E&OE…

Sabra Lane

The question could not be simpler.  “Should the law be changed to allow same sex couples to marry?”  Survey forms with that question on it will be sent to 16 million registered voters from today.  If the majority vote is yes, a private member’s bill will be introduced to Parliament to make it a reality by the end of this year.  If not, the Government will abandon it.  And we will know the result on November the 15th.

To discuss the campaign we are joined by Government Frontbencher Zed Seselja, who will be voting no, and Labor Frontbencher Anthony Albanese, who will be voting yes.  Gentlemen, to you both, thank you very much for joining us.

Anthony Albanese

Good morning

Senator Zed Seselja

Good morning, Sabra.

Sabra Lane

A quick pitch from both of you.  Zed Seselja, why are you voting no?

Senator Zed Seselja

Well, first can I say what a great thing it is that the Australian people will get to have their say. But I will be voting no for a couple of key reasons.  One, I think that Marriage between a man and a woman is an institution that’s stood the test of time.  And I think one of the reasons for that is because of the unique and complimentary nature of the male-female relationship.  It is no reflection on single people, it is not reflection on people in same-sex relationships to say that Marriage is unique.  And I would say that when you redefine Marriage as it’s been traditionally understood there are a range of obvious consequences.  We have seen in other countries how it affects freedom of speech, freedom of religion and most importantly, I think, parental rights when it comes to decisions about teachings on things like human sexuality.  We have seen a number of those cases over sees.

Sabra Lane

A quick pitch that was supposed to be.  Anthony Albanese?

Anthony Albanese

It’s a fundamental human rights issue.  It’s about one thing and one thing only.  Whether two people who love each other, who want to express that commitment to each other in front of family and friends, can do so regardless of whether they happen to be in a same-sex relationship or a heterosexual relationship.  And with regard to relationships are complex and who is anybody else to judge someone else’s relationship.

Sabra Lane

Zed Seselja, the Deputy Prime Minister says the Same-Sex marriage campaign is in his face about this.  What do you think?

Senator Zed Seselja

Well look, it’s obviously pretty aggressive.  I think there’s been a suggestion by many, not all, Same-Sex Marriage campaigners that those who are opposed to redefining Marriage are somehow bigoted or homophobic.  I reject that.  I think the Deputy Prime Minister was making that point.

I think some of the language that’s being used, even yesterday we saw Ben Law and his very violent tweet on this issue, yet he’s given a platform on our National Broadcaster to talk about why Safe Schools should be rolled out.

I think there’s been a lot of aggressive language and a lot of people who don’t support redefining Marriage feel afraid to speak up because they might be called a homophobe or a bigot.

Sabra Lane

Anthony Albanese, on that point, there is a large portion of Australia that is still deeply conservative and not comfortable with this idea.  Does it make them bigots?

Anthony Albanese

It certainly doesn’t.  I respect people who have different views on this issue.  I certainly understand that some people of faith regard Marriage as not a civil institution but as something that’s a consecration from God.  For those people it’s not therefore about the role of the State if you like.  But the fact is we are a secular country and what we shouldn’t do is seek to impose that view on others.

And that’s why Marriage equality being granted in this country will not affect anyone’s existing relationship.  It will not have any impact on the role of churches and what they can do or can’t do.  It will simply mean that one group of society that currently don’t enjoy the rights that I enjoyed when I married my wife in front of my family and friends, are able to do so.

Sabra Lane

Zed Seselja, this is a debate about Marriage and I am interested… No campaigners are talking about all sorts of other issues.  You mentioned Safe Schools just before.  Political correctness, you know ‘if you don’t like political correctness, vote no.’ That this is about protecting children.  They’re all pretty negative campaigning points, why is that? And why drag those other issues.

Senator Zed Seselja

Well, I think the Yes campaigners can’t have it both ways.  They can’t say that look this is happening in many other likeminded countries likes Canada and the UK and New Zealand and then when examples are used of some of the flow on consequences in those countries, they say well it’s nothing to do with that.  Well in the court cases, if you look at them where there’s parental rights and religious freedoms and other things that are being considered, the issue of Same-Sex Marriage has been sighted very strongly as a reason why parents shouldn’t be able to object to a Safe Schools like agenda.  That has been seen as a logical flow on consequence.  So if you’re going to argue that other countries are doing it and therefore we should, it’s very reasonable to point to some of the examples in other countries where there have been negative flow on consequences, as I would see them and I think many Australians would see them.

Anthony Albanese

It’s a weakness of the merit of the argument.  The fact that the No campaign has had to raise issues that have nothing to do with the question that is before this voluntary postal ballot.  Nothing to do with it at all.  With regard to children of same-sex couple, I’ve got news for Zed and other people in the No campaign, there are children of same-sex couples out there now.  And you know what Marriage would do for their parents?  It would give the same legitimacy rights as people who have a mum and a dad.  This is about respect and it is about acknowledging that we are a diverse society and giving respect and equal rights to a loving relationship regardless of its make-up.

Senator Zed Seselja

Sabra I might respond to that because again Anthony’s done it there, and many on the Yes side have, they refuse to address those arguments. So there is those flow on…

Anthony Albanese

Because they’re not relevant.

Senator Zed Seselja

But, why are they not relevant…

Anthony Albanese

Because they’re not relevant.

Senator Zed Seselja

They’re relevant to…

Anthony Albanese

It’s got nothing to do with the question.

Senator Zed Seselja

They’re relevant to Steve Tourloukis in Canada who…

Anthony Albanese

That’s got nothing to do with the question that’s put forward.

Senator Zed Seselja

Well if you let me finish… They’re relevant to people like Steve Tourloukis who said, I don’t want my kids having Safe Schools type agenda in the school. And he was told, well now that we’ve got Same-Sex Marriage in Canada you can no longer object because your rights as a parent are trumped by equality.  That’s the flow on.  And we have seen similar things in the UK.  So these are the examples and I don’t hear, either Anthony or anyone, actually addressing those questions.

Sabra Lane

A quick rebuttal and then we’re moving on.

Anthony Albanese

Because they are nonsense.  The truth is that just as in the UK and New Zealand and Taiwan and all these countries, Ireland, that have Marriage equality, people wake up in the morning after we have Marriage equality and wonder what all the fuss was about.  And this is coming.  I’ve met a lot of people who say, I used to not support Marriage equality I do now.  I haven’t met a single person who says, I used to support Marriage equality and I’ve changed my mind the other way.  This is about history moving forward.  Recognising the diversity in our community and granting equal respect.

Sabra Lane

Alright, ballot papers have gone out from today.  From both of you quickly, protections around the campaign material proper, they’re not done yet, they’re not through Parliament.  How confident are you that there’s going to be an agreement, that the rules will be strong enough to stop any vilification during the campaign? Zed Seselja?

Senator Zed Seselja

Well look, I would certainly hope that there would be good faith discussions, I’m told there are good faith discussions going on in the Parliament to make sure that the usual rules that apply at an election time would apply.

That’s what would have happened if it had gotten through the Parliament.  Of course, that wasn’t possible because Labor and the Greens and others voted against it in the Senate.  So we have gone down the different path to give the people their say.  I would certainly hope on that question that agreement can be reached between both sides of politics.

Anthony Albanese

Well we didn’t want this expensive voluntary postal vote process.  We think Parliament should have just done its job and at the end of this process of course Parliament will still have to do its job on the legislation.  That’s the way the Marriage Act will be changed.  But nonetheless, we’re acting very constructively and trying to put around a framework that’ll provide as much protection as possible.

Sabra Lane

Gentlemen, Zed Seselja, Anthony Albanese thank you very much for joining AM this morning.

Anthony Albanese

Thanks for having us.

Senator Zed Seselja

Thanks Sabra, thanks Anthony.

[ends]