on this issue, well that will be a decision for them.
BOLT: OK. I don’t get why Labor thinks the Australian public is so full of hatred and so bigoted it can’t be trusted with a public vote.
ALBANESE: Well, that’s not the issue Andrew. This issue is: Why is this issue being singled out so that we have a debate and cast a judgement essentially on people’s family status? The fact is that we don’t have plebiscites on anything. You know, we’ve had a plebiscite on conscription way back a hundred years ago. We’ve had some referendums from time to time to change the Constitution. What we don’t do is have government-funded opinion polls with government-funded campaigns for or against a proposition that won’t change a vote in the Parliament. It won’t change the legislation. You can’t get marriage equality through a plebiscite. The only way that you can get marriage equality is through a vote of the Parliament.
BOLT: Well you say it’s just a simple issue about the sovereignty of Parliament – you know the ability of politicians to decide these things but in fact Bill Shorten yesterday said he was against because gays would kill themselves. I thought that was terrible moral blackmail. You can’t be comfortable with that kind of language, surely? I mean, we don’t need that.
ALBANESE: There’s no doubt Andrew that there has been some divisive debate. During the recent federal election campaign I know that some of the material distributed to my home, that happens to be in Barton after the redistribution, caused a great deal of angst. It was about issues that don’t relate to marriage equality but indeed about what some people regard to be the nature of homosexuality, and it was homophobic material that was distributed during the election campaign in a range of electorates and indeed some people have made it clear that during any plebiscite they would campaign not on the issue of marriage equality, but on the nature of people’s sexuality and whether that was a perversion of what they see as the natural order of things. Now that would be a divisive debate. here’s no question about that.
BOLT: All debates are divisive. But you’ve already said that was occurring even before any plebiscite – that kind of thing. A no case is really about the nature of marriage and whether weakening this tradition is good for family cohesiveness or not. No-one is going to be funding with taxpayers’ money the kind of propaganda that you are talking about.
ALBANESE: And the point that you just put is of course a perfectly legitimate point. It is not one that I agree with. But I certainly respect the view and understand the view that some people have put to me which is that they regard marriage as not a civil institution, but essentially a religious institution and two people being joined together under God’s authority rather than the authority of the state. And under those circumstances I understand that people will come to different conclusions to where I come from on this issue. But the fact is that whether there is a plebiscite or not, there will be a parliamentary vote. So why would you – I agree with you in terms of it taking up too much time in terms of front and centre. The main issues that concern Australians – the nature of the economy, where jobs are going to coming from, education, health, infrastructure – all of those issues we are not taking to a plebiscite, we are not engaging in national debate on. What we are doing is singling out this one issue that does impact on some people. I met rainbow families today. They were visiting here in Parliament House and they were very clear that they don’t want a plebiscite, that they would prefer, if that means a delay in something that I think really is inevitable that it will occur, then that was something that they were prepared to live with. And as someone who is not affected directly by this – I’ve got a right to be married – then I will also listen to those people who do have direct consequences for their relationships as a result of whether marriage equality is allowed or not. It seems to me that if you support the institution of marriage, I don’t know why you wouldn’t want more people to sign up to it.
BOLT: So rather a delay than a plebiscite. Well. Today, Labor and the Liberals – switching to the more important things that you mentioned – Labor and the Liberals reached a deal to save $6.3 billion over four years. Now that’s about only $1.5 billion a year, let’s not get carried away here. The deficit this year – this year alone – is tipped to be $37 billion. This really is fiddling at the edges isn’t it?
ALBANESE: Well, you can certainly argue that Andrew, but this is a government that has tripled the deficit since they came to office and have increased the debt burden substantially. What we have shown today is that we are prepared to be constructive and we’ve put forward – it was Labor that initiated a number of the savings that are in place as a result of the deal essentially today – but at the same time protected fairness.
I was very concerned that some of the poorest people in our community – pensioners, single parents, disability support pensioners, the unemployed – would get a real cut in their income. And when you have had the Business Council of Australia arguing that the dole at the moment is too low in terms of for people to subsist on, then I think the idea of a further real cut was a draconian measure and I am pleased that that has been taken off the table. I also think that it was against the macroeconomic argument. When you have monetary policy – the Reserve Bank lowering interest rates to stimulate the economy – then fiscal policy shouldn’t be contractionary and work against monetary policy.
ALBANESE: It‘s got to work hand in hand. And of course the poorer you are – if you are a pensioner you spend your money, you don’t save it.
BOLT: It’s just that we’ve got a $37 billion, staring at a $37 billion deficit this year alone, and probably going to blow out, let’s be honest, and this deal would cut $1.5 billion a year. Where’s the next tranche of savings coming from? Is this it for Labor? You’ve closed the kitty? That’s no more? No more cuts?
ALBANESE: No, well we put forward, Bill Shorten at the National Press Club put forward, $80 billion worth of savings that Labor has proposed – constructive positions on superannuation – tough decisions that we were prepared to argue the case for on capital gains tax and negative gearing. We’ve shown that …
BOLT: Yes but they are all tax rises. I am talking about spending cuts. But listen, we’ve had that debate before I guess. Anthony, today Newspoll came out and had the Government and Labor tied at 50-50. Now personally I think the way the government has been going you should be way ahead. Why aren’t you?
ALBANESE: Well, we’ve just been though of course an election and what is extraordinary is that last week I don’t think was Labor’s finest and we’re still on 50-50. The Government didn’t receive a bounce at all and I think they would have been very disappointed by that. Malcolm Turnbull got to strut the world stage in China in Hangzhou.
BOLT: You had Dastyari.
ALBANESE: Exactly. Those things normally will reflect well on a government.
BOLT: There was also an Essential Poll to be fair out today that had Labor at 52 per cent, the Government at 48 – which is a pretty good lead. I was more interested in this finding Anthony: 45 per cent of voters actually want the Racial Discrimination Act reformed to allow more free speech. Just 35 percent against and even Labor voters are basically divided – 39 percent for, 42 per cent against changing the Racial Discrimination Act. This is without any leadership from the political class apart from Cory Bernardi and those backbench Liberal senators. Why can’t Labor support more free speech?
ALBANESE: Well, I of course am a great supporter of free speech as is the Labor Party. But what we always come back to here is what is it that people want to say that they’re not allowed to say at the moment?
BOLT: Well, they (inaudible) allowed to say things like in two of my columns that have been banned Anthony and I’d tell you exactly what I wanted to say, but I can’t. So there’s two. And the students at Qld University of Technology, seven students sued under this Act.
ALBANESE: Well yes. But in terms of the action and what the consequences are of course of that are still playing out. Look, we do need some common sense here. But we also need I think to avoid circumstances whereby we have a big debate, and I still haven’t seen, you are unable to tell me what it is that was cut out of your columns. I still haven’t heard ….
BOLT: But that is because they are banned and that’s exactly the problem you know. I could tell you what you can’t say except I would be sued if I did Anthony. This is the problem.
ALBANESE: I think Andrew, with respect, the idea that you don’t have freedom of speech – you have this show that I appear on regularly. You have had shows on commercial TV.
BOLT: You are missing the point.
ALBANESE: You are we well regarded columnist at the Herald Sun, you have a blog. I think the idea …
BOLT: So you think if I can talk about the weather that means I can talk about anything?
ALBANESE I think you have freedom of speech, Andrew. That’s what I think.
BOLT: Not on this issue. I might have these platforms. I can’t speak on this issue. The Queensland students don’t have these platforms and they can’t either – seven of them sued, three of them had to pay go-away money, three are before the courts now. That cannot be the Labor way.
ALBANESE: Well, I think Andrew in terms of freedom of speech and an ability of people for people to express themselves, with social media, with the number of platforms that are out there, I don’t think there’s been a, well I know, it is a fact that never in human history have individuals had an opportunity like they have to day to get their views out there into the public.
BOLT: Well, and then they get sued for it. But Anthony Albanese we’ll further that discussion elsewhere. I thank you very much for coming on tonight.
ALBANESE: Good to be with you Andrew.