Transcript by The Hon Scott Morrison MP

2GB Miranda Devine


MIRANDA DEVINE: Good evening Minister.

MINISTER MORRISON: G’day Miranda. How are you? I’m just heading back from the Netball World Cup where the girls had a great win out there at Homebush so congratulations to all the girls, a terrific match.

DEVINE: That is fantastic news, congratulations and good on you for being out there. Now you were instrumental this week in this move to have either a referendum or a plebiscite on same sex marriage rather than have politicians decide what is really a contentious issue, why was that?

MINISTER MORRISON: Well it’s not just so politicians don’t decide; the people should decide, not judges or politicians or lawyers for that matter. It really is a question of no single member of parliament can reflect the views of every single person in their electorate on this very sensitive issue. In my own electorate in southern Sydney, the Sutherland shire, there will be people who don’t agree with my view. I have always been very open and honest with my electorate about my view and there is a percentage of people who don’t share that and I obviously can’t reflect their view with any such boast on what is a very deeply held personal and sensitive topic. So the better outcome is to allow people to have their own say on this and to have it in a very robust process where I think people can all accept the outcome. My view should be no more important than anyone else’s view on this and that is why I think it is important that we have that opportunity.

DEVINE: Tell us about that six hour Party Room meeting on Tuesday night, every one of the politicians there – the MPs there had a say didn’t they? Was that a positive meeting?

MINISTER MORRISON: I thought it was a positive meeting there was a lot of insightful and sensitive and very respectful positions put forward. As you mentioned in your introduction this has gone to the Parliament many times over the last decade and every time it is knocked back it has never ended and so I don’t think it going to the Parliament again in this term would have changed that outcome either. It is important we are able to bring it I think to a resolution and there are ways to do that. I am advocating that we should do it in a way which has the robustness of a referendum process, I know that isn’t a legal requirement to do this through a constitutional referendum, I mean we all know that but there is also no legal impediment to it either.

DEVINE: So why is a referendum preferable in your view to a plebiscite?

MINISTER MORRISON: Well there are a number of things, first of all voting is compulsory. Second, there can be a binding outcome around it is not sort of a news poll at large it will have a real, direct consequence. Both sides of the argument – these things potentially could happen in a plebiscite and if they can well and good, both sides of the argument will be put forward. I mean the ABC they’d actually have to tell both sides of the issue and that would be a nice change when it comes to this issue…

DEVINE: Sure would.

MINISTER MORRISON: The views of those who don’t support the change should be respected and aired and when we had two commercial television networks, I think it was last week or the week before, who refused to air a commercial which simply advocated the current law of this country. Now when that sort of thing is going on we are not having a fair dinkum even handed debate. I mean we have got companies out there telling us what we all should think, I just you know for some of those big overseas companies I just hope they pay their taxes rather than tell us what we should do on same sex marriage.

DEVINE: It is interesting that you said your party room meeting was very respectful and dignified discussion. I just want to play you something from Bill Shorten shouting at the marriage equality crowd yesterday. He is claiming that having any kind of a debate is dangerous; just have listen to Bill Shorten:

BILL SHORTEN: We want to support marriage equality because I do not want another generation of Australians growing up feeling stigma because of their sexuality. I have no doubt, I have no doubt that a majority of Australians would vote for marriage equality in a referendum but the price this community pays as the debate in some parts becomes so dreadful. Why on earth is Mr Abbott who is so keen to be a politician unleashing a divisive debate when we know the outcome? And as for a plebiscite that will be a $150 million taxpayer-funded opinion poll to tell us what we know. We want marriage equality now.

DEVINE: In other words you can’t talk about the other side, you can’t uphold traditional marriage at all because you are causing stigma. I mean Peter Van Onselen during the week even said that it would cause suicides to have any kind of a debate.

MINISTER MORRISON: There was a lot of very unhelpful hyperventilating going on with that and look Bill Shorten there didn’t sound like an alternative Prime Minister he sounded like a union thug on a picket line telling people what they should think and what he was demanding that they think. That is not the country we live in. I think it is possible to have a very respectful debate on this. We had one in our Party Room; he was trading conscience vote futures on this own federal platform discussion at his own federal convention not that long ago. I don’t know what he is afraid of? I mean does he want a whole generation of Australians who have different beliefs to him and may have very strongly held religion beliefs growing up in a country where we have got this sort of secularism driving religion out of the public sphere in this country. I mean religion has a place to play in our western democratic society; of course it does anyone who doesn’t have the same view as Bill Shorten apparently isn’t capable of constructing a sentence in a proper way. I mean my own position of this I have had all sorts of people attack me and it hasn’t been a love campaign I can tell you it has been quite a bigoted hatred campaign.

DEVINE: Yes, against anyone who tries to uphold tradition marriage?

MINISTER MORRISON: Absolutely. Look I don’t think it should go the other way either, I know you don’t Miranda. People should treat each other respectfully on this, I certainly intend to. As the Prime Minister said you can have a different view on this and be of good faith and good will. It doesn’t have to divide the country Bill it only does if you carry on like that.

DEVINE: Now, if the government where to go say to a referendum or even a plebiscite when do you think it ought to happen?

MINISTER MORRISON: Well the Prime Minister today I think indicated after the next election. That is a matter which obviously needs to be confirmed as we work through the details of a position to take to the next election. But the clear point at the next election will be this, people of voting age in Australia when they go to the next election can either vote to have their own say on this very specific question during the term of the next Parliament it would seem or they can be told what to do by Bill Shorten and other politicians. You know they can make up their own mind on that and equally the election should be about jobs and the economy and where we are going there not for Bill Shorten to try and use it as a ruse to turn it into a defacto plebiscite on same sex marriage.

DEVINE: Jim is on the line from Mt Ku-ring-gai and he just has a question for you on any potential plebiscite. Jim, hi, Scott Morrison is on the line.

CALLER: Evening Minister.


CALLER: Just one question look the words referendum and plebiscite have been thrown back and forth in the whole gay marriage issue. I am just curious to know and get a proper answer; if we went to a plebiscite would voting at that plebiscite be compulsory as it would be at a referendum?

MINISTER MORRISON: Well not normally Jim, not normally. I mean it could be constructed to do it that way. My argument for a referendum isn’t so much that you know it is about the constitutional change. I mean in 2013, and George Brandis is right about this and there is no dispute between George Brandis and I on this point, the High Court found that the Parliament could make a law in relation to this issue. That is fine for the High Court and they are our High Court and we respect them and that is what they are there for to make those decisions. But I don’t really see the problem of having that fundamental question put to the Australian people in the same way. I mean this is what I think the hierarchy is, the Australian people and then you have the court and the parliament as equals with different jobs. But the Australian people are sovereign on all of these things and the other point I should have made when talking about the difference between a plebiscite and a referendum is typically a referendum over a plebiscite requires what is called the double majority; so a majority of the vote and a majority of the states. The reason they do that is to change the Constitution is a big deal and they set a special process in place that said the big states, the eastern coast states, couldn’t tell the smaller states South Australia or Tasmania or WA what was going to happen and there is a balance in that. Now this is a very big change and I am openly and honestly saying I think it is the sort of change that requires that sort of special majority. Now if things are as popular as Bill Shorten says they are well I don’t see why that would be an issue. But maybe they are not and that’s another difference, which I think is important to have a better and more robust process to make this decision.

DEVINE: That’s right I mean if the popularity of same sex marriage is the 60-70 per cent that the advocate say then I don’t see how they can possibly be afraid of a referendum.

MINISTER MORRISON: Well I don’t either. I mean obviously these things come down to the question and there is not really much point getting into a debate on polls because I am advocating for a referendum which is better than a poll and will settle the matter. But it is interesting that when people are asked do you approve of a change to the Marriage Act they are less enthusiastic then are they in favour of marriage equality. Well we dealt with equality two Parliaments ago when we dealt with all the superannuation, welfare issues and things – superannuation and so on where people don’t pay a cent more in tax or get a cent less in benefits as a result of being in a same sex relationship. There is no discrimination on any of those matters anymore.

DEVINE: Now you were having a nip of whiskey in a meeting with the Prime Minister on Thursday night I read in the Sunday Telegraph today.

MINISTER MORRISON: A little gossip going around. It is not unusual for the Prime Minister to meet with one of his Cabinet Ministers; we have got lots to talk about.

DEVINE: So what did you talk about?

MINISTER MORRISON: Well it’s between the Prime Minister and I but we always focus on policy and what we are trying to do. I have a very big portfolio as you know, more than a third of the Budget and you know we are working through any number of issues at the time. At the moment I am trying to get matters through the Senate and that’s affecting a lot of our conversations.

DEVINE: So what is your biggest issue at the moment?

MINISTER MORRISON: Well I want to get the Jobs for Families package through which is going to assist more families make the choice to get into work if that is what they wish to do. We do know that is what many families, the majority want to do and to do that we need to pay for it. You can’t have a $3.5 billion policy and not pay for it so we have got savings that we have been working through on Family Tax Benefit that can make that possible. But you know we are still working with the Senate on those issues constructively but it is a patient process, a very patient process.

DEVINE: And you know that people are saying that if the Prime Minister god forbid were hit by the proverbial bus you would be the front runner to take his place.

MINISTER MORRISON: Well that is flattering but it is all a bit moot I mean, one just does their job that is what I have always tried to do, focus on the job I have got. That is the advice a former Prime Minister once gave me, John Howard, and that is what I will keep doing.

DEVINE: Well you do a great job Scott Morrison and thanks for joining us tonight.

MINISTER MORRISON: Thanks a lot Miranda and congratulations to the Diamonds in the Netball again, it was a real thrill to be there.