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Carnell supports ACT same-sex marriage bid -

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TONY EASTLEY: The ACT Government is expected to make Australian history today by passing a bill to legalise same-sex marriage, a move opposed by the Abbott Government.

The Federal Attorney-General, George Brandis, has signalled the Commonwealth will challenge the territory legislation in the High Court, a decision that has disappointed Kate Carnell, the territory's longest serving Liberal chief minister.

Kate Carnell is now the CEO of Beyond Blue. She's been speaking to reporter Andrew Greene in Canberra.

KATE CARNELL: Look, it's disappointing. I think the majority of Australians now accept that people, same-sex people, have a right to be happy and to live their lives the way they want to, and if they choose to get married they should be able to do so.

So I think it is something that needs to happen. It'd be disappointing if the ACT's efforts were overruled by the High Court.

ANDREW GREENE: Kate Carnell, are you disappointed because it's a same-sex issue or a territory rights issue?

KATE CARNELL: In this case I don't think it's a territory rights issue. The approach that Brandis, that George Brandis has taken seems to be more about having a national approach to marriage rather than an issue of states and territories.

If it was a territory rights issue, I'd be even more dramatic about it. The ACT certainly should be treated the same as all other states.

ANDREW GREENE: But would the Commonwealth have grounds for a challenge if a state had enacted these laws rather than a territory like the ACT?

KATE CARNELL: Well I think this is an issue. The way that Senator Brandis is speaking indicates that his view is that this isn't about the territory rights. It's about there being a national approach to marriage, a consistency shall we say. So on that basis he would have to be willing to take the same effort, the same approach, if it was a state that had passed the legislation.

ANDREW GREENE: If the Federal Government had decided to instead take the parliamentary route, like it did with the ACT's civil union legislation a few years ago, would there be a push for a conscience vote in the Liberal Party room?

KATE CARNELL: Look I'm sure that there will be a push for a conscience vote. As to whether it happens this time is another issue. I suspect not. But, look, I don't think it's far away. I think in the end that all major parties will take the view that this is a conscience issue, it's not a policy issue. I certainly hope that that's what happens.

ANDREW GREENE: Do you predict that perhaps the Prime Minister's views on this issue may change in the future?

KATE CARNELL: Look I know that it's been said, probably by Tony Abbott's sister and by others that you know Tony's views are changing. And you know, it's a bit like Jeff Kennett, the chair of Beyond Blue. Jeff used to be dramatically against same-sex marriage.

But he's changed his views. He believes that people, all people, have a right to be happy and have a right to be married if they choose to be, and I think there's lots of people like Jeff who once held a very firm no view and now have moved totally.

I'm hopeful that that will happen to Tony Abbott and other members of the Liberal Party as well.

TONY EASTLEY: Beyond Blue CEO and former ACT Liberal chief minister Kate Carnell speaking to Andrew Greene.