Doorstop, Parliament House, Canberra

Subject/s: Marriage equality plebiscite; Pauline Hanson







Subject/s: Marriage equality plebiscite; Pauline Hanson

GRAHAM PERRETT:  Mr Turnbull on marriage equality is rapidly becoming the Prime Minister that is breaking the nation’s heart.  He knows that this plebiscite is a terrible option, a horrible option, not only in Wentworth but in the broader community.  He is beholden to the right wing of his party and going ahead with something that will cause division and harm and worse throughout Australia.   He needs to scrap it, listen to his Senator from Western Australia, Dean Smith, and support the legislation or bring in his own legislation and get this done in the proper way, in a representative democracy, in the House of Representatives and in the Senate.

JOURNALIST:  Are you asking the Government to support your Bill or the cross-bencher’s or at least one of the I think 13 or 14…

GRAHAM PERRETT:   It doesn’t matter.  They can bring in their own legislation if they don’t want to support something from the Labor party or the cross-benchers.  There are enough opportunities; I think the Attorney-General has the sufficient legal skills to bring in a piece of legislation that changes the Marriage Act.  It only needs a couple of words and would bring certainty.  We could have weddings occur before Christmas and get on with solving some of the nation’s economic problems.  They have other things to do.  They are scrapping their entire economic narrative in terms of jobs and growth and in terms of the $50 billion tax cuts for big business according to the newspapers today so maybe they could focus on the economy and those challenges.  Get marriage equality sorted and we’ll then work on making sure we have some actual jobs and some realistic growth rather than government expenditure led growth.

JOURNALIST:  The Government argues that there could be gay marriages on Valentine’s Day next year.  Isn’t the Labor Party breaking people’s hearts by standing in the way of the plebiscite?

GRAHAM PERRETT:   Obviously we are consulting with the Australian people, particularly the mental health experts and the families who will be affected by this divisive and terrible idea of the plebiscite.  I know that we will do the right thing by the Australian people.  Malcolm Turnbull is the one that has the majority, slender though it is.  He has the majority in the House of Representatives.  He knows that the Liberal Party has a long tradition from Menzies on; you know when the Marriage Act came in in 1961, of voting according to conscience.  If he let his MPs vote according to conscience we could get this sorted and move on with those greater issues in terms of the economic challenges facing Australia.  Making sure that we have our AAA credit rating maintained, because I am more worried about that than some of those other things going on in the Coalition Party room.

JOURNALIST:  The Prime Minister has warned in a newspaper interview today that gay marriage could be left off the agenda for a very long time.  Is Labor prepared to see this put off to the never never indefinitely?

GRAHAM PERRETT:   Certainly, consistently the people that I have spoken to, not only my gay brothers but other people in the community who will be affected, they say we don’t want the fear and division and harm rolling out across Australia.  And I am sure if Malcolm Turnbull went for a walk down Oxford Street in his own electorate and spoke to his community he would get exactly the same answer.

JOURNALIST:  The Labor Party seems pretty united in standing against the plebiscite.  Why doesn’t the Labor Party just come out and rule out supporting a plebiscite once and for all?  Why drag it out?

GRAHAM PERRETT:   You want us to come out?  [laughter]

JOURNALIST:  Come out and not support the plebiscite and say you’re going to block it in the Senate.

GRAHAM PERRETT:   Well we’ve got plenty of time obviously.  The legislation was only introduced yesterday.  We do want to talk to a few more health professionals and other people, families in particular with younger children who will be affected by this plebiscite.  Certainly all of the feedback we are getting is that it would be very very difficult for the Australian Labor Party to support this plebiscite.  Malcolm Turnbull understands that.  He needs to deal with the reality of the numbers in the Senate as they are now and the House of Representatives.  He needs to listen to Dean Smith, someone I have worked very closely with from the Public Works Committee.  A very well respected Senator, number one on his ticket I think, and scrap this plebiscite idea.

JOURNALIST:  Should Queenslanders be embarrassed to have Pauline Hanson representing them in the Senate following her first speech yesterday?

GRAHAM PERRETT:   Well look, Senator Hanson, she is a one trick pony and that trick is fear and division.  It is the same trick she rolled out to the Australian people 20 years ago in the electorate of Oxley.  It is the same thing she is peddling now.  She has as few more allies at the moment with her.  I have a great faith in the people of Queensland.  I know that we are a multicultural community.  I know that Islamic Australians, the Australian Muslim community is strong, hardworking, has been consistently raising their voices against terrorism throughout the land.  And if Pauline Hanson listened to the Islamic community, came down and joined me for a cup of tea in Kuraby and spoke to some of the leaders from the Islamic community she would find that they have been consistently targeting extremists wherever they are.  So the people like Pauline Hanson are only here - they get tax payer dollars by peddling division and fear.  I condemn her for that.  And I am sure that Queenslanders will eventually express that view at the ballot box, but nevertheless I look forward to educating and engaging with the people that voted for Pauline Hanson in the last election from Queensland, from my electorate, from wherever.

JOURNALIST:  What about the quarter of a million people that gave her their first vote in Queensland, doesn’t she speak to them?

GRAHAM PERRETT:   Well, there are aspects of Pauline Hanson’s speech last night that are just ridiculous.  You know, thankfully when the Constitution was written it made it very clear in section 116 that the Commonwealth shall not make any law prohibiting the free exercise of any religion.  It is very clear that the founding fathers put that in our Constitution for a very good reason so that the bigotry of people like Pauline Hanson cannot be visited upon people who want to pray according to their beliefs.  And I believe that Queenslanders understand that fundamentally.  I know that democracy is always a shifting beast but I look forward to engaging with, not walking out on or avoiding, Pauline Hanson’s supporters and I am sure that over time, if they are educated, will move away from the fear and division that she has cultivated.

JOURNALIST:  Do you agree with John Howard’s view that she was a beneficiary of a protest vote because people were disillusioned with the major parties and is it the major parties fault that she is back in Parliament?

GRAHAM PERRETT:   Look, populism has been going in cycles for the last five, ten thousand years.  There will always be people that will peddle a simple solution rather than the complicated truth.  I think out of the long line of people that are prepared to do that, I think Pauline Hanson sits in there pretty easily.  As I said she is a one trick pony who actually will not engage with the Islamic community.  She’s been invited to mosques in my area.  I would hope she would come along and listen to some of the Islamic communities that I sit down with, the Islamic leaders that I sit down with, the Islamic leaders who regularly condemn any acts of extremists.  And if she listened to them and engaged with them she actually wouldn’t have a product to sell to the people that she tries to lead with fear and ignorance and division.

JOURNALIST:  What did you make of Julian Leeser’s first speech to the Lower House?

GRAHAM PERRETT:   Unfortunately, I had duty so I have only read the write-up on it but I will go back and track it down.  I like to listen to every first person’s speech in the House of Reps but his seems extraordinary.  The transcripts I saw in the newspaper this morning were commendable.  Great courage.  And that is the sort of first speech I am happy to listen to.  I know Ms Hanson’s was her second speech, but there were some great first speeches yesterday from both sides of the Chamber and everyone knows that sensible Australia is one that is embracive, inclusive, multicultural.  That is the modern day Australia.  If Pauline Hanson is trying to exclude people, if she is trying to say that she won’t speak for certain Queenslanders, then I am sure she would be happy to take a pay cut commensurate with those people she doesn’t speak for.  Thanks guys.