Jul 3, 2015

Transcript of television interview – Today Show, Nine network

Subjects: Marriage equality; Eric Abetz; Private Members’ Bills; lack of transparency in border policy 

SYLVIA JEFFREYS: Well, the marriage equality debate week has dominated headlines again this week and the issue has exposed a deep divide within the Liberal Party. Conservative backbenchers have come out swinging over this cross-party Bill sponsored by two of their own colleagues. And yesterday Senator Eric Abetz called on front benchers who supported gay marriage to resign. For more we are joined by Education Minister Christopher Pyne and Shadow Transport Minister Anthony Albanese. Good morning to you both.


JEFFREYS: First of all, do you agree with that, should they resign?

PYNE: No. And the Prime Minister has made it absolutely clear many times that it can – everyone can have a different view on this matter and their views need to be respected. Now, he has said he has different views within his own family. Christine Forster his sister has a different view and he has made it very clear that this debate should be conducted in a respectful way, that people’s views should be respected and treated properly, and so calls for resignations are not helpful. There is a process. If a Private Members’ Bill is introduced by a cross-party group of Members of Parliament, it will be dealt with in the usual way, in spring. We are focused on the economy, we are focused on national security, that’s where the Australian public want our focus to be, but if this matter comes up we’ll deal with it appropriately.

JEFFREYS: So that’s one strike for Eric Abetz. He also had this to say yesterday. Have a listen.

ERIC ABETZ: If you undo the institution of marriage by redefining it for the latest movement or the latest fad, you will open a Pandora’s Box for all sorts of other potential possibilities.

KIERAN GILBERT: Like what? Like what possibilities?

ABETZ: Polyamory, clearly.

JEFFREYS: Should we be afraid of polyamory?

PYNE: I’m not sure I know what polyamory is. It doesn’t sound very attractive.

JEFFREYS: Isn’t this exactly what people fear about your party Christopher?

PYNE: What, that we will introduce polyamory?

JEFFREYS: This hyper-conservatism.

PYNE: Look, everyone is entitled to their own views, Sylvia. There’s a range of views. We’re the Liberal Party. So we represent everybody from small-l liberals to conservatives and the party doesn’t belong to any one of those groups of people. This is one of those issues where everyone needs to be respectful of other people’s views. Now, if that’s Eric’s view, good luck to him. He is entitled to that view. He should express his conscience however he likes to express it. But there are others in the party with a different view and they also need to be respected. But we don’t want to be distracted from the economy, from national security. We have real issues to deal with. The economy is growing again, which is terrific. Jobs are flowing again. But we also have this terrible terrorism fear right across the world. We need to address that. So let’s not get distracted with this debate.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Eric Abetz and his Tea Party mates are like an extreme version of Tony Abbott. The problem isn’t that Eric Abetz and Tony Abbott are stuck in the past. It’s that they want the rest of Australia to go back there and keep them company. Eric Abetz’s views don’t have a place in modern Australia. Modern Australia is tolerant. We should be allowed to have a debate in the Parliament and let people vote according to their conscience. It should happen in the second half of this year. I suspect when it does, it’ll be carried and we’ll all move on.

JEFFREYS: There are questions, of course, which we should mention, like Labor’s motivation given it is highly unlikely that this current process will lead to a vote, given what’s happened in the past with these sorts of Private Members’ Bills, but anyway…

ALBANESE: Well, they have led to a vote. We had 20 votes on legislation.

JEFFREYS: But rarely.

ALBANESE: Twenty votes on legislation in the last Parliament.

PYNE: That’s because it was a hung parliament.

ALBANESE: Including two bills moved by Tony Abbott himself. He seems to have forgotten that. But over the years we have had votes and we should.

JEFFREYS: It is going around in circles and we have got to move on to another topic now. Bill Shorten this morning, well he is lurching from one blunder to another at the moment. This week he accused the Government of not being transparent with border protection policy despite declining many invitations to be briefed by the committee responsible. Anthony, in the whole scheme of things, not a huge blunder, but it is one of many and that’s the issue for Bill Shorten at the moment.

ALBANESE: Well, there is an issue of transparency when it comes to the operation of these detention centres on Nauru and on Manus Island. I think Australians do have a right to know what is being done in their name. And I think that’s an issue that Bill is right to point towards.

JEFFREYS: But why then didn’t Bill Shorten go to the briefings and instead send a junior staffer?

ALBANESE: No, the fact is that the Shadow Immigration Minister – I make two points on that. One; it’s not very secure when people are leaking out the details of the security briefings – that is something that the Government has to answer how that occurred, but two; it’s appropriate that on a national security briefing, on immigration, the immigration spokesperson, Richard Marles, attend the briefing and Richard Marles was there.

PYNE: Sylvia, we saw the same thing when Julia Gillard was Prime Minister and she used to send her national security detail to the national security meetings rather than go herself. Now, national security is too important to take lightly and Bill Shorten, it is the same old thing, when you are hot, you’re hot, and when you’re not, you’re not and Bill at the moment is going through a very bad patch because he hasn’t thought about what he believes in ever since he has been in Parliament. Now, Anthony is the opposite. He offered himself as leader at the last election and wasn’t chosen. But Anthony does know what he believes in and Bill unfortunately is an empty jacket.

JEFFREYS: There will be plenty to discuss at the upcoming ALP conference that is for sure. We’ve got to wrap it up, it is the winter recess. You’re off on holidays, Christopher.

PYNE: I’m going down to the beach with my family for a couple of weeks. I’ll be back and forth for Cabinet but unfortunately not for the Today Show.

JEFFREYS: Get a bit of sunshine, thaw out, out of Canberra huh?

ALBANESE: Although he’s going to South Australia where it is cold.

PYNE: It is cold in Robe.

JEFFREYS: Where the winds are howling just like you like it. Just how you like the drama Christopher, very good. There will be plenty of that to come when the winter recess ends. Gentlemen, thank you very much.

ALBANESE: Good to be with you.

JEFFREYS: Anthony Albanese and Christopher Pyne, thank you for your time.