BIG GAY OUT RESULTS PICNIC, CANBERRA
WEDNESDAY, 15 NOVEMBER 2017
SUBJECTS: Marriage equality.
SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER, ANDREW LEIGH: Thanks everyone for coming along. My name is Andrew Leigh, the Shadow Assistant Treasurer and Federal Member for Fenner. Four years ago a couple by the name of Emily and Ellie tied the knot during the brief window in the ACT when same-sex marriage was legal. Those marriages were undone by a High Court decision. Emily and Ellie have now waited four years for the right to marry – for a right that other Australians enjoy.
Today's survey has just confirmed what poll after poll has reinforced. Australians want marriage equality. We didn't need to spend millions of dollars to find out that 62 per cent of Australians and 74 per cent of Canberrans want same-sex couples to enjoy the same rights as other Australians. The process of this survey has been damaging to the mental health of many gay and lesbian Australians. We've seen an increase in the number of calls to helplines such as Reach Out and QLife. That didn't need to happen. We could have had a free vote in Parliament and marriage equality could have been legal by now.
But now that this resounding yes vote has gotten up we need to make sure that the bill passes through parliament as quickly as possible. This is no time to be winding back our discrimination laws, going back to the old days where it was alright not to hire people because of their gender and tell Indigenous Australians they couldn't swim in the local pool. We need to make sure that we keep the discrimination laws that we have in place today which already include religious exemptions. The so-called Dean Smith bill is a result of a unanimous multi-party committee. It has the backing of the Labor Party room, that's the bill that should go through the parliament so we can see same-sex marriage become a reality in Australia as quickly as possible.
Malcolm Turnbull can't bend to the will of the right-wing of his party room yet again. We need a bill to pass the Parliament that recognises the will of the Australian people and doesn't wind back our discrimination laws. Happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: So Labor will back the Dean Smith Bill as it stands?
LEIGH: The Labor Caucus has announced that we will support that bill. It's gone through our Caucus processes. We believe it's the right way to move forward.
JOURNALIST: So will you be putting pressure on the Government to debate this this week? Would you ask for a recall of the House of Representatives?
LEIGH: The House of Representatives is due to sit the Monday after next, that's the time at which this should come on and we ought to be able to deal with it next sittings. I know opponents of marriage equality are now looking for every possible blocking tactic. Having lost the survey, they now are wanting to write the law or to delay the process. We just can't let that happen. Australians will take a very dim view of their parliament if we go to Christmas without same sex marriage being the law of the land.
JOURNALIST: Given the outcome that it was successful in every jurisdiction, do you now think it was the right thing to do to go to the people, to let Australians have their voice on this?
LEIGH: We didn't need to spend millions of dollars to find out that Australians, like citizens of other advanced English speaking countries, want marriage equality. We could have spent those millions of dollars tackling homelessness, investing in our schools and hospitals. We didn't need to spend them on this survey. We didn't need to damage the mental health of gay and lesbian Australians, who've called helplines in increased numbers. We're here now. Labor, unlike Malcolm Turnbull, campaigned strongly for a Yes vote and we now want to see the Dean Smith Bill pass the parliament.
JOURNALIST: So you still believe that it shouldn't have happened and that even with the outcome, that Australians shouldn't have their say?
LEIGH: This was not a process that was necessary, we didn't need to spend millions of dollars on it, we didn't need to damage the mental health of gay and lesbian Australians. We could have just looked at the public opinion and parliamentarians, frankly, could have done our job and made marriage equality a reality months ago.
JOURNALIST: Andrew how did you feel watching the result, the announcement?
LEIGH: I have mixed emotions. I was very pleased to see the result but at the same time I'm acutely aware of the other causes on which this money could have been spent and of the people in the community who have had to undergo enormous stress as a result. But this is a huge tribute to the campaigners who have worked so hard on getting this vote up. There have been thousands of people across Australia working together as part of the Equality campaign. They didn't want to have to go through this process, but gee they've done a fantastic job and they should sleep well tonight.
JOURNALIST: What would you like to tell people whose mental health has been affected?
LEIGH: If you're feeling stressed, upset or worried as a result of this process, reach out to the helplines. Pick up the phone to Lifeline or to the specialist services that are available. There are people who want to help you, who recognise what you've had to go through with this unnecessary poll.
No other questions? Thanks everyone.