FRIDAY, 1 MAY 2015
SUBJECT/S: marriage equality; Indonesia; keeping the Department of Immigration in Belconnen
MARK PARTON: Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has rejected his deputy's call to force Labor MPs and Senators to support same sex marriage. Tanya Plibersek wants the ALP members of parliament made to follow the party's policy and vote for gay marriage. Labor currently allows a conscience vote on the issue in parliament and some Labor MPs are considering whether they would cross the floor over the issue and risk expulsion from the party. Bill Shorten said that while he supports same sex marriage, colleagues who do not should not be made to vote for it. We were talking about this earlier in the week and I'm going to get Andrew Leigh to join the conversation now. He's the Member for Fraser in the north of Canberra, g'day Andrew.
ANDREW LEIGH: ACTING SHADOW TREASURER: G'day Mark, how are you?
PARTON: Excellent. It just astounds me that if we could ask all Australians today whether they support same sex marriage, I'm supremely confident that they would say yes. And I don't understand why our parliament can't get over this hurdle. Talk to me.
LEIGH: It is really strange, isn't it Mark? Because you think back – and I remember well when we had the last vote, because my third son was born on that day, 19 September, 2012 – since then we've had the UK Government and the New Zealand Government, both run by conservatives, embrace same sex marriage. A majority of Americans now live in states where same sex couples can get married, and the US Supreme Court is currently considering a case as to whether to make it national. So the mood has shifted a lot on this. What has surprised me is that the Australian Parliament could, at one stage, have been a leader. Now we'll end up being towards the back of the pack in accepting same sex marriage when it inevitably happens.
PARTON: It is inevitable, isn't it?
LEIGH: I think so. It's much the same as you look back on other laws. I mean, America itself had laws which banned people of different races from getting married. We look back at that now and it looks like a relic of the past, and I suspect that the current ban on same sex marriage will look much the same.
PARTON: Was Tanya Plibersek reacting to the same sort of frustration that we're expressing then, with her move?
LEIGH: Tanya is reflecting a conversation that has been going on within the Labor party over the last few years and amongst supporters of same sex marriage as to how best to get the reform up. That's certainly a majority of the Labor Party Caucus now and there's a genuine conversation among people of goodwill about how best to get it done.
PARTON: Ok, Indonesia is dominating so much discussion at the moment in this country. The relationship between our two countries is at the lowest it has been for quite some time. Where does it go from here?
LEIGH: I hope that we're able to work through this very, very difficult period. Certainly many Australians are pretty outraged at the way our citizens were treated and the way in which our government was treated. The fact that the Foreign Minister didn't receive official notification in the final hours will, I think, concern many. The fact that the Indonesian President didn't individually consider the clemency applications was a concern as well. But this is a large country just to our north and the relationship really matters. So we've got to keep that in mind too.
PARTON: One of the things that many Canberrans are keeping a close eye on is what happens to the federal public servants who are currently based in Belconnen and may be heading out to the 'aerotropolis', as they're calling it, at Canberra Airport. I know you've been following it with great interest – where's it up to at the moment?
LEIGH: 'Aerotropolis' sounds like a sci-fi movie, doesn't it? I'm still continuing that campaign to keep Immigration in Belconnen. It's been there since the 1970s, it's a mainstay for the employment base in that town centre, and if the Abbott Government wants to be a government of small business, then it needs to be a government for small businesses in Belconnen. Many of them will go to the wall if Immigration were to move out. They need to recognise that public servants aren't just political playthings that can be sent off to marginal seats or moved around at the whim of ministers. This is really about preserving one of the great town centres in Canberra.
PARTON: When is the crunch time going to be for this?
LEIGH: Well crunch time, officially, was a couple of months ago. The Abbott Government set itself a deadline and then strolled straight past it without so much as an apology for being late. They said that they would have a response back on this tender by now and they've failed to stick to that timeline. We're certainly continuing the community campaign – we've had thousands of people sign the petition, and we had hundreds of people turning up to the community forums held by Belconnen Community Council and Belconnen Community Services. So we'll keep up that pressure and those Belconnen businesses should know that we're in their corner fighting for Immigration to stay in Belconnen and for Belconnen to stay a vibrant town centre.
PARTON: Good on you Andrew, thanks for coming on nice and early this morning.
LEIGH: Good to talk with you, Mark.
MEDIA CONTACT: JENNIFER RAYNER 0428 214 856