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Transcript of doorstop interview: Brisbane: 21 May 2013: the cross river rail; same sex marriage

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The Hon. Kevin Rudd MP Transcript Doorstop

Kangaroo Point, Brisbane 21 May, 2013

Topics - Cross River Rail, Same Sex Marriage


KEVIN RUDD: Firstly, what I want to talk about is Cross River Rail and I want to report particularly to the comments by the State Transport Minister, Mr Emerson, in the paper today. This cross river rail project is vital to Brisbane’s future. It’s really important also to people who live on Brisbane’s Southside. Why do I say that? If we don’t do something about passenger rail here in Brisbane, it’s just going to grind to a halt, that’s the bottom line. Secondly, it’s vital also to take up to 17,000 cars off the major road coming into Bris and to take some of the pressure off the Story Bridge over there and the Captain Cook Bridge just behind me.

Also, at a local level having underground stations for this underground passenger rail network coming up at the Gabba and the Mater, that’s terrific, it serves that precinct well, and also around the Boggo Road site and also serving the PA precinct, two major hospitals, two major centres here on Brisbane’s Southside. But it’s also important for people wanting to get to the Brisbane CBD. Here we are city of Brisbane, a million plus, we don’t actually have an underground railway station or any railway station that comes up in the middle of the city and so this would bring up a rail station in Albert Street and of course another one in at the other end for the CBD at Roma Street. This is a terrific project for Brisbane’s future and if we don’t act, frankly, we are going to look back in a decade’s time and say how did this shemozzle happen? The final point on the logic for this project is simply the scale of this investment; this is a multibillion dollar investment in Brisbane, into our economy, into jobs into companies that work here.

Now in the Courier Mail this morning we look and see a statement from Transport Minister Emerson, what does he say? He says that the Liberal National Party will never support a project if the Federal Government is only going to contribute 25% of the cost. Well, I believe we now have a major matter of honesty integrity and credibility for Minister Emerson. Now I know he’s a former journalist and that you all hold him to high levels of accountability but let me just refer again to what he actually said in his letter to the Federal Transport Minister, he asked for a contribution estimated in the order of $750 million dollars and that this would be matched by the Queensland Government. That’s his letter of the 30 April 2013 to the Federal Minister. What

did the Federal Minister Anthony Albanese do? In his reply, Dear Scott, having written to Dear Albo, the Federal Transport Minister Anthony Albanese says we accept your conditions everyone one of them. So what’s that in the nutshell? The State Government through formal correspondence asks for $750 million, the Federal Transport Minister comes back in writing and says yes and all your other conditions are accepted and then at one minute to midnight as the budget is announced, they walk away from this project and then they try to reinvent history by saying they never asked for that in the first place. They were asking for a different number.

Well, my challenge directly to Minister Emerson is this: your personal credibility in being honest and straightforward with the people of Brisbane is now in deep question because of your statement in today’s Courier Mail. It’s simply not true. Final point in all this is this: we have Campbell Newman’s Liberal National Party saying that $750 million for the Cross River Rail is not enough, we have Tony Abbott’s Federal Liberals saying that $750 million is too much funding. All we have done as the Australian Government is give the Queensland State Government exactly what they asked for, so go figure, just go figure.

Now I know Tony Abbott is in Brisbane today, well actually he’s not. He’s decided to go up the river there to Ipswich. Well my challenge to Mr Abbott is come down to my electorate and front the people of Brisbane and explain why you refuse to back this important project for Brisbane’s future. I think what‘s really happened is this. Mr Abbott has hopped on the phone to Mr Newman and said for God’s sake, don’t cooperate with the Federal Government on this because it’s not in our Federal Liberal interests to do so. Then in cabinet, I’m told that good old Jeff Seeney and the good old Queensland Nats rolled both Emerson and Campbell Newman and said now we want this money to be spent outside Brisbane, not inside Brisbane. It’s not good enough, so my call on Mr Abbott and the Liberal National Party is this: Mr Abbott and his candidate here on Brisbane’s Southside, Mr Glasson, to have the decency to own up as to why they are opposing this vital piece of infrastructure for Brisbane’s future.

Okay folks any questions on that and then I’d imagine you’ve got a few questions on some other things as well.

JOURNALIST: … with the breakup of the GST money as well …

KEVIN RUDD: Well the precise formula that the State Liberal National Party asked for in this letter from the State Transport Minister from 30 April, asks explicitly for this to be dealt with in a particular way and in his reply Mr Albanese says in his response, in writing on the 8 of May, yes we agree to your formula on the GST split so therefore this again is just untrue. We will leave you with copies of these two letters; you form your own judgement. Actually what has happened here is deeply political and it’s got nothing to do with the truth. What they’ve done is to try and rewrite the history, rewrite how much they asked for, rewrite the conditions under which they sought that $750 million and here’s their problem - it’s here in black and white. One letter from Scott Emerson in his own handwriting, signed, and one from Albo’s office going back to him saying we accept all your conditions including on the GST.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible)

KEVIN RUDD: On the question of same sex marriage I have been thinking about this for quite a long time. As you know this has already come to the Australian Parliament for one vote and also there is another vote due in two or three weeks time assuming that legislation comes for a vote.

So the judgement I took having reflected on my own position, as this is a conscience vote is it was time to explain to the people of Brisbane who vote for me and more broadly to people interested across the nation the reason for my change of position on this. And what is it in a nutshell. I believe that surely Australia has grown up enough in 2013 for the secular state to have its definition of marriage and religious institutions and the Christian church to have their definition of marriage and for them each to be able to conduct their own ceremonies. That’s it in the nutshell.

JOURNALIST: Can you tell us more about the person who has played a role in changing your mind?

KEVIN RUDD: Well I’ve spoken to lots and lots of people…

JOURNALIST: (inaudible)

KEVIN RUDD: No, I’m not going to go into details but there are lots of people I’ve spoken to. As the local Federal Member here, my regular practice of a Saturday is to have mobile offices across the electorate. I talk to people. They come up to me. I can’t point to a single mobile office in the last several months where someone didn’t come up to me, a same sex couple and say, why can’t we get married? And it’s been quite pervasive on the ground and in particular the people who are of a Christian background who are coming to me saying that we want to get married, what’s your position on same sex marriage and so I’ve thought about all this long and hard. I’ve reflected on it but I would draw all of your attention to the 2,000 words I’ve written on my blog site on this and when you’re next having a cup of coffee as hard working journalists, sit down, have a read of it and I’d say this to anyone around the country who is either supportive of my position or totally opposed to it: have a read of it because it tries to explain in some detail why I have landed on the position that I have described.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible) Why did you choose to make this available now (inaudible)

KEVIN RUDD: We have a vote in the House of Representatives on this in two to three weeks time. For me to have said anything prior to the budget would have been wrong because it would have taken focus off the budget and immediately after the budget when you are dealing with the sell of the budget by Government Ministers around the country, I think that would have been wrong as well. So I waited, frankly, for a bit of a lull and also given that we’ve got a vote coming up and the debate’s about to heat up soon, I have an obligation as a Member of Parliament to explain to people what position I will take in that debate and why. That’s why I’ve chosen to do it in my own timing and most importantly in my own words.

JOURNALIST: What do you think about gay couples becoming parents?

KEVIN RUDD: Well as you know, the state laws of Australia, both state and territory already have a number of items of legislation which deal with this. First of all you have a majority of states and territories which already have laws in place which commit various forms of surrogacy.

Secondly, you also have in place laws which allow for adoption and I think in some cases (inaudible) and these are matters for the states. These are laws already in place by the states. Furthermore, in terms of family law recognition of children’s rights, who are being bought up in these relationships, that was already dealt with the changes we made in the Federal Parliament when then Attorney-General Robert McClelland (inaudible) the eight-seven changes to legislation on this matter some years ago. What this does in terms of same-sex marriage is try to close the remaining gap and also as I say in the article to provide same sex parents who have kids with the option, the possibility, of providing long-term public pledge of commitment and if they so choose, the basis of emotional stability and continuity (inaudible) kids who are in that relationship and by the way, there are thirty or forty thousand kids in Australia who are being bought up inside these relationships. I think you had a question there mate?

JOURNALIST: You sound like you’ve become a very strong convert to the stance, is it just a convenience that you take this stance as a backbencher rather than in a leadership role both as an Opposition Leader and a Prime Minister and do you concede that it’s easier to take this position as a backbencher and did you ever hold this position or even close to this position?

KEVIN RUDD: Well Michael, as I say in the article, and I’m sure you’ve read it and memorised it by now, whenever I would come out on a change of position on this matter, on something that is as controversial in this country as same sex marriage, people are always going to say well why did you do it then and not another time. And you’ll get criticised for whenever you do that and secondly, to thine own self be true. And as your view evolves and changes, as mine has done over recent months, over the course of the last twelve months, then when it reaches conclusion, that’s when you should put it into the public domain and that’s been my experience. People will know very well from my multiple conversations with them going back over quite a long period of time, as I say in the blog, and I draw your attention to it, that this has been something of a personal journey from me. And discussions with my family as well. As I say in the piece, I’ve been the last of the Mohicans on this one. Therese has had a view in support of same sex marriage for some time, all three kids have and they look at me as some family dinosaur.

JOURNALIST: So you’re family played a major role (inaudible)?

KEVIN RUDD: I think we’re all shaped by the views immediately around us and our wider network of friends but also, I’ve done a fair bit of reading. As you’ll also see from the article I’ve written in my own words, over quite a number of weeks now, I’ve also looked at all the sociological surveys which have been done in the United States on the long term impact for children being raised in same sex relationships and these are (inaudible) studies, longitude studies underway since the late eighties, early nineties. Their collective finding is that there is no evidentiary basis to suggest that kids who are bought up in same sex relationships are any worse off than those bought up in other relationships so (inaudible).

JOURNALIST: (inaudible)

KEVIN RUDD: I said in the article this morning that I don’t intend to become some national campaigner on this. My responsibility is to make my position clear to my community here in Brisbane and to others who have followed this debate across the nation.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible)

KEVIN RUDD: (inaudible) this is to say that each person arrives at their position on this as a matter of conscience and that’s been the case with me as well. And that has taken a period of time. I’m sure in the case of the Prime Minister she’s arrived at her position of opposition to same sex marriage as a product of her own conscience and her own deliberations but that’s a matter for her. The important thing is that when this matter is next discussed, and now that we have the bloke who thinks (inaudible) here in Queensland today, can I suggest this? Just have the decency to extend a conscience vote to (inaudible). The Labor Party offers a conscience vote on these questions; Mr Abbott does not permit that at the Liberal Party. I don’t think that is the proper way for this matter which affects people deeply and personally and is complex. The other thing is let’s just grant that point. It’s not one in which a party discipline should be imposed, every Member of Parliament should exercise their own conscience and be free to vote accordingly, so my challenge to Mr Abbott today is to give his own mob a conscience vote and if he won’t do that then let’s look at the possibility of a referendum as the best way to resolve this as Tony Windsor has suggested.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible)

KEVIN RUDD: I’m not surprised by that criticism.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible) stolen generations (inaudible)

KEVIN RUDD: Well, I respect the role that the Australian Christian Lobby and Jim Wallace play in the public policy debate in Australia. Their views and Christian views opposed to same sex marriage have every right to be heard across the nation as anyone else’s views. I actually think there is a real time for some civility in the national debate on this. We seem to have missiles being thrown in each direction either form Christian fundamentalists in one direction or from various parts of the gay lobby in the other direction. I think the mood of the Australian nation is how do we actually come together on this and how do we find a way through and what I’ve tried to do in the article I’ve written is to identify my prescription for what I think a way through is which is a recognition once again that a secular state should have the powers to recognise married relationships be they of opposite sex couples or same sex couples, and that religious institutions on the other hand including the Christina church should have complete legal protection to continue to conduct their ceremonies exclusively between men and women. I think that’s the way through this frankly, and I think there is some time for some civilised discussion about where we can find a way through without unnecessarily dividing the Australian society down the middle.

JOURNALIST: Is this more about your leadership ambitions?

KEVIN RUDD: (inaudible) I’m sure last week I was responsible for a lunar eclipse somewhere.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible)

KEVIN RUDD: Give us a break you know, had I spoken about this last week it would have been disrupting the Budget, had I spoken about this the week before I would have been pre-empting the Budget and getting in the road. What’s the bottom line here? A vote is coming up in the Parliament, its 2 -3 weeks away. It’s about time to put this position out clearly and in my own terms rather than have all you guys, legitimately, come out and ask us all these questions the night before the Bill is tabled (inaudible). I’d much rather with a bit of clear air put it out there in my own language on a blog site so that people can read it. And to those who are critical of me, either in terms of motives or the conclusion I’ve reached, I have one simple request for all Members of Parliament, whether they are my own side or whether they are part of the Liberal National Party, or independents for that matter, just give the article a read and form your own conclusion on whether you think it’s reasonable or whether you think it’s unreasonable. I think there is a time for some civility in this important debate for the nation.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible) colleagues, how have they been?

KEVIN RUDD: I haven’t really spoken to my colleagues about this one; this has been purely for K Rudd.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible) has anyone contacted you?

KEVIN RUDD: Oh yeah, I’ve had a few messages from colleagues around the place but you’d expect that.

JOURNALIST: What has the response been?

KEVIN RUDD: Oh, some colleagues have been supportive.

JOURNALIST: Now that you’ve arrived at your new position, do you regret your old position?

KEVIN RUDD: You know something? If you can’t be grown up enough in the Australian national political debate based on a full examination of the facts before you, a full examination of the feelings in your community before you, and an ability to look at new data as it emerges around the world and reach an amended or changed position then frankly, you shouldn’t be in national political life. If you expect everyone in national political life to have views frozen as of the moment they are elected to the House of Representatives to the day they are either booted out or decide to retire then frankly I think that’s an unrealistic and (inaudible) expectation. What people expect you to be in national political life is just to be true to yourself, true to your values, and explain why you have taken a particular position on a particular policy matter. I hope I’ve done it on this question, it’s going to be a controversial debate but I conclude on where I began with our chat this morning. I think come 2013, surely the country Australia is grow up enough for us to have an arrangement whereby a secular Australian state can recognise marriage of

both same sex couples and of opposite sex couples and for religious institutions including the Christian church to continue their practice of only conducting marriages between a man and a women. There I think is the way up the middle and folks, I’ve taken a lot of your time, I’ve gotta zip.


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