Subject: marriage equality.
PETER VAN ONSELEN: Today is the first day that the postal survey will start being distributed now in the wake of the High Court case from last week. Any messages that you have at this point in time that you have for Australians who might be receiving this in the next couple of days?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well the first thing would be to participate in this, what is a voluntary postal survey. It’s not the way that we would have gone about it. Labor believes we should have just had a vote of the Parliament and indeed, if the survey is carried, we will of course go back to having a vote of the Parliament because that is the only way that you can change the legislation. But given it’s on, we are in it to win it and this is an opportunity for Australians to send a message to each other and to the world that we are a country that believes in equal rights, we are a country that recognises that all love is equal and that we don’t judge other people’s relationship, we respect the fact that all that is being decided here is whether two people who love each other can express that commitment in front of their family and friends like I had the opportunity to do with my wife and you yourself Peter as well.
VAN ONSELEN: But what will be your view, what will it say about the attitude of Australians towards the political class and political leaders if the no case wins, given the Prime Minister has said vote yes, the President of the Liberal Party has said vote yes, the Opposition Leader has said vote yes, the Deputy Opposition Leader has said vote yes, former Deputy Prime Minister – yourself – is saying vote yes – if all these leading political leaders in this country are saying almost to a person vote yes, but the no vote wins, what does that say?
ALBANESE: Well I think groups that are engaged in civil society as well Peter, the AFL say yes, the National Rugby League say yes, Cricket Australia say yes, my local business association say yes, business leaders are all saying yes as well.
VAN ONSELEN: What does it say if a majority of Australians vote no and I guess what does it also say about Labor if, in the wake of all these people advocating yes, if the no vote succeeds, what does it say if you are committed to just bringing it back before Parliament anyway even if the no vote was able to succeed under such trying circumstances?
ALBANESE: Well I will make three points Peter, quickly. One is that I expect that people will vote yes. That’s what all the opinion polls are saying. The second issue that I will make is that there are a whole lot of people, including members of Parliament on both sides, members of the House of Representatives and the Senate, who voted no last time when we had a vote in the Parliament of course in 2012 and it was defeated by a majority of two to one effectively in the House of Representatives, a whole lot of people who have changed their mind over a period of time, who have said I used to be concerned about this but I have changed my mind and now I support marriage equality. I am yet to meet any colleague here in Parliament or indeed anyone in my electorate or anywhere else for that matter who has said to me I used to support marriage equality and now I don’t, I will be voting no. So history is headed one way on this.
VAN ONSELEN: When did you first advocate marriage equality?
ALBANESE: I have been advocating marriage equality for a very long time and indeed in my first speech to Parliament 21 years ago I advocated the removal of discrimination on the basis of not just sexuality, but gender, religion, ethnicity and a range of other issues as well.
VAN ONSELEN: I assumed that must be the case. Doesn’t it annoy the bejesus out of you all, of these John Come Lately politicians? Now look, if they have genuinely changed their minds, great, welcome aboard. If they have done it for political expedience reasons, I guess great, welcome aboard. It’s better than sticking to a no case if you are a yes advocate. But, you know, it must be frustrating particularly inside the Labor Party, Anthony Albanese. I mean, when you guys were in government you had a chance to do this but didn’t because Kevin Rudd wasn’t in favour of it, Julia Gillard wasn’t in favour of it. There is a whole bunch of other lily-livered Labor people who I reckon if you strapped them to a lie detector test they were in favour of it but they didn’t have the political courage to do what you did decades ago. It must be frustrating.
ALBANESE: I welcome people coming on board and a number of people have dealt with this over a long period of time. I know Kevin Rudd, for example, talked to people like Father Frank Brennan and other people of faith about whether it was consistent with his spiritual views to support marriage equality and came out with the view that yes, it was. And a number of people have wrestled with their conscience on this and they have changed their mind. It’s a good thing that people are prepared to have an open mind and to think about these issues and I am convinced that the more we talk about these issues the more people will say yes and I think that’s one of the reasons why the no campaign are raising a whole lot of issues that have nothing to do with what is actually in this voluntary postal survey. That’s why they are talking about other issues, be it Safe Schools or other issues that really aren’t relevant to this. This is a very simple issue – do people have a right to participate in the institution of marriage, which surely would strengthen that institution.
VAN ONSELEN: Well we are going to continue this debate in a moment Anthony Albanese with somebody who takes a different view on this to you. We will continuing discussing the implications. We appreciate you time on Newsday as always. Thank you very much.
ALBANESE: Good to be with you Peter. Thanks for having us.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.