E&OE - PROOF ONLY
SENATOR PENNY WONG, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION IN THE SENATE: Labor is pleased that we got the agreement that was needed, that the country needed, for Parliamentarians to disclose their citizenship status to the Parliament, with penalties if they fail to comply. We think after the Liberal President of the Senate sat on information about his citizenship problems, with the knowledge of at least one Turnbull Cabinet Minister, this was required.
And while I am on that point can I say Senator Mitch Fifield really needs to come clean on what he knew, when he knew and who he told because he keeps, in the Senate, seeking to cover this up.
I do also want to go to the issue of marriage equality and obviously this is the week where we’ll find out which way Australians voted. No surprises as to what I’m hoping for.
But I do want to make a point about the bill that is being released by Senator Paterson and supported by the conservatives. The important thing to remember is this bill is being supported by the very people who have opposed marriage equality every single step of the way for years. Every single step of the way for years these people have frustrated, opposed, blocked the advance of equality, and now they’re seeking to entrench more discrimination. It is a blocking and delaying tactic and, frankly, I think if the Australian people do vote Yes, they’re not going to look kindly on the same group of people who have urged a No vote not accepting the outcome and trying to delay further. Australians voted for equality. They didn’t vote to license more discrimination and that is what the Paterson bill does.
JOURNALIST: Should the Government’s legislation be detailed today with any possible protections before the result?
WONG: The legislation that is already on the public record is a bill that has gone through a cross-party process. We set up a Senate Select Committee. Dean Smith was involved, many others were too. Not just people from the Yes case but people from the No case. That committee provided a very good report that outlined the way forward and a bill was made public as a consequence of that. I think that is the right place to start. That is the right place to start. A bill that has already gone through a cross-party process.
JOURNALIST: What do you make of this proposal that businesses should be allowed to refuse service for gay weddings?
WONG: Well, I thought we had gone past the point in this country where we had signs that said, you know, “We don’t serve Jews. We don’t serve blacks.” What we’re talking about is an increased license to discriminate. Australians didn’t vote for that. The bill, the Smith bill, the cross-party bill, has appropriate protections. It is reasonable that people whose religion doesn’t agree or doesn’t enable same-sex marriage – it is reasonable for those ministers to refuse to marry people. We accept that. But what we’re talking about, a broader proposition, I think Australians, we’re the country of the fair go. We don’t believe in discrimination. And this bill is about extending the license to discriminate.
JOURNALIST: How much pressure is there on Malcolm Turnbull to include some protections to appease conservatives?
WONG: I hope Malcolm Turnbull shows some spine on this. I really do. We’ve already had to go through – and you and the Australian people have had to pay $122 million, which is the price of his weakness. It’s time that he stood up.
JOURNALIST: Will Jacqui Lambie be missed if she resigns?
WONG: Look, I get on very well with Jacqui but these are matters for her. She’s certainly a passionate advocate for her state.