15 November 2017
Transcript - #2017039, 2017

Interview with Jon Faine, ABC 774

SUBJECTS: same-sex marriage; Bennelong by-election

JON FAINE:

Kelly O'Dwyer is the member for Higgins in the affluent parts of leafy, Eastern suburban Melbourne. It's a seat that's been targeted from time to time by the Greens believe it or not and is also she is also a senior minister, Minister for Revenue and Financial Services in charge of things like Superannuation in the Coalition ministry in the Turnbull ministry. Kelly O'Dwyer good morning to you.

KELLY O'DWYER:

Good morning Jon.

JON FAINE:

What do you think is likely to happen on the vote?

KELLY O'DWYER

Well look we'll know that at ten o'clock…

JON FAINE:

But what do you think is likely?

KELLY O'DWYER

I hope I hope it will be a yes vote and I'm strongly encouraged by the fact that every Australian was given the opportunity to have their say on this very important issue and around eighty per cent of Australians responded and did put their vote in there to have their say on this important issue. Now we'll see the results at ten o'clock. I myself voted yes. I voted yes because I believe that marriage encourages the family unit, that marriage is one of the building blocks of our society and that encouraging long-term stable relationships is only a good thing whether they're between heterosexual couples or same sex attracted people.

JON FAINE:

Do you do you risk a backlash over this issue in particular within the ranks of conservative Australia?

KELLY O'DWYER

Not at all, because the Prime Minister and the Government was very clear on this issue going into the election. We would give people a say on this important social issue. We've done that, we've delivered that through a postal plebiscite. People have responded overwhelmingly. Eighty per cent of people responding to this postal plebiscite is unprecedented and it's a strong endorsement of this process. Now, I don't know what the result will be, I hope it's a yes vote but, let me say this; hard-line opponents of same sex marriage can't reasonably argue for a plebiscite, talk about the silent majority and then try and craft tricky laws for a noisy minority. You can't…

JON FAINE:

Are you talking about Senator Paterson's private members bill that he floated on Monday?

KELLY O'DWYER

No, I'm talking about those people who would try and repudiate what is a national vote on this issue.

JON FAINE:

Does Senator Paterson's bill repudiate the national vote by trying to limit its impact?

KELLY O'DWYER

Well look, what I would say…

JON FAINE:

It's much easier if we call a spade a shovel.

KELLY O'DWYER

…every member, every backbench member is entitled to put forward their own views on this issue. The Prime Minister's been clear, the Government's been clear. We had a party room decision that said, if there is a yes vote in response to the postal plebiscite then we would facilitate private members bill a private members bill for discussion in the Senate and the House and it would be voted on before Christmas. We would give everyone a free vote in relation to those important matters and that is exactly what we'll do. Now Dean Smith has put forward a very sensible Bill. If there is a yes vote, I understand that his Bill will be facilitated for discussion in the Senate. Now, I'm a liberal and I believe that religious protections are very important and it is critical that we protect people and protect religious institutions from doing things against their religious views. We have that currently in the law. You can't force someone to be married in a synagogue or in a mosque or in a church if that religious institution doesn't want to actually marry them and nothing will change in relation to that, that's why the protections in that particular bill are very very important. But this is my point, which is that you can have religious protections and you can also have same sex marriage and I for one think that they can live in harmony together.

JON FAINE:

So the, Paterson is insisting though that, and he has support from, amongst others, Eric Abetz from Tasmania and…

KELLY O'DWYER

Kevin Andrews and Tony Abbott and others, yes he does. From strident opponents of same-sex marriage who I believe have a sincere view on this issue – it's a view I disagree with, but they do have a sincere view – and they are promoting this idea that individuals in shops should be able to refuse service to a same-sex couple or someone associated with the ceremony of the same-sex marriage

JON FAINE:

The baker the florist all of those examples. What's wrong with their stated concern?

KELLY O'DWYER

Well I mean we've got long-established discrimination laws that say that that is simply not morally right, it isn't right, I mean, to me it's quite bizarre that you would refuse somebody service on the basis of that. It is, you know, we don't do it today and we shouldn't do it tomorrow and you know if it's legally and morally wrong as my colleague George Brandis has said to discriminate against one gay person, I don't know how it can become right to discriminate against two of them and I don't quite know where it ends. So, you know, I understand that they have a very sincere view on this issue and everyone will have an opportunity to move amendments in the Parliament and because we have a free vote, everyone will be able to nail their colours to the mast in terms of where they stand on these issues.

JON FAINE:

So you've got the numbers, the conservatives the religious conservatives don't have the numbers…

KELLY O'DWYER

Well no, it's not a matter of numbers, no…

JON FAINE:

Well it will come down to the numbers, everything always does, so is it just a matter of having to simply roll on through and in effect, roll over those who will never stop objecting, who will never be compromised, who will never accept that the majority opinion, if indeed as everyone expects it will be a yes vote, they will never stop their expressing their concerns?

KELLY O'DWYER:

Everyone will be able to express their views in the parliament. This is what parliament is there for. I know that everyone has been pretty critical of the parliament given the recent events around citizenship, which of course are not of the Government's own making, but which the Government has actually been dealing with but I think we have seen…

JON FAINE:

Yes but the management of it is your responsibility though and we'll come to that in a moment.

KELLY O'DWYER:

…we have seen though, parliament at their best when we have these sorts of difficult discussions, whether it's on RU486 or stem cell research, parliament's at their best when people can express their views on these important issues. But let me say this, going back to the earlier point around being able to discriminate and refuse service or refuse to sell somebody a particular product, if people sincerely have that view when it comes to same-sex couples, why don't they equally have that view if it's a divorced person being remarried? Why don't they also have that view when it comes to people of two different religions getting married? I mean no one can explain why you would discriminate only on the basis of a same-sex couple as opposed to these other examples and that's why I don't agree with it.

JON FAINE:

Well, at 10am we will see and it will come down to the numbers, it will come down to whether or not the objectors are able to filibuster, will be able to delay, will be able to secure enough waverers or nervous backbenchers in order to refer it off for further debate, consideration, or whatever else it might be. There's a threat from some and I wonder if Kelly O'Dwyer you're sympathetic to this, that the Prime Minister should simply say, well the House will not adjourn, even up to Christmas Eve, until we have dealt with this matter. Should the Prime Minister take that sort of approach?

KELLY O'DWYER:

Well I think we're all getting a little bit ahead of ourselves here. We'll know the outcome and we'll know that at 10am. It will be a yes vote or it will be a no vote. We don't know what it's going to be…

JON FAINE:

No but if it's a yes vote, and all the suggestions are it's likely to be, should the Prime Minister say to the parliament we will simply not adjourn until this is resolved?

KELLY O'DWYER:

Well I think there will be a lot of time in the parliament to be able to comprehensively deal with these matters. We've got a number of sitting weeks before the end of the year but when it comes to parliamentary sitting times, I'll leave that to be appropriately determined by the leader in the Senate and in the House…

JON FAINE:

Would you be happy to sit through to Christmas if that's what it took? Would you be prepared to do so?

KELLY O'DWYER:

Well there are lots of important issues that the parliament is dealing with and I would like…

JON FAINE:

Well none of them seem to be getting any oxygen.

KELLY O'DWYER:

Well that's not true, I've got very important legislation before the Senate only this week, which is why I'm up here in Canberra at the moment. I've got important superannuation reforms to protect members' money, which is going to be debated in the parliament. I've also got important reforms to have a one-stop shop for consumer complaints and small business complaints against financial institutions that will mean that small businesses, for the very first time, get access to compensation of up to $1 million when they go through an external dispute resolution process.

JON FAINE:

You mean the ordinary business of governing is going on despite the dual citizenship crisis and same-sex marriage?

KELLY O'DWYER:

Despite all of the media noise, I've got to break it to you, life goes on and the business of government goes on.

JON FAINE:

Alright, Kristina Keneally has been announced as the surprise Labor candidate for Bennelong for the by-election. Immediately Malcolm Turnbull and others have hopped in and said, brought to you as a wholly owned subsidiary of Eddie Obeid and she's pointed out this morning that the Turnbull Government thought she was a person of sufficient character to make various appointments of her to Federal Government committees and the like since she left and she gave evidence against Eddie Obeid at the NSW anti-corruption commission so how far will those slurs go?

KELLY O'DWYER:

Well look, it's not a matter of slurs. John Alexander is an incredibly eminent Australian. He's actually…

JON FAINE:

He was a tennis player.

KELLY O'DWYER:

…fought on the tennis courts internationally for Australia and won and I think he is not only highly regarded for those wonderful achievements, but also for the incredible achievements he has had as a local member in Bennelong. I, myself, have visited his electorate many, many times. He's a passionate advocate for small business so the small business tax cuts that we have been able to deliver are, in very real measure, a result of his very good and hard work. He's a very strong advocate for those people who want to be able to purchase their very first home and that's why our first home saver accounts through the superannuation system are so important and again, that legislation…

JON FAINE:

My question was about the slurs against the character of the former Premier of NSW, you did not address those.

KELLY O'DWYER:

I'm not interested in getting into a personality debate. What I would say is that John Alexander has been out there delivering. Legislation is in the Senate right now to help people save for their first home. Again, that's in real measure, a result of the hard work of John Alexander in his electorate.

JON FAINE:

Not many first home buyers in Bennelong.

KELLY O'DWYER:

Well, look I know you like to sort of cast these aspersions about Bennelong, about Higgins, you talked about it as the leafy suburbs…

JON FAINE:

Ironically I grew up in Bennelong and then grew up later on in Higgins.

KELLY O'DWYER:

But let me tell you John, in Higgins there are also two very large housing commissions, premises. And there are people who are doing it tough as well, as they are in Bennelong. So the idea that everyone's particularly well off is just simply not the case at all.

JON FAINE:

Thank you Minister, I grew up in Chatswood until I was 12 in Sydney, Bennelong and later on in your own electorate, where my parents still live. Kelly O'Dwyer, thank you for your time this morning, these are fascinating issues and we'll see where we get to at 10am.