SKY NEWS AM AGENDA
MONDAY, 21 AUGUST 2017
SUBJECTS: Newspoll; Marriage Equality; Citizenship, Amazon and competition laws.
KIERAN GILBERT: With me now on AM Agenda the Shadow Assistant Treasurer, Andrew Leigh. The polling shows that most people, nearly 50 per cent of people surveyed in the Newspoll support the postal plebiscite, did Labor get it wrong?
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: Kieran, I think we just need to get on and legalise same-sex marriage. We need to move from being the last advanced English-speaking country that doesn't have same-sex marriage to actually legislating and allowing couples to tie the knot. I had a constituent write to me recently who said that she hoped that both her grandparents could be there at the wedding. But her grandmother has now passed away and her grandfather is unwell. She's worried that every month that we delay, it decreases the chances that she'll have a grandparent there on the big day.
GILBERT: It does look like the numbers are promising though for those that want change. According to this survey, 70 per cent of people say they are going to vote and of those that will vote about 70 per cent said they will vote yes.
LEIGH: We had a marriage equality forum with Tiernan Brady at the Australian National University recently. He was saying the popular opinion in favour of same-sex marriage in Australia is as strong or stronger than in many other countries that already have same-sex marriage. That's why it just makes sense just to do this through Parliament. We didn't have a plebiscite for the last 20 changes to the Marriage Act and we didn't have one for the Sex or Race Discrimination Acts. Same-sex couples shouldn't have to ask the permission of the rest of Australia to marry the person they love.
GILBERT: Now that this is where they're heading, are you encouraged by those numbers in terms of the majority saying they will embrace the vote but also vote yes?
LEIGH: I've always thought that the popular support was there and the support is indeed there in the Parliament as well. All that is holding it up is the opponents of marriage equality. Of course that's why they've designed this plebiscite process. It's a process designed of opponents of marriage equality in order to keep it at bay for as long as possible.
GILBERT: Is it important that those that vote that are voting and advocating a yes vote that they reassure people about religious freedoms?
LEIGH: Religious freedoms are important and certainly religious organisations can do things that secular organisations can't. If you're a secular organisation and you told a woman that she couldn't be promoted simply because of her gender, you'd be in breach of the law. But certain religious organisations are able to do that in some circumstances. We have to constrain these exceptions very carefully - discrimination is inherently ugly and we want to minimise it.
GILBERT: The Attorney-General says he doesn't want the debate about whether a same-sex marriage couple can get married to be distracted by other issues which aren't relevant to that simple question. That's the way he was referring to it yesterday, he doesn't want to be distracted by those other matters. Like others in his party, Angus Taylor before the break advocating very strongly that they should be addressed as part of this broader campaign on same-sex marriage.
LEIGH: I think it would be useful to have a model that we're moving towards, Kieran. But I think George Brandis' point about distraction is also important. One of the things you've seen in other countries is the attempts by opponents of marriage equality to say that we're talking about transgender bathrooms or Safe Schools or some other issue. In fact, it's a very simple question, should two people who love one another be allowed to get married?
GILBERT: Angus Taylor and others in the Government are accusing Bill Shorten of dodging scrutiny in relation to the citizenship question, that Labor should be providing the material. Given that the question over various others members of the parliament – very least of which the Deputy Prime Minister – to reassure people, should Mr Shorten do that?
LEIGH: Kieran, we’ve now got the situation where one in seven Cabinet members have a cloud hanging over their head because of their citizenship. The Nationals Party ought to be called the Dual Nationals Party, because Matt Canavan, Barnaby Joyce and now Fiona Nash have questions over their citizenship. Extraordinarily, while Matt Canavan was asked to stand aside from the ministry and not vote, Fiona Nash and Barnaby Joyce appear to be intending to do just that.
GILBERT: Is Labor being transparent, as transparent as you should be?
LEIGH: We have an absolutely transparent process and this call for the production of certificates is frankly the analogy of the US birther movement. I don’t like right-wing extremists at the best of times but I particularly dislike them when they’re just playing derivative games. This is just them photocopying the right-wing strategies of the extremists in the United States who ran that extraordinary campaign to get Barack Obama to release his birth certificate.
GILBERT: It’s a bit different in the sense that we’ve already got questions over a number of members of parliament under Section 44 of the Constitution and the question is should Labor be providing some documentation to reassure voters that there aren’t the same doubts over their eligibility?
LEIGH: Kieran, we have stringent processes. We’re confident our MPs are validly elected. We don’t need birther style attacks here in Australia.
GILBERT: Just finally, you yesterday wrote an opinion piece on the arrival of Amazon retail in this country. Huge impact for our retailers, from Coles and Woolworths down to bike sellers. You’re saying that there basically needs to be a great deal of scrutiny from the competition watchdog, because this is not just a retailer but also a platform upon which other retailers sell their products.
LEIGH: That’s absolutely right, Kieran. This will be the biggest change that’s happened to Australian retailing since the advent of the department store. But we’ve got sectors in grocery retailing, department stores and postal services which are very concentrated, where the top four control more than 90 per cent of the market. So a bit of a competitive shake up, a bit of innovation won’t go astray. The challenge for Australia is to have competition laws to meet that challenge, which is why Labor has been calling for toughened anti-competitive penalties, for market studies power for the regulator and for an increased litigation budget for our competition watchdog.
GILBERT: Is it a positive or is it potentially a negative having this giant arrive in the country, in terms of retail?
LEIGH: Well, it’s going to be both. I think you’d expect that retail prices will go down, but for people who are shareholders in big retailers or work in big retail companies, it’s going to be a challenging time. I was in the US recently and walking through an American mall is a pretty isolating experience. There’s just not many people shopping in physical malls any longer in the United States. It’s a change that could well come here in Australia, if people choose the convenience of Amazon prime, those Dash buttons, the Echo boxes, maybe even drone deliveries in the future. We shouldn’t be scared of it, but we need to improve our competition laws, which is why Labor is arguing for stronger competition laws.
GILBERT: Dr Leigh, appreciate your time. Talk to you soon.
LEIGH: Thank you, Kieran.