Topics: Plebiscite; cyber security
We are joined today by in one corner, Greg Hunt, Liberal Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science, Federal Member for Flinders. Thank you for joining us Greg.
And good afternoon Sami, we are in fact about a metre from each other in a tiny little ABC studio in Canberra so if anything goes wrong you’ll just hear the sort of sound effects.
The sound effects indeed because across from you, in the other corner, is Brendan O’Connor, ALP Federal Member for Gorton, Shadow Minister for Employment and Workplace. Feeling fight ready sir?
Absolutely. No it’s really good to be here, thanks Sami.
Alright. Now, look, once we get into the verbal fisticuffs and the violence, there is no doubt about [inaudible].
Let’s just lay some of the topics down for our callers and texters. You can call in on 1300222774, and text is 0437774774.
This segment is Fight Club, my guests are ready, and the topic is going to be – surprise, surprise – same-sex marriage and whether or not the plebiscite is dead.
What is the final decision now? It seems to be that one side of the Government is saying that it’s not dead, there’s still a chance, while the Nationals don’t seem to the agree, whereas the Labor Party is saying that it is done and it’s over.
Greg Hunt, where do you think it stands? Or does it stand at all?
Well we’re taking it to the Parliament.
We took it to the Australian people and they elected a Coalition Government with a million more votes than the Labor Party and we’re doing this because we trust the Australian people.
They are capable of having a sophisticated debate because of course, every day people such as the three of us are in the fortunate position of being able to talk about a topic such as same-sex marriage, but the Australian public don’t get to have their say and their voice and we think it’s time for them to do that, and I am hopeful that we will be successful through the Senate process.
Is that how deprived the Australian public is, Brendan?
Well I look, I understand Greg’s point of view. However Labor believes that the plebiscite doesn’t have any binding capacity on any members of Parliament. It’s expensive.
We think it’s potentially very harmful, and whilst we know that the Liberals did make a commitment they have made alterations to a series of election commitments since the election result, and we think that they should reconsider their position because we live in a representative democracy and you know, as a Member of Parliament I think I have an obligation to do the job of making changes to the law.
I think it’s not necessary to make an exception. I think- and that’s why I think people do take offence, that they- that a particular community within our society feel that they are being treated differently to others [inaudible].
But at the same time…
That’s why we oppose the approach the Government’s considering.
At the same time, George Brandis said yesterday that Labor has had the opportunities in the past there’s Kevin Rudd, there’s Julia Gillard, and those opportunities were not taken. The plebiscite, I mean the same-sex marriage thing was not settled then.
This is arguably the Liberal Party presenting that option, doing more for same-sex marriage than Labor has done?
I don’t think it’s just a question of who is responsible for the changes. I think it’s fair to say that there’s been changes to remove discrimination towards gay and lesbians and in fact, Labor and Liberal Governments at the state and federal level have been involved. In fact there was a vote, a free vote in the Parliament in 2012 but it didn’t prevail.
I think what’s happened is, this debate has moved very quickly and I think people’s attitudes towards marriage equality have changed rapidly and we talk about what happened in Ireland and you know, the fact that there was quite an overwhelming level of support for the change.
And I think so, things have moved quite quickly on this very significant social matter and issue of equality for people, and we don’t want to delay it any longer. And we are concerned and we join Professor McGorry’s concerns about the harmful nature of the debate.
Not because everyone’s going to show disrespect or act in an offensive manner, but there will be sufficient discord and offence.
And that may be very harmful, we say, over the next three or four months to people, to children of same-sex couples, and to other members of the community and if we can do it another way and I think we can do it through a free vote of the Parliament, why should we not take that option?
Greg, why shouldn’t they take the option?
Look I think it’s very clear. The example which Brendan used of Ireland is actually a great example.
That was a wonderful outcome and I would be voting yes myself but let me make that absolutely clear, I’ve always been up front about that but it was a celebration of democracy and then a celebration of the outcome. It was actually a unifying event for the nation…
Isn’t an election a celebration of democracy? I mean this isn’t Athens where we need everyone to vote.
Well an election is and the Australian people voted for a particular party to govern with fundamental platforms, and this is one of them, and…
Is a plebiscite a party governing or is a plebiscite a party, you know, shoving the responsibility onto the public saying you do the governing for us?
There are cases where you can take things to the public such as we did with the vote for representatives, a plebiscite on the constitutional convention on the republic nearly two decades ago.
Only three years ago to the Essendon Baptist Church and the Australian Christian Lobby, I think Bill Shorten used the words in terms of a plebiscite, “I would rather the people of Australia could make their view clear on this then leaving this issue to 150 people”, and I share those sentiments.
I think the idea that we can finally resolve this issue, not wait any longer, get it done.
And I believe that the Australian people will vote yes, and I believe that the Australian people can be trusted and they should be given the right to vote, and we can end this issue once and for all and we have a mandate from the Australian people to do that.
It’s a really high and powerful moment in Australian history when a government, when a government for the first time lays out to the Parliament a pathway to provide same-sex marriage.
We’re talking about same-sex marriage and whether or not the plebiscite’s current situation means that the same-sex marriage issue is dead or not. You can call in on 1300222774 or text in on 0437774774.
Gentlemen, yesterday we spoke to Shadow Assistant Minister for Equality Terri Butler on the same topic, and this is what she had to say.
And I think that you’ve got a Prime Minister who I think knows very very well what the right thing is to do here. So he knows that what he’s doing in pursuing this plebiscite is wrong. I think that at some point his conscience will get the better of him and he’ll do the right thing and we’ll have a vote on the floor of the Parliament.
[End of excerpt]
Is that Labor’s only plan right now? To wait for Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to have a crisis of conscience or to change his mind? Does that seem to be the entire strategy that’s currently in place?
Well we’ve got a concern with the process.
I’ll just make the point. Greg mentioned, I mentioned the Irish referendum and Greg touched on it too, but in that country they had to have that approach because there was no other way to change the law.
And even in doing that, subsequently there’s been gay and lesbians talking about the anxiety and the difficulty they confronted in that debate.
Even if overwhelmingly most people had treated them with respect there were still issues that were of concern and we think, I do think Malcolm Turnbull understands that.
He’s said he’s spoken to Professor McGorry. He originally held a position of the Parliament making a decision. I can recall when we had the free vote he was, he wanted to be able to vote with his conscience.
Ultimately he was not in a position to do so because the Liberal Party refused that on that occasion, and I think in his heart of hearts he knows that it would be best to do that. You know, we have- we live in a representative democracy, not a plebiscitary democracy.
I think actually and I don’t like the approach, that we take matters that are supposed to be difficult to plebiscite. Particularly in this case where it’s an expensive, non-binding vote, so it just has all of the colour and movement of a referendum but it has no weight attached to it.
There’s no compulsion that arises from the decision made by the voters, because ultimately it’s an opinion poll.
I’m talking to Brendan O’Connor, Federal Member for Gorton, Shadow Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations and Greg Hunt, Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science, Federal Member for Flinders.
We have a call of Trent from Preston. Trent, your question for Greg Hunt?
I’d like to know, Greg, whether you believe this is an issue of human rights?
I’ve got family members who are directly affected by this and I’d like to know whether you consider the right of two people to be able to get married in a consenting relationship, actually to be a human rights issue.
Look I do support this, that’s a very important question.
Fundamental. That’s why we’re actually elevating it to a national free vote and we can achieve this now – that’s the magnificent thing.
We can achieve this now and (a) we took it to an election so we won the support of the Australian people to do this, but (b) we trust the Australian people.
And I am very confident that it will be delivered, that they will vote yes to same-sex marriage. I think all of the indications are overwhelming on that front.
And rather than wait or delay, as Bill Shorten himself said, you know he would rather the people of Australia could make their view clear on this than 150 people up, and the good people can come to different conclusions on that, as they can on the substantive issue, but my deep personal, passionate conviction is, it gives the Australian people a say.
Let’s make sure that we end the issue and move into a new phase in our history and this can be a crowning achievement of public involvement in democracy, something we can be deeply proud of.
Well there is a concern however. Like you said for example, that there, you know, you can put it to the public people, you can put it to the public and all the polls seem to indicate that it will pass as a positive for gay marriage.
However, polls aren’t reliable, Brexit proved that and an upset in the plebiscite, which the gay community wonders and worries about is that it comes out no and then the topic is just as dead as the Liberal Party seems to be claiming it is now.
Look, it’s possible but I don’t think it’s likely. I think it’s overwhelmingly likely that the Australian public will vote for change, will vote for same-sex marriage and what a magnificent thing that would be.
Well Scott from Lethbridge, Scott from Lethbridge seems to think that it should also go to the people, Scott?
Yeah, I do. I think that something like this needs to go to the people. You can’t just give it to, give the vote to a handful of people who are that out of touch with reality, and put them in a room to make a decision.
So Scott, you’re saying that you think the politicians who represent you are out of touch with reality?
Course! Yeah, they only do what’s in their best interests and that’s been proven time and time again.
Alright, thank you for that Scott. Brendan, are you in touch with reality?
Well I hope I’m in touch with my constituents and as would other members be, of the Parliament – other Members of Parliament of course talk, not only to their constituents of their own electorate but to many other people that are directly affected by this matter.
The problem is again, if I can just remind your listeners – the plebiscite does not formally determine whether Parliament decides to enact marriage equality or to repudiate the proposition. So it is a very expensive opinion poll which has no legal formal bearing on the decision subsequently of the Parliament.
So it is not like a referendum where the change that might occur, the majority of voters and the majority of states might change our constitution, it doesn’t have any legal implications.
Now and yes, it might carry some weight, but the debate that will ensue, I don’t believe is going to be helpful to people most affected and it won’t change matters and I think, you know this matter has now been going on for a very long time, I think Members of Parliament know the feelings of their constituents and they’ve got an opportunity now, I mean …
But there is the question of whether or not people just feel that they’re not getting enough of a say. Barry from Geelong, on line seven. Barry, more plebiscites or less?
Yes, I’d like to make the point that neither of you politicians are doing a very good job and (inaudible) on a lot more subjects so that we can basically bypass your inability to govern the country properly.
So Barry thank you, Barry basically seems to want to be in government, it seems. Are either of you going to step aside?
Well, I’ll bet Brendan is looking pretty ready to move.
I’m very happy to join, at some point, be member of a Government. Look, Greg is currently a minister in the Government, I’m just wanting to get back there.
Greg, I want to go to another caller but before I do we have Trent from Preston who called earlier about the human rights thing.
He’s called back and I was going to pass onto someone else but it is Fight Club and you know, this needs to get a little bit bloodier. So Trent, what do you have to say to Greg Hunt?
Oh look I’m actually extremely disappointed by the political answer that my question was given.
I asked Greg Hunt whether he considered same-sex marriage or the right to marry someone in a consensual relationship as a human right, and what I got was a political answer.
If it’s a human right nd if you agree that it’s a human right then it should not be subject to a popular vote. It’s as simple as actually recognising that the Marriage Act needs to change to reflect basic human rights.
Now, there’s no other human right that would be subjected to a plebiscite in this way, and if it was then what does that mean about all the other human rights that we may take for granted but which could also be subject to this sort of politicisation?
It’s a simple thing, and when you’ve got family members who are directly affected by their ability to marry or not marry someone that they love, then it’s a pretty simple sort of right, the right to stand up for.
And I’m really disappointed to see a lack of response from Greg Hunt on what is a pretty basic question about human rights.
Thank you so much for that Trent. Greg, before you respond I just want to get to some texts as well.
I’m a young person, female and 25, and do not support gay marriage.
I went to university and consider myself educated. I support a plebiscite. That’s from someone who texted in.
Someone else says why should people get a say about the rights of fellow citizens? Brendan, do you feel that the situation has now reached a point where there is no way forward?
Well, I think we could have a free vote of the Parliament, and that would make you know, that would decide the matter within weeks if not earlier.
So that’s always there, that’s there and available to the Parliament of Australia. We’ve been voted to govern.
These are Commonwealth laws. The changes that are required will require the passing of the laws of the Federal Parliament…
But this, I mean this is…
And this will have to happen anyway. My point is, this will have to have to happen.
Ultimately whatever else happens with the expensive opinion poll, in the end members will- and senators will have to make a decision in relation to this matter to change the law.
Now, I believe most people have a view already. Greg has his view, Malcolm Turnbull has his view and he’s been very clear about that and so too has Bill Shorten, and of course many others.
We should just do out day job and make the change if that’s what the will of the Parliament is. I believe it is.
Well Greg, that’s where it comes out to. The will of the Parliament. Which Trent the caller is also asking you about is how much of human rights for example is something the public should respond to or the Parliament should respond to?
Look, I think this is a unique issue. I respect Trent’s views. I also respect the views of others of your listeners who have put forward a different position to Trent.
Do I want to see this achieved? Absolutely. Am I part of a process which would see this achieved, see it achieved rapidly, and I think for those Australians who do not support the change, what they will support is a process which gives them a say.
So what we’re proposing, in my view, actually elevates the importance, respects the rights and gives us a chance to create social change whilst bringing all of society with us and I think that’s the really important point.
It’s an opportunity to bring all of society with us in the same way that the Irish referendum did that.
Yes, there was a constitutional reason but what it really did, it brought society together, in a more conservative arguably society than Australia, and I think that that is the exemplar of how we can bring social change on some of these issues, and that could be, as I say, a really fine, fine moment.
And I happen to believe in the Australian people, and it’s a way of bringing both those who are uncomfortable with change along with those who want change, and that’s the ultimate sanctification of those rights.
Alright. Well this is Fight Club. We’re listening to Greg Hunt, Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science, and Brendan O’Connor, Federal Member for Gorton, Shadow Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations.
We’ve been talking about same-sex marriage, we’re going to be getting into other issues including cyber-security and political perks next.
[Unrelated item – traffic report]
We have just time for one more topic. I’m joined by Greg Hunt and Brendan O’Connor.
Gentlemen, the cyber-security issue that’s come up recently, in the report it’s been revealed that the Bureau of Meteorology was hacked by an international, well I suppose the language being used right now is just foreign spies.
Are we prepared for cyber-warfare? Greg Hunt, I’ll put that to you first.
Yes we are. There is a hostile cyber environment out there. It’s a new frontier, and there are really three sources of threats.
You can have foreign governments, that’s true. There are individuals who are hacking, and they might be just seeking information.
And then you also have the potential for cyber-terrorism where you have organisations which at this stage do now have the capability on our best advice, but hostile organisations that might seek to bring down hospitals, Defence. They might seek to interfere with essential services.
But are we ready for them, is the question.
Yes we are because, what we’ve done is create a whole Australian cyber-security strategy. There’s a lot of money; $230 million over four years for the strategy and then another 400 million over the next decade under the Defence White Paper.
But we’re getting the best people in. I met today with the head of an organisation called Data61, and we were looking at how we will be building the capacity of Australian firms to be engaged in cyber defence. So, we have a whole national strategy.
Really quickly because we’re running out of time, sorry. Brendan, Donald Trump said the world has stuff to fear now from overweight guys in basements with laptops I think is how he described it sadly.
But is Australia hacker proof?
I’m a bit worried about Donald Trump, I’ll have to tell you.
Look, I mean I know this is called Fight Club but you’re now talking about cyber-security and national security and on these matters, Labor and the Government work pretty closely together.
We’ll seek a briefing on the implications of the report. It clearly outlines that there is a potential threat, but our national security agencies, the National Security of Cabinet, works very well and I can say that as a former minister.
There’s always- of course you always have to be vigilant and there’s always changing arrangements with respect to these types of threats but- so, be vigilant.
We work together on this matter. It’s the number one issue for any national Parliament.
Well a disappointingly conciliating note on this Fight Club.
Well it’s a big issue, you know?
Thank you so much for joining me, gentlemen.
That was Greg Hunt and Brendan O’Connor in Fight Club.