2 August 2017
Transcript - #2017024, 2017

Interview with Ali Moore, 774 Pollie Graph

Subjects: Citizenship; Same sex marriage.

ALI MOORE:

Here in the studio with me is Richard Di Natale, the leader of the Greens. Hello.

RICHARD DI NATALE:

G’Day.

ALI MOORE:

And slightly to our north in Sydney, Kelly O’Dwyer, the Minister for Revenue and Financial Services joins us. Kelly O’Dwyer, welcome.

KELLY O’DWYER:

Good afternoon Ali.

ALI MOORE:

I think you’ve just slipped into the chair, just in time.

KELLY O’DWYER:

I have, I by-passed ABC security and I’m here, happily.

ALI MOORE:

I hope you didn’t by-pass it completely.

KELLY O’DWYER:

No, they ran after me with a pass.

ALI MOORE:

Excellent work, excellent work. Well I guess Richard it’s been a good week for you. I know this is a low blow but you haven’t lost anyone else so that’s good.

RICHARD DI NATALE:

It is a low blow, a very low blow.

ALI MOORE:

It is.

RICHARD DI NATALE:

But I’ll let you have it. You know, we acted I think with integrity and we copped it on the chin, unlike some of our counterparts who seem to be blaming other people for their problems and contesting it in the High Court. We just think the constitution is pretty clear on this one…

ALI MOORE:

You can see where it all ends up. I don’t want to dwell on that, because that was in many ways last week’s issue and I think the big issue today if you read the headlines Kelly O’Dwyer, in particular, you would think that same sex marriage is actually quite literally threatening to tear the Government apart and potentially bring down Malcolm Turnbull, or certainly make his life exceptionally difficult. It’s not looking that good is it?

KELLY O’DWYER:

Well I know it makes for a good headline it just doesn’t happen to be true. I mean this is an issue of course, that many people in the community feel very strongly about and it’s no surprise that those views are reflected in the Party Room. One of our great strengths as a Party, both as Liberals and Nationals is that we can actually have these debates. There’s nothing new or unusual about that. We have a clear policy that we took to the last election which was to have a plebiscite on this issue. We have tried to get the legislation through the Senate, we have been thwarted by the Labor Party and the Greens who refused to give people a say on this issue. We want people to be able to have a say on this issue so that we can bring legislation forward into the Parliament and change the Marriage Act if that’s what the people decide. Certainly my view is very well known on this issue, as is the view of a number of my colleagues, but we did give a commitment before the last election to have a plebiscite on this issue, we would like to be able to deliver that.

ALI MOORE:

But I guess, look, let’s get to the plebiscite in a minute but I just want to pick you up on the fact you’re saying it’s not true and I’m not in any way wanting to discuss this afternoon the pros and cons of same sex marriage, I’m more interested in the process because what you’ve got at the moment on your side of politics is a group called the ‘suicide bombers’ by all your colleagues, they want to bring on a vote in Parliament, they can do that by crossing the floor. If that happens, according to the likes of Paul Kelly, you’ve got another group who is going to defect from the Liberals, sit with the cross-benchers and make life a whole lot more difficult for Malcolm Turnbull in a minority Government. I mean, this is just extraordinary isn’t it?

KELLY O’DWYER:

Well, as I said, we have had robust discussions on many, many issues in our Party Room over many, many years and there is nothing unusual in that. And there’s nothing unusual in the fact that people have strong feelings about these issues. I mean it is quite clear that the feelings…

ALI MOORE:

But the strong feelings to the point of threatening to cross the floor and bring a Government into a minority position.

KELLY O’DWYER:

But this is pure speculation Ali. I mean you’ve got anonymous sources supposedly threatening to do all sorts of things. Frankly, I’m not going to add to the speculation on this. I know that my colleagues respect one another, they respect the Party Room and they respect the fact that other people in the Party Room have a variety of views on this particular issue. There’s nothing new or unusual about it and we took a policy to the last election to have a national plebiscite, we’d like to deliver it – and the only reason we haven’t been able to is, as I said before, we’ve been blocked by both Labor and the Greens.

ALI MOORE:

Richard Di Natale, is the whole idea of a plebiscite dead? I mean it was taken to the Senate. It was knocked back, so in some ways it’s arguable that the Liberals have fulfilled their commitment in trying to get one up.

RICHARD DI NATALE:

Well the Liberals had no problem breaking other promises. I mean, cuts to healthcare and education – they had no problem breaking that one, those promises but on this one it seems like some sort of special status. You just don’t take an issue of what I think is a basic human right to an opinion poll. That’s not how these issues are decided. If we took every area of discrimination and we took them to opinion polls we wouldn’t have the human right’s architecture we’ve got in Australia right now. Look, it’s a political problem of the Government’s own making and Malcolm Turnbull could make life much easier for himself, take a stand, allow a free vote, have marriage equality, be the Prime Minister who delivers marriage equality, be remembered for something positive instead of giving in to these hard-right conservatives who seem to be running the show at the moment and that’s the problem that he’s got at the moment, it’s of his own making and ultimately he’ll be judged because of it.

ALI MOORE:

1300 222 774 is the number if you’d like to join Kelly O’Dwyer and Richard Di Natale and me, Ali Moore, in the studio. John in Carrum, good afternoon.

CALLER:

Good afternoon. Richard thanks very much, you’ve just said it all for me. Kelly O’Dwyer, I’m sorry but you’ve broken so many election promises and this is not, this is repeat, not the most important thing out here to the public, to the voters. The right-wing bible bashers have got it completely wrong and Malcolm Turnbull is just absolutely pandering to the right. There is no other way about it and you’re not going to convince the man in the street any other way. It’s not important. Let them have equality.

KELLY O’DWYER:

Well, as I said my personal views on this issue are well known. I would vote ‘yes’ in a plebiscite and I would like to see a change to the Marriage Act and I’m not alone in my Party Room with a view on that but I also have colleagues who have a different view. Who took a promise to the last election – it might be old fashioned – but we are intending to keep the promises that we made. I know Richard sort of makes these broad brush statements...

ALI MOORE:

So did John Kelly, you’ve broken promises before, what’s so sacrosanct about this one?

KELLY O’DWYER:

No, we have endeavoured to deliver on the promises that we have put to the Australian people at the election. We have been thwarted in the Senate on other promises as well, that is true, but we have assiduously worked to deliver the mandate that we were given by the Australian people and I know that there are others who would like to subvert that but we frankly think it’s important to deliver on what it was that we promised. We are trying to do that and…

ALI MOORE:

So Kelly O’Dwyer can I just ask you, what happens now with a plebiscite? Do you bring it on again and try and get it through the Senate? I mean how – at what point can you say ‘we’ve done our best to fulfil our election promise but we simply can’t because of the Senate’ – as you have said with other measures that you can’t get through and you move on, or do you stick with the plebiscite ad infinitum?

KELLY O’DWYER:

Well look, before every election parties discuss policies and there’s no policy that is ever set in stone forever and a day and we will have those discussions at an appropriate time and I know that would be a robust discussion – you wouldn’t expect anything less when you’ve got people who’ve got strong views on it. My view, as I’ve said, is very, very clear and I’ll obviously advocate that position when that time comes.

ALI MOORE:

Do you reckon, Richard Di Natale, a plebiscite will ever get through?

RICHARD DI NATALE:

No way. It’s just not going to happen. People don’t want to put an issue like this which is, as I said, a fundamental human right, an area of discrimination. I mean, it’s about two people who love each other – just get on and do it. You know, you’ll be popular because of it. He’s breaking the golden rule of politics here isn’t he because the community want it, he’s got a small group of recalcitrant in his own party who don’t want it and he’s pandering to them. What he should be doing is listening to the views of the communities – very, very clear here – people want to see this done. They want to end discrimination in marriage once and for all and we could be celebrating, we could have wedding bells ringing by the end of the year. Malcolm Turnbull would be much better off because of it and yet here he is, basically being told what to do by the Tony Abbotts and the people in the hard right of the Party.

ALI MOORE:

Kelly O’Dwyer if you disagree, which I’m guessing that you will, that he’s being led by a bunch of hard right within the Party, if there was a free vote on your side of politics, would it get through?

KELLY O’DWYER:

Well look, these are hypotheticals and we can spend all day talking about…

ALI MOORE:

We love a hypothetical.

KELLY O’DWYER:

We can spend all day talking about all sorts of hypotheticals, I mean you know…

ALI MOORE:

Well what’s the answer to that?

KELLY O’DWYER:

We can talk about our Party Room, let me say this, you know Richard and the Greens have had problems in their own Party Room when they’ve effectively had to ban people like Senator Lee Rihannon from voicing dissident views on particular issues like education…

RICHARD DI NATALE:

All of one voice on marriage equality Kelly...

KELLY O’DWYER:

Well, the point I make is that Party Rooms are by their very nature robust – and they should be. People elect representatives to be able to articulate a particular perspective…

RICHARD DI NATALE:

And they elect Prime Ministers to lead – to lead, not to follow…

KELLY O’DWYER:

All the people who have been elected to Parliament have got strong views and are able to articulate those views as we would expect. So you know, there is nothing unusual in the process. I know that people want to beat it up and make it into a massive issue but the Government is actually focused on a whole heap of other things today beyond same sex marriage.

ALI MOORE:

I have to say that I reckon the public is fairly focused on this at the moment; I have an absolute full board, Joy in Ballan. Hi Joy.

CALLER:

Oh hi, how are you?

ALI MOORE:

Good thanks, what did you want to say?

CALLER:

I just want to know whether they’ve decided if they go ahead with the plebiscite, it stands because on Raf’s program the other week the Minister would not say that they would stand by what the people vote.

ALI MOORE:

Ok Joy, let’s put that straight to Kelly O’Dwyer. Joy’s right isn’t she? There’s no commitment to actually follow the outcome of a plebiscite in the Government, in Parliament.

KELLY O’DWYER:

Well it wasn’t a policy to bind people to the outcomes of a plebiscite…

ALI MOORE:

So what’s the point?

KELLY O’DWYER:

Well the point is to inform the Parliament, to inform the Parliament of the views of the Australian people and there are some MPs who will be guided by the particular view of their electorate and the broader nation and their state and there will be other people like me, who have got a view on this particular issue who are very interested in all of the discussions that we have had with our constituents on this issue but ultimately will make a decision as a representatives to actually pursue what they believe according to their own conscience.

ALI MOORE:

We’re going to keep going with this conversation I just want to take a quick check of the traffic as people check the roads to go home.

(TRAFFIC UPDATE)

ALI MOORE:

Thank you Chris. You are on the Pollie Graph Kelly O’Dwyer is in Sydney for us the Minister for Revenue and Financial Services and Richard Di Natale the Leader of the Greens and we are talking right now about Same Sex Marriage and, well, if you have read the headlines you might have some understanding of what at least people are saying about what it’s doing to the Liberal Party. Susie in Balwyn, Hi Susie.

CALLER:

Oh look I just have a question “if hypothetically you take a budget measure to the polls, and it was we’re going to raise the Medicare levy to 5 per cent and you were elected on that, tried to get it through, failed, I find it impossible to believe you would just leave and go “Ah well soz peps tried to get more money but we didn’t” . So why is this the one thing you are not prepared to renegotiate, relook at ‘cos I just think you are playing politics and everyone thinks you are playing politics and it just doesn't wash well with people. I am not necessarily a fan of any particular political party I am just looking at it going “I wish we had marriage equality because most people do”. So can you explain why this is the one thing that you are so rigid about yet there would be plenty of other things that you would be happy to negotiate about, plenty of other things you take to polls and elections with other things?

ALLIE MOORE:

Kelly, sorry you’re getting them all this afternoon.

KELLY O’DWYER:
 
Oh well sometimes it’s great to be popular. Look what I would say is what I said before which is that Parties will always look at policies going in to an election and there will always be discussions about whether you should continue to pursue a particular policy or whether you should make some amendments to it and I have no doubt on this particular issue that this is one such issue that we will discuss before the next election. Now we would like to be able to ensure that we can deliver on the promise that we made and we would like the Greens and Labor to support us on giving people a vote on this particular issue and we would like, or well I would like, particularly to see a change in the Marriage Act because I overwhelmingly do believe that people would support a change to the Marriage Act. Now I don’t why people are so frightened to give people a say on this issue?

RICHARD DI NATALE:

Susie’s absolutely right though Malcolm Turnbull has been able to make a virtue out of being able to work co-operatively with the Senate and to modify proposals that go to the Senate in an effort to get them through. Yet this is the one issue that he has dug in and it is again just because of the politics. You know I think in this line of work you are faced with moments when you have got to decide to take a stand and decide if a principal is important and worth fighting for. And Malcom Turnbull has said that he supports marriage equality. He is now faced with a test of that and instead of showing some leadership, acting on principle what he is doing is beholden to a segment within his own party that is completely unrepresentative of the Australian community. I think that is the most disappointing thing in all of this is that people had very high expectations when he assumed the leadership and yet on issue after issue whether it be his position on climate change and whether it be his position on a  republic and now on the issue of marriage equality instead of taking a stand and showing some leadership and recognising that his role as the Prime Minister of this country is not to listen to those small but very powerful conservative voices within his own party but indeed to be true to the things that he believes in. I am convinced that it’s the big part of the reason that he is doing so poorly in the opinion polls is because people have lost respect for a Prime Minister who believes one thing, but is not prepared to act with conviction on those things.
 
KELLY O’DWYER:
 
But can I just challenge you on that Richard, because if you believe, as I do, that there is broad support for a change in the Marriage Act. And we both agree on this, right?
 
RICHARD DI NATALE:
 
Well I think that the evidence is very clear on that Kelly, yes.
 
KELLY O’DWYER:
 
If you believe in that, as I do. Then, Richard, why wouldn’t you allow people to have a vote on this issue so we can then bring forward a bill and have a vote on this in the Parliament. Why would you be so scared to give people a say on this particular issue? We would have been able to have done this by February, if only we were allowed to get the plebiscite bill passed through the Senate.
 
RICHARD DI NATALE:
 
I would be happy to answer that. Well, I think there are a few things. The first thing is that it’s a very poor principle to subject issues of what are basic and fundamental human rights to opinion polls. Secondly, the Government’s already said that it not going to be bound by it. Members of the Government have said we don’t care what the result of the opinion poll is; we’re going to vote yes or no. And Kelly, you’ve already said that. Your view won’t be swayed and people of the opposite view won’t be swayed by the result of this…
 
KELLY O’DWYER:
 
But there some people that will.
 
RICHARD DI NATALE:
 
And finally, I’ve spoken to so many members in the community. Parents of kids who are gay, lesbian, transgender; and they say to me we don’t want our children to be subject to of what will end up being a very vile and hateful campaign. We think it will expose people to harms they don’t need to be exposed to. We would like to see you, as legislators, take your responsibilities seriously and legislate. So when you put all that together, it’s clear that there is one path way forward, and that is that we get into Parliament and we allow a free vote. And this is a party, supposedly, the Liberal party, who continue to trumpet the fact that they believe in individual liberty and responsibility and the Prime Minister won’t allow a free vote of his own party room to ensure this gets over the line.  
 
ALI MOORE:
 
Kelly O’Dwyer, I see we are going to go around in circles, we have only got a minute or so left. I just have to ask you, if it were entirely left to you, and of course you do as a member of the Liberal party have the right to have a free vote: would you just bypass a plebiscite if it were left to you? Personally you’ve said you are in favour of changing the policy.
 
KELLY O’DWYER:
 
Well again Ali, these are all hypotheticals. We have made a commitment on this particular issue, people know my views on this issue, and I’ve been a strong advocate for a change in the Marriage Act. But, it’s important to be very old fashioned and abide by the commitment we have given to the Australian people. And, frankly, I would like us to get on to it so we can actually focus on some of the other issues that people do really care about, which is wages, growth, jobs, opportunity. I mean these are all the things that, as a government, we are spending our time on day in, day out, yet all we have discussed here today is same sex marriage.
 
ALI MOORE:
 
Yep, I accept that. We did have other topics, but we didn’t get to any of them, but perhaps we will next week. And I do appreciate your time and I would be absolutely fascinated to see what happens when Parliament sits next week. I note Julie Bishop has cancelled here trip, so maybe there is a little worry about the numbers, but we’ll just leave that there for the minute. Kelly O’Dwyer, joining us in Sydney, thank you very much for joining us on the Pollie Graph. And Richard Di Natale, thank you very much as well. Yes, it will be fascinating times.