SENATOR THE HON PENNY WONG

LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION IN THE SENATE

SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS

LABOR SENATOR FOR SOUTH AUSTRALIA

TRANSCRIPT

8 December 2017

ABC RADIO ADELAIDE ‘BREAKFAST’

TOPIC: MARRIAGE EQUALITY

E&OE - PROOF ONLY

ALI CLARKE: Christopher Pyne is the Liberal MP for Sturt and the Leader of the House Good morning.

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Good Morning. Thanks for having me on.

ALI CLARKE: Have your feet touched the ground, looking back over what has just been, what’s your main thought?

PYNE: Actually I’m tired. I spent the day from 9:30am until about 8 o’clock last night in the chamber ensuring that the marriage equality bill went through the Parliament as well as could be expected and so I went home early last night because I was quite worn out.

So this morning I’m absolutely euphoric about the fact that we now have marriage equality in Australia. It’s a very historic day and it means that we’ve ended the year on very positive note for the country and for the government and it was great to see the Parliament embracing such a major social change and showing that the Parliament can respond to the will of the people.

CLARKE: Penny Wong, Labor Senator for South Australia’s also with us, Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs. Penny what was it like for you in that moment seeing the House of Representatives pass that bill?

SENATOR PENNY WONG, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION IN THE SENATE: Good morning all. It was fantastic, it’s been a very long road, people have worked for this for a long time and of course we had to go through the postal survey and people across the country worked incredibly hard to get the right result so that we in the Parliament could deliver yesterday. And it was a really wonderful moment I think, a great moment for the country and a great moment for all Australians.

CLARKE: What about the moment when the chamber burst into song, people in the gallery start singing “I am Australian”.

WONG: It was joyful wasn’t it? It expressed, I think, both a joy, but also the fact that this vote says something about who we are. It says something about what sort of country we are and there’s something really very profound about our values, a statement of inclusion and acceptance and respect and I thought they captured the moment beautifully.

CLARKE: Was that unexpected or, who led this, Christopher Pyne? I mean you’re Leader of the House, were you teeing all of this up?

PYNE: Certainly not, no I wasn’t. It was very much a grassroots support for marriage equality, it should have happened many years ago, we’ve been debating it for too long but the plebiscite gave the Australian public a very real say which meant that they shared in the decision.

I was shocked that four out of 5 Australians voted and I was pleased with the result being 62%. Penny and I both campaigned, sometimes together, for a ‘Yes’ vote and yesterday in the chamber people travelled from all over Australia to be in the Parliament, which was a rarity in itself to sit there for the day and watch the debate and then to have those joyous scenes really was a very moving and exciting time.

And for people like Warren Entsch who have been very brave – the Member for Leichhardt – within the Coalition and campaigned for marriage equality, probably at his own expense and his career, it was a really wonderful day. And for people like Penny and others we can all stop talking now about difference and we can embrace the equality that the Parliament has achieved in terms of marriage.

CLARKE: Penny Wong, do you think that there will be this unification or do you think some of the disquiet and abhorrent behaviour we saw on both sides will actually continue for a while through this?

WONG: I’ve never thought that this would lead to more division, I always thought this would lead to, firstly, the togetherness that I think you saw yesterday. The sun came up this morning I don’t know what it’s like there, I’m in Canberra and it’s a beautiful day here and life will go on and existing marriages won’t be affected. More people will get married, everyone will go about their lives and a lot of the, frankly, over the top attacks about what this would mean to our society will be demonstrated to be hollow and false. I think everyone will just move on and accept it and become part of normal, everyday Australia and that’s a great thing.

CLARKE: Tony Abbott, among others, abstained from the vote, and he’s been quoted as saying it was a shame that the fear and disquiet of the millions who voted ‘no’ weren’t addressed. How do you respond to that?

WONG: A couple of points I’d make to that. Tony Abbott has campaigned long and hard to stop this. He blocked Christopher and Warren and others from having a free vote in the Parliament and we all know this would have happened earlier if he hadn’t have done that. But that’s in the past.

I don’t think he is right and there is nothing in this bill which prevent people from holding views, which impinges on people’s freedom of religion. It’s very clear that religious institutions are still free to refuse those marriages between same sex couples if that doesn’t accord with their teachings. So, religious freedom is preserved.

I think this will be much ado about nothing frankly. I think the country has moved on. The country has already accepted this., There has been some high profile individuals and some high profile groups who have said that but I think a majority of Australians will say well, ‘whatever, fine’.

PYNE: I think it is important to nail this misnomer that somehow we have passed a bill without religious protection. It is completely false. The bill has all the religious protections that would be required for churches, for ministers of religion, for Defence chaplains, for organisations not directly required to use their churches or their institutions to marry same sex couples. That is all the religious protections in the bill and beyond the bill we have some of the most free religious observance in the world.

There are many other laws that protect religious freedoms in this country and the idea that the bill has ended religious freedom in this nation is quite frankly mythological and should not be supported.

CLARKE: Given the date, from our reckoning, the first marriages will be able to legally take place in this country from January the ninth. Penny Wong would you like to solemnise your relationship now that you legally can?

WONG: Someone said “make honest women of us” and I said ‘we’re both honest women already thank you”. That’s probably a conversation I should have with Sophie. Much as I like you, and much as I like Christopher and have known him for a long time, it’s probably not the chat for the radio.

CLARKE: No, and Penny Wong, if you don’t mind, can you not do it at a sporting event and get down on one knee? You know how they do that?

WONG: Because that’s really my style mate. Can you see me doing that?

CLARKE: Penny Wong, thank you for your time, really good to talk to you.

WONG: No worries.

Clarke: Christopher Pyne there as well, Liberal MP for Sturt, Penny Wong, Labor Senator for South Australia.

PYNE: Thanks very much.