Transcript

Doorstop - Mural Hall

Senator the Hon Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for Western Australia

Transcription: 

PROOF COPY E & OE

Date: 

7/8/2017

Topic(s): 

Same sex marriage

 MATHIAS CORMANN: As you know, the Parliamentary Liberal party held a meeting this afternoon to consider whether or not the policy we took to the last election to give the Australian people a say on whether or not the definition of marriage should be changed at a plebiscite, whether that policy should be changed. The Parliamentary Liberal party room resolved to maintain our commitment to give all Australians the opportunity to have a say on whether or not the definition of marriage should be changed, to allow same sex couples to marry and to do that through a plebiscite. 

Happy to take questions.

QUESTION: Senator Cormann, does this mean you will put the original plebiscite bill back to the Senate? If it fails, as people expect it will, is the postal plebiscite a back-up option? 

MATHIAS CORMANN: The Government's intention is to put the plebiscite bill that was defeated in the Senate last year back before the Senate and to ask the Senate to reconsider. Our preference is to give effect to the commitment we made at the last election to its fullest extent possible, which is why we will be asking the Senate to support the compulsory attendance plebiscite as per the legislation that was introduced into the Parliament after the election last year and as defeated in the Senate in November.

QUESTION: If that bill fails, will you have a postal vote, or do you have to have another meeting?

MATHIAS CORMANN: The Government is absolutely committed to keep faith with the commitment that we made to the Australian people. That is, to give the Australian people a say on whether or not the definition of marriage should be changed. Our preference is to do that through a compulsory attendance plebiscite and legislation to that effect will come back before the Senate, we hope, this week. If that were to fail, the Government believes that we have a legal and Constitutional way forward, to give the Australian people a say on whether or not the definition of marriage should be changed through a non-legislated, voluntary postal plebiscite. 

QUESTION: Does that have to go back to the party before you tick off on that postal vote?

MATHIAS CORMANN: The meeting today was a meeting of the Parliamentary Liberal party room. The meeting today was for the specific purpose to determine whether or not the policy we took to the last election on giving the Australian people a say on whether or not the definition of marriage should be changed should be changed. That was the purpose of the meeting today, whether we should change our policy on the plebiscite, or go to a free vote now. The Liberal party room resolved to maintain the commitment as a Parliamentary Liberal party that we took to the last election. It is now going to be a matter for the Joint Party room tomorrow in the ordinary course of events, in the usual way, to determine all of the processes from here on forward.

QUESTION: With either plebiscite Minister, given you feel it's so important for the Australian public to be heard, with either version of the plebiscite, will Liberal party members be bound by the results and vote whichever way the Australian people decide? 

MATHIAS CORMANN: The position of the Government is that if the plebiscite vote comes back with a yes vote in favour of changing the law to allow same sex couples to marry, then the Government will facilitate the consideration by the Parliament of a private member's bill to change the law to allow same sex couples to marry. There would be a free vote informed by the plebiscite outcome. Our expectation would be that that law would pass the Parliament.

QUESTION: Is there a commitment to hold that by a specific time, by the end of the year, or is that to be decided?

MATHIAS CORMANN: The specifics in terms of the process from here will be a matter for the Joint Party room tomorrow.

QUESTION: If the plebiscites are defeated by the public does that mean no free vote?

MATHIAS CORMANN: If the public through a plebiscite vote determines that they are not in favour of changing the law to allow same sex couples to marry, then the Government will not be facilitating consideration of a private member's bill to change the law. 

QUESTION: MPs have expressed frustration that this issue is distracting from your main agenda. Doesn't this resolution tonight mean that it will continue to be a distraction for the Government. 

MATHIAS CORMANN: The Liberal party room today had a very good meeting. We had a very courteous, respectful and professional meeting to deal with an issue on which there is a diversity of strongly held views on both sides of the argument. The reason there is a diversity of strongly held views in our party room is because the Liberal party room, and the Coalition party room for that matter, is a reflection of the many views on this across the community. That is why in the lead up to the last election, the Liberal-National party Coalition went with a promise to the election to give the Australian people a say on whether or not the definition of marriage should be changed. We as a Government are committed to maintain that promise to the Australian people, to keep faith with the commitment that we made to the Australian people in the lead up to the last election.

QUESTION: How quickly can a postal vote be conducted, given you want a vote in the Senate this week on the original plebiscite plan?

MATHIAS CORMANN: The purpose of the meeting today, the purpose of the Liberal party room meeting today was to determine whether or not our policy that we took to the last election should be changed or whether it should be maintained. The Liberal party room determined that it should be maintained. There will be further discussions and further decisions and ultimately further announcements on next steps in due course.

QUESTION: How do you pay for a postal plebiscite if there's not an appropriation bill to Parliament and if you have legal advice to that effect can we see it?

MATHIAS CORMANN: As I said to you, the Government believes that there is a legal and Constitutional way for the Government to facilitate a voluntary, non-legislated postal plebiscite. This is now a matter that is a matter for consideration by the Joint Party room meeting at the appropriate time. These matters will all be able to be addressed when we are in a position to make relevant announcements. 

QUESTION: Can we see your legal advice?

MATHIAS CORMANN: We deal with these matters in the usual way.

QUESTION: If there was a no vote to the postal plebiscite, the postal plebiscite, what would happen then? The Government wouldn't facilitate any bill in the House?

MATHIAS CORMANN: As I have indicated in response to a previous question, the Government is committed to give the Australian people a say on whether or not the definition of marriage should be changed in the Marriage Act. Our preference is to do this through a compulsory attendance plebiscite. If that were not able to get through the Senate, the Government's view is that there is a legal and a Constitutional way forward, keeping faith with the commitment that we made, giving the Australian people a say through a voluntary postal plebiscite. Whichever form the plebiscite takes, whether it is a compulsory attendance plebiscite or a voluntary postal plebiscite, if the verdict of the Australian people is that they do not want the law and the definition of marriage in the law changed, then the Government will not be facilitating a private member's bill to change the law. 

QUESTION: But if there was a private member's bill, would members still be bound?

MATHIAS CORMANN: I think that I very clearly expressed the position of the Government.

QUESTION: What's the cost of the postal vote? There have been figures of $40 million, $100 million, is there a guide?

MATHIAS CORMANN: Again, these are still matters that are subject to consideration by the Joint Party room tomorrow. Depending on the decisions made by the Joint Party room tomorrow, there would be further announcements and we will be able to answer all of these questions in due course.

QUESTION: How do you persuade Labor and the crossbench and is there any room to trade or horse trade here, simply short of shaming them what other options does the Government have? 

MATHIAS CORMANN: This is a very simple proposition. We were unequivocal in our commitment to the Australian people before the last election. We believe that the Australian people should have a say on whether or not the definition of marriage in our Marriage Act should be changed. The Government is committed to keep faith with the promise we made at the last election. It is now up to others in the Senate, who may have voted against the plebiscite in the past, the full compulsory attendance plebiscite, and make a decision on whether they prefer a compulsory attendance plebiscite or whether they prefer a postal voluntary plebiscite. If there are concerns about a voluntary postal plebiscite, then I would encourage those Senators who are so concerned to consider supporting the Government's bill for a compulsory attendance plebiscite. 

QUESTION: So, in short is the Government's strategy is continuing to do what it has done once and failed, nothing is going to change?

MATHIAS CORMANN: As I have indicated to you, the Government is committed to give the Australian people a say. Our preference is to give the Australian people a say through a compulsory attendance plebiscite. Should that not succeed through the Senate, the Government believes that there is a legal and Constitutional way forward to give the Australian people a say through a non-legislated, voluntary postal plebiscite. In the scenario where the Senate maintains its past position, then that would be the way that the Government believes we can keep faith with the promise that we made. 

QUESTION: Have the five rebel MPs committed not to be bringing a procedural motion to the floor? Was that part of their speeches to the party room?

MATHIAS CORMANN: I am not going to go into the detail of the party room discussion. You would not expect me to. Let me just say again, it was a very good meeting. It was a very courteous, very respectful, very professional discussion. At the end of the discussion, the Liberal party room resolved to maintain the policy that we took to the last election and that is to give the Australian people a say on whether or not the definition of marriage should be changed in our Marriage Act. 

Thank you very much.

[ENDS]