Senator the Hon Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for Western Australia
GREG JENNETT: Senator you have made your view very clear in your media conference with the Prime Minister, about what happens next. Talk to us about the timeline. How does this move forward through the Senate and then the House?
MATHIAS CORMANN: As the Government has said from the outset, it there is a ‘Yes’ outcome and there is an emphatic ‘Yes’ outcome, then the Government would facilitate consideration of a Private Member’s Bill to change the law to allow same sex couples to marry. There is a motion on the notice paper in the Senate today, which is due to be considered this afternoon, which I would expect to get up, which means the Smith Bill, so-called, will be introduced into the Senate and there will be the beginning of the Second Reading debate tomorrow in the Senate. But, the debate on the Bill in detail will not happen until we come back after the next break. So the week of the 27th of November is the week that is broadly earmarked for debate on this Bill in detail in the Senate. As we have said right from the outset, the final sitting fortnight this year was the fortnight that we as a Government had earmarked for consideration of this Bill both through the Senate and the House of Representatives. We are essentially now acting in good faith with the decision of the Australian people, but also in good faith with what we said we would do in the context of this process.
ANDREW PROBYN: You would have heard what Dean Smith said then, he described his Bill as sensible, fair and born out of a Senate Committee process. Do you agree with that assessment?
MATHIAS CORMANN: As I have said and as he has said, his Bill is a starting point, there will now be a Parliamentary process. What I would like to think is that over the next few weeks, as we work our way through this, that people of goodwill from all around the chamber can come together and seek consensus. In the end, for any amendment to be successful, it has to have a majority.
ANDREW PROBYN: I suppose what we are trying to tease out is your views on this particular Bill. You are freed now from this process, we have the result. We know you are from the conservative wing of the Liberal Party, what is your view on it?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I have always said that if the result of the survey process is yes, then I will be voting in favour of a Bill to allow same sex couples to marry. That is something that I have said since before the last election, so that is not news. But I have also said that in my view, there will be a need to look carefully at the Bill that is going to be before the Parliament to assess where the appropriate balance is, in terms of the level of religious protection that is appropriate. Now, there will be conversations across the Senate and across the Parliament as a whole over the next few weeks and there will be an outcome at the end of that process. I am very confident that it will be a sensible outcome. The only amendments that can get up in the Parliament are amendments that have majority support. So if majority supported amendments get up, then I cannot see how that would hold up the passage of... interrupted.
ANDREW PROBYN: As you have heard from Dean Smith, he was talking about his concerns that there would be ‘planks of discrimination’ heaped upon gay and lesbian people because of some of the suggestions that are coming from James Paterson and Co.?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I do not support ‘planks of discrimination’ being piled on and you know I do not support everything that is in the James Paterson Bill. I am on the public record in relation to that too. I think the answer lies probably somewhere in between where the Smith Bill is at as a starting point and where the Paterson Bill started. So, what I would like to think is that people of goodwill now in the Parliament over the next few weeks, can come together, can explore these issues and come up with sensible compromises as appropriate.
ANDREW PROBYN: As we were discussing earlier in the program, Greg and also how you were discussing this with the Prime Minister, this is a very unusual exercise in democracy. It has been successful insofar as it has got 80 per cent turn-out. Would you want this repeated for other contentious ideas and proposals?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I think with this issue, it has been an issue that has been unresolved in Australia for a long time and very good, good Australians have strongly and sincerely held views on both sides of this argument. In the end, in our judgement, this was the only way to provide a more permanent resolution to this issue, that every Australian of voting age participated in the decision. I think this will help those that did not support this change to accept that that is now a majority democratic decision by the Australian people.
ANDREW PROBYN: But you do not want to see this as a template for other contentious issues where Parliament decides it cannot deal with it?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I think this is a pretty unique circumstance. I would not say ‘never, ever’ but it is certainly not something that you would do as a matter of course.
GREG JENNETT: You are a West Australian, what is going on in Western Australia? The second highest jurisdictional vote came from Western Australia on the ‘Yes’ side. Was this something that you had tapped into, something that you had picked up before this somewhat extraordinary result today?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I did not make any predictions. Here, there was an opportunity for all people across Australia, including in the great State of Western Australia, to have their say. That is what we promised we would facilitate in the lead-up to the last election. We have delivered that. There is now an outcome. The Australian people have spoken and the Parliament now has to give effect to that decision and I am very confident that that will happen in good faith by the end of this year.
GREG JENNETT: All right, well, as you are indicating the Senate is sitting this week, it has business to do today and then action on this front as early as tomorrow. So, Mathias Cormann, we are going to let you go at that point, thank you for joining us here.