Sep 11, 2017

Transcript of television interview – Today Show

Subjects; marriage equality, postal vote survey, citizenship

LISA WILKINSON: Welcome back to the show. Well it is official the High Court has ruled that the same-sex marriage postal vote will go ahead. But will the Government citizenship crackdown make it through the Senate?

For more I’m joined now by the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, Peter Dutton, and Shadow Infrastructure and Transport Minister Anthony Albanese. Good morning to both of you.

PETER DUTTON: Good morning.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good to be here.

WILKINSON: It’s lovely to have you both here. Thank you for coming to Queensland just for us. Now, Peter; day one of the official campaign on same-sex marriage. It has already turned ugly with yes and no campaigners clashing outside a church in Brisbane. This is not the respectful debate that you were hoping for.

DUTTON: Of course it’s not, Lisa, and Albo and I would be on a unity ticket to say to both sides to the extremes; conduct yourself in a reasonable way, have a respectful discussion. People can have their points of view. They can argue for or against the change but do it respectfully and within the law. I think that’s what most Australians would want.

WILKINSON: Are you surprise by what happened last night Albo?

ALBANESE: Well unfortunately I’m not. That was one of the concerns that we had about a plebiscite or a postal vote is that there would be division in the community. But I’d say this; that it doesn’t advance the cause either for marriage equality or against marriage equality for people to behave disrespectfully. You can have different points of view without engaging in that sort of behaviour.

WILKINSON: Peter have you decided how you’re going to be voting?

DUTTON: Well Lisa I’ve said for a long time, for me personally, I don’t support a change so I will vote no. But I’ve advocated the postal plebiscite, or the plebiscite before that, because I wanted people to have their say and that was the election promise that we gave at the last election.

So if a majority of Australian support change, that is if they vote in favour of same-sex marriage, I’ve said that I will vote for it in the Parliament, so respect that democratic outcome.

WILKINSON: But is it really the majority of Australians? Because there’s so many variables on how this postal vote will go.

DUTTON: Lisa, I think we will end up with a very significant turn out. I think everybody now turns their mind to campaigning, on both sides, and I think you’ll see ads, you’ll see people advocating for and against. And I think that will motivate people because it’s a significant social change and people will want to have their say, so I think we will get a pretty good indication.

WILKINSON: So we’ll get the decision on November 15. What happens then?

DUTTON: Well after that if there’s a no vote then the Government has been very clear that there is no change for us. The Labor Party can speak for themselves as to what they would do but if there is a yes vote then there would be a bill before the Parliament and our presumption is that Bill would be voted on before Christmas, so the change would be made before Christmas, and that’s the timeline that’s involved.

WILKINSON: And how are the numbers running now? Yes or no?

DUTTON: Look my sense is that if there is a yes vote that there will be a significant number of Members who will support it in the Lower House and the Senate and that it will pass easily. And, as I say, if there’s a no vote then the Government has been very clear about not advancing it then.

ALBANESE: I think Australians will vote for marriage equality. I think a majority have made up their mind and I think it’s important that we get this done before Christmas. People will wake up the next morning and their relationships won’t have changed and people will wonder, really, what all the fuss was about. It will be fantastic for the tourism industry. It will be a huge economic boost for the country.

WILKINSON: Australia would certainly be a great place to get married for same-sex couples as well as the rest of everyone. Now moving on and the Government is seeking to tighten requirements for new citizens to include university standard English skills, an Australian values test and a four year wait for permanent residents to become citizens.

Peter, this is your initiative; you don’t think it’s too tough asking people to be university standard proficient in English?

DUTTON: Yes I do actually because that’s not what we’re doing, not what we’re proposing. So we’ve said that we want people to be able to integrate, to adopt Australian values, to integrate into Australian society, to abide by Australian laws. We want people to show, over a four year period, that if they’re of a working age, have a capacity to work, we want them to work, not on the dole. We want to know that their kids aren’t running around in gang violence, we want to know that they’re going to schools.

So look at all of those tests and what we’ve said is that we want a competent level of English. Because to function at school, at university, in the workplace, in modern Australia, people need a competent level of English language to function and that’s the level. Now 99% of people will have no problems at all, will go through, but there’s a 1% that we are concerned about either on national security grounds or on issues otherwise where we think, well these people aren’t deserving to become Australian citizens so that’s the motivation behind it.

WILKINSON: Albo, obviously Europe has lived with their porous┬áborder problem for decades now and it’s happening with the attacks we’re seeing. What do you think about this push?

ALBANESE: Well those things aren’t related at all. This is about people who are here, who have been granted permanent residency, who will stay here, whether they’re granted the right to be full citizens and participate in things like the marriage equality vote, participate in elections, participate fully as Australians.

There’s some irony, when it’s pretty clear that some of Peter’s colleagues have been able to become citizens of other countries pretty easily, that they are tightening this up in a way that is unAustralian. Currently we have a conversational level of English that is required; we do that now. To have this university level test, I mean some of his colleagues notwithstanding whether they’re citizens of one or two countries wouldn’t pass this test.

WILKINSON: All right, okay, we’re going to have to leave it there. Thanks so much for making your way to Queensland, we really appreciate it.

ALBANESE: Good to be with you and people thinking about travelling – Gold Coast is a great destination.

WILKINSON: Come to Queensland.

DUTTON: Absolutely.