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Transcript of interview with Karl Stefanovic: Today Show: 14 November 2017: same sex marriage; citizenship

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14 Nove

mber 2017

Topics: same sex marriage, citizenship


KARL STEFANOVIC: Attorney-General George Brandis, joins us now from Canberra. Attorney-General, good morning to you.

ATT ORNEY-GENERAL: Good morning, Karl.


ARL STEFANOVIC: Is Malcolm Turnbull finished?

ATT ORNEY-GENERAL: No, not at all, not at all. I mean it is a long time until the next F

ederal election. More than 18 months. We are less than half way through the life of the 45th Parliament and I am absolutely certain that Mr Turnbull will be leading us to the next election and that we will win it.

KARL STEFANOVIC: Meantime, the Government and the Opposition have struck a deal ove r the citizenship fiasco. Are you happy with that deal?

ATT ORNEY-GENERAL: Yes I am. This is the result of the decision the Cabinet made on Monda

y of last week. There has been a bit of tweaking to get the Labor Party on board. Eventually they came on board and the resolution that was passed in the Senate yesterday obliges Senators to make declarations about all the relevant particulars of their citizenship to the Register of Senators’ Interests. We expect the same resolution to go through the House of Representatives when it next meets.

KARL STEFANOVIC: You’re a smart man. How many are going to go do you reckon, How many more by-elections?

ATT ORNEY-GENERAL: Well look, I’m not going speculate but what I will say to you, Ka

rl, is this - the onus is now on Bill Shorten. I mean Bill Shorten has been playing a very dodg

y game in this business from start to finish. We now know that there are at least two of his members, Justine Keay, the Member for Braddon, and Susan Lamb, the Member for Longman in Queensland, who had not renounced their British citizenship on the date of the

2016 election. In fact, in both cases they didn’t even begin the process of renouncing their citizenship until after the election had been called and the writs had issued. Now the onus is now on Bill Shorten to demonstrate that he will live by the same standard that he has demanded of the Government.

KARL STEFANOVIC: Okay. Cory Bernardi has said there would be another ineligible C oalition MP in the Senate. Do you know who that is?

ATT ORNEY-GENERAL: I have not heard that from Senator Bernardi and I have no knowledge of what he’s talking about.

KARL STEFANOVIC: No other dramas in the Senate though?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Well you never know what’s going to happen in the Senate. It wa s a pretty dramatic day yesterday, but I’m not aware of any Coalition Senator and I don’t

know who Senator Bernardi is speaking of.

KARL STEFANOVIC: Your thoughts please, it seems some in your party want special exemptions allowing businesses to refuse service to gay couples. How does that sit with you?

ATT ORNEY-GENERAL: Well look, I don’t want to get ahead of the announcement tom

orrow Karl, of the result of the marriage postal survey. It’s been a huge success on any view

because about 80 per cent or more of the Australian public have participated. I’m hoping that there’ll be a ‘yes’ vote as a person who has been quite a strong believer in this iss

ue for many years now. But what the Government has always said is if there’s a ‘yes’ vote then w e will facilitate debate in the Parliament before the end of the year on a private member’s bill or a private senator’s bill, to deal with the matter, and that we would respect and accommodate and allow for religious exemptions. Now there’ll be a debate in the Parliament as to how wide those exemptions should be. Some people would have them more narrowly cast, some people would have them more broadly cast. But that’s the reason we’re going to have this parliamentary debate. My own view is that people like ministers of religion should not be obliged, must not be obliged, to conduct a ceremony of marriage against the teachings or doctrines of their church, and Senator Dean Smith’s bill does provide an exemption of that kind. But the exemption can’t be so wide that it basically throws in the bin the whole of anti-discrimination law.


ARL STEFANOVIC: Right, I want to talk about that, right there, that bit - allowing busi nesses to refuse service to gay couples. Honestly, how does that sit with you?

ATT ORNEY-GENERAL: Well, Karl, it’s already against the law. I

f you’re a gay man or gay women and you go into a florist and say - well I’d like to buy a bunch of flowers - it’s just wrong and illegal for the florist to say ‘I don’t serve gay people’ just

as it would be wrong or illegal for the florist to say to an Indigenous person ‘I don’t serve Indigenous people’.

KARL STEFANOVIC: 100 per cent. And on that, so a gay couple goes into a shop, wants to buy something and the person behind the counter says “I’m sorry, you’re gay, I don’t have to serve you”. What is this, the sixties? How does someone even come up with that, inside y

our own party?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Well look, I’m not going to comment on my colleagues, but you a sked me my opinion, that is my opinion. If it’s legally and morally wrong to discriminate against one gay person, I don’t know how it becomes right to discriminate against two.

KARL STEFANOVIC: Will they get their way?

ATT ORNEY-GENERAL: Well we’re going to have a parliamentary debate and the starting point

is Senator Smith’s bill as the Prime Minister indicated yesterday. And this is, I just wa

nt to stress, I don’t want to get ahead of the argument. We haven’t got the results of the mar riage postal survey yet, it might surprise us, there may be a ‘no’ vote.


ARL STEFANOVIC: But George, why don’t you get in front of the argument. You’re a compelling arguer on this fact, you’ve said there legally they can’t do it, so why don’t you get in front of it? It’s members of your own party.

ATT ORNEY-GENERAL: Well Karl, what I want to do is respect the process. Now, we ha

ve gone elaborate lengths to ensure there’s a process that involves as many of the Australian people as possible. We initially wanted to have a full plebiscite. The Labor Party stopped that, so we devised the substitute in effect of a postal survey, which has been almost as good as a plebiscite because 80 per cent or so of the Australian people decided to take part. Let us get the verdict of the Australian people first and then have the argument.

KARL STEFANOVIC: It’ll be some argument. George, as always, thank you for your time this morning. Appreciate it.

ATT ORNEY-GENERAL: Pleasure to be with you, Karl.