Senator the Hon Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for Western Australia
SAMANTHA MAIDEN: We spoke to Mathias Cormann a short time ago. We asked him his reaction to Penny Wong, but we began by talking about the postal plebiscite, where it goes to from here.
MATHIAS CORMANN: We will now press ahead with the postal plebiscite. Ballot papers should arrive in people’s letterboxes from 12 September with the final result to be known no later than 15 November. That is now the intention.
SAMANTHA MAIDEN: And of course if the vote in ‘no’, you will not be facilitating debate on same sex marriage but if it is ‘yes’, you could have a vote on it by Christmas.
MATHIAS CORMANN: That is the timetable the Government has set out. If there is a ‘yes’ vote from the postal plebiscite then the Government will facilitate consideration for a private member’s bill by the Parliament to change the law to allow same sex couples to marry. We would expect that would go through the Parliament rather swiftly in that scenario.
SAMANTHA MAIDEN: Very emotional speech in the Senate from Penny Wong, essentially accusing the Government of allowing critics of same sex marriage to attack her community, her family, her kids, what is your reaction to that?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I have a very high regard for Penny Wong. We are fierce competitors, but we have a very good personal relationship. I agree with her. It will be very important for this debate to be conducted with courtesy and respect. We believe that the Australian people absolutely can have this debate with courtesy and respect. There is a diversity of sincerely held, strongly held views across the community. That is reflected here in the Parliament. Over the next three and a half months the Australian people will have the opportunity to express their view, to have their say on whether or not they believe that the definition of marriage should be changed. The Parliament at the end of that process, we are confident, will respect whatever the outcome is that comes out of that process.
SAMANTHA MAIDEN: But do you not hear what she is saying? I mean she was essentially accusing the Prime Minister of not doing enough to stand up to some of these people saying these things. Do you think that was fair of her to make that claim?
MATHIAS CORMANN: From the Government’s point of view, from the Prime Minister’s point of view, from my point of view, we do not support disrespectful contributions. We do not support them at all. We believe that this is a debate that can take place, that Australians can have this debate in a courteous and respectful manner. We trust the Australian people to have their say in relation to this issue. The Parliament has dealt with this issue on a number of occasions now. On each occasion the Parliament has reconfirmed the current definition of marriage. That has not settled the debate because the losing side of the argument in the Parliament and in the community, did not accept that outcome. If we now were just to have a vote in the Parliament without letting the Australian people having a say on this, without them being part of this decision making process, we believe that the losing side of the argument across the community would still not accept the outcome. So we believe that giving the Australian people the opportunity to have a say offers the opportunity of a more permanent resolution of this issue, offers the opportunity for a community consensus around the ultimate outcome. That is what democratic processes always deliver. That is the beauty of democracy, that a debate on an issue with a vote at the end, where everybody feels that they have had a fair opportunity to have their say, will help the country move forward and to move forward on the basis of what is decided at that time.
SAMANTHA MAIDEN: The idea though that it is going to fuel hate speech, is that one of the reasons why you decided not to fund the ‘yes’ or ‘no’ campaign?
MATHIAS CORMANN: The Government did make a decision not to provide public funding to the ‘yes’ and ‘no’ campaigns. We believe that Australians are well aware of what their views are in relation to this issue. We do want to give the Australian people the opportunity to have their say. We will respect the verdict of the Australian people on this issue. But we do not believe that there is a need for a publicly funded education campaign on one side of the argument or the other. We believe that this is a matter now for the Australian people to simply provide their feedback through the process that is going to be run by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, to provide their feedback to be counted. So that at the end of it, the Parliament has a very clear indication on whether the Australian people want the law changed or whether they do not.
SAMANTHA MAIDEN: And just finally the Labor party says it has some questions in relation to whether overseas people will be able to vote. What the issues are in terms of young people enrolling who are not enrolled. What is the answer to those questions?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Firstly, every single Australia who is enrolled on the Electoral Roll and who has provided an address as part of being enrolled on the Electoral Roll will receive a ballot paper and will have the opportunity to vote. In relation to overseas voters, if they are enrolled on the Australian Electoral Roll, if they have provided an overseas address, then they will receive the relevant documentation at their address overseas that they have given to the Electoral Commission. There will be an appropriate period for new voters to enrol and for existing voters to update their details in the usual way. The ABS supported by the Electoral Commission will provide relevant information on timelines in the usual way. That will include information on the timelines in relation to people having the opportunity to update their details on the electoral roll or to enrol for the first time.
SAMANTHA MAIDEN: Okay Mathias Cormann thanks for your time.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Always good to talk to you.