Interview with Laura Jayes – Sky News – Thursday, 16 November 2017




SUBJECT/S: Marriage Equality

LAURA JAYES: As we do know looking at the result yesterday, yes it was an overwhelming majority of people voting yes.  61.1 percent of Australians voted for marriage equality but there are pockets particularly in New South Wales, in Western Sydney who overwhelmingly voted no. Of the top ten electorates, nine of those are Labor seats. One of those was the seat of Blaxland recording the highest no vote in the country at 73.9 percent. Joining me now is the Member for Blaxland Jason Clare, he is also the Shadow Trade Minister. Shadow Minister thank you for your time. First of all given the result in your electorate how will you be voting in the parliament?

JASON CLARE, MEMBER FOR BLAXLAND, SHADOW MINISTER FOR TRADE AND INVESTMENT, SHADOW MINISTER FOR RESOURCES AND NORTHERN AUSTRALIA: I will be voting yes.  I voted yes when this was last before the parliament in 2012 and I have said consistently ever since then that I will vote yes and that doesn’t change.

JAYES: Why are you going against the clear views of your constituents?

CLARE: Back when this was first debated in 2012 I was getting married myself. My wife, Louise is Vietnamese and I was thinking about this issue back in 2012 in the context of my own life. If Louise and I tried to get married in a different place at a different time we might have not been able to get married because it’s an interracial marriage. Until 50 years ago in many parts of the United States that would have been illegal. Until 1953 aboriginal and non-aboriginal people couldn’t get married in the Northern Territory. And so looking at this issue I thought to myself how would I feel if this was done to me? For me personally this is an issue about fairness and about equality. I’m very conscious that for my community overwhelmingly people have a different view and I know that good people with good hearts can have different views on this, and so I have been very upfront with my community and said to them I respect your view I hope that you respect the fact that I have a different view.

JAYES: When you have taken this message to your community because I know there is a strong Christian and Catholic population, a lot of those are Vietnamese, when you explain what you just explained to me about your situation with Louise, how have they reacted in person? Do they see your point of view?

CLARE: A lot of people do. And actually as you ask that question I’m thinking about a conservative Liberal politician who came up to me recently and said, I heard the story of you and Louise when you got married and that helped me to understand your point of view better. It doesn’t necessarily change people’s vote, I don’t think anybody would change their vote because of my own reasons for choosing to vote yes, but we can do this in a respectful way. And a lot of people have said to me that I’m going to vote no but I understand why you are voting yes. And a lot of other people who come up to me and say, look apart from this issue look I agree with a lot of other things that you are doing when it comes to my job as a local member of Parliament.

JAYES: So you don’t think you’ll see any kind of backlash at a general election, the way you see it is people are separating this out from the day to day politics?

CLARE: Look some people may choose to do that, I think most people when it comes to a general election will vote on lots of different things. Everything from health to education, to jobs, traffic congestion, whether they like Malcolm Turnbull or Bill Shorten better. Back in 2013, when the Labor Party was really on the nose there was the argument that I would cop a backlash then. It didn’t happen. I actually got a swing to me on the primary vote. You can’t take any of this for granted. I’ve just got to continue to do my job as a local member and try to deliver for my local community.

JAYES: This is now an issue for many of your colleagues we see this being the case for Ed Husic, Chris Bowen, Tony Burke, Chris Hayes, do you respect their right to abstain if they want to? I think and I haven’t spoken to Chris Hayes I must say, but he might indeed abstain in the parliament.

CLARE: I think members are going to take different approaches to this. Some will vote yes because even though they haven’t supported this in the past the country has overwhelmingly. Some members will decide to vote yes because their community has said they want this change, and some will vote yes because they believe in it, and that’s where I come from. This is an issue where I think the country will be better for the change and I am very upfront about that. I’ve said it to everybody who’s asked my view about this. I think this is a good change for the country and that’s why I will be voting yes.

JAYES: Would you then respect Tony Abbott’s right if he wanted to vote no in the parliament even though his electorate was a 75 percent yes vote?

CLARE: Yes that’s right. How could I not? His community is the opposite to mine in that respect. If he chooses to vote no then you would respect that, because everybody knows Tony’s long held belief. But I hope that when the law passes and his sister gets married that he can be there and that this can be a genuine, terrific  celebration of love and family next year.

JAYES: Well given the result in Blaxland and the strong religious grounds in which people seem to have voted, are you now more inclined to vote for a parliament stronger religious protections does the Dean Smith Bill now go far enough in your eyes?

CLARE: Laura all I can do is repeat what Tom said a moment ago which is we will look at the amendments but the principle that the Labor Party will apply to this is you don’t want to replace one form of discrimination with another. So we will view them on their merits but we haven’t seen the amendments yet.

JAYES: Okay you haven’t seen the amendments fair enough, but I should stress this is a conscience vote. Is Labor going to look at this collectively? Or do you again respect individual members rights to look at the amendments on merit and vote according to what they think is right?

CLARE: Well I don’t want to avoid answering the question Laura, but we just have to see what the amendments are, and see whether they’re amendments that deal with issues of conscience or whether they deal with issues of discrimination.

JAYES: Okay fair enough.

CLARE: So we’ve got to wait and see, and certainly Bill Shorten, Penny Wong, Mark Dreyfus will be leading our team in looking at those amendments. We will talk about them as a team. If they are issues of conscience then certainly members will be able to vote on them based on their conscience, but if they are issues of discrimination different matter.     

JAYES: Okay so the Dean Smith Bill did already have provisions in it. This has been through the committee process. This has been ticked off by all sides of Parliament. Did have provisions in there that would protect existing civil marriage celebrants. For example one of the suggestions being put forward as an amendment is that that is not just existing, but it would apply to all civil celebrants, not just the ones that were civil celebrants before this law passes. Do you think that’s acceptable?

CLARE: Sorry Laura, I’m just going to give you the same answer. We’ve just got to look at the detail once the detail’s made available to the whole team.

JAYES: Let me try one more time and speak more generally, and not just at the amendments. Essentially there have been concerns about religious protection and for eight weeks we’ve been talking about before this plebiscite result that this is just about one question, ‘Should you see same sex couples married or should you not’. Well that has come back in a yes vote. There are still some that are really concerned about protecting their church. Would you respect the right for people to still in a church say ‘look I don’t agree with same-sex marriage, I think it’s wrong, but that’s the way it is’. You would still respect people’s right to say that without being prosecuted or taken to any tribunal?

CLARE: People are going to say that. We don’t want to make criminals of people who’ve got a different opinion. My electorate is a good example of that. But let’s make sure that when the law changes – as it’s going to change – that that is a good change. We don’t replace one form of discrimination with another. I think that’s a principal that we can all agree on.

JAYES: You don’t want to see things like signs in front of any shops in your electorate saying ‘we don’t service gay marriages here’. Or a baker or a retailer or whoever else.

CLARE: No. No-one would want to see that, would we. We’re not that sort of country.

JAYES: One final question Jason Clare, I appreciate your time today. As you mentioned your wife Louise, I know you’ve got a baby son, Jack as well. What will you be telling him about this moment in history.

CLARE: I gave him plenty of cuddles yesterday. What I’ll be telling him is that Australia because of these changes is becoming a fairer and a better country, and even though most of the electorate voted no, his mum and his dad and his grandparents voted yes.

JAYES: And what did you think when you saw Penny Wong burst into tears yesterday? She is someone who is so tough and politically strong. You don’t often see emotion from Penny. I thought it was quite emblematic of how many people would be feeling.

CLARE: Penny is a political warrior – she’s very tough. But she’s also a bit of a softie inside. You saw the human being yesterday, and you could see her emotion. I think a lot of people watching tele last night would have felt that emotion as well. It’s very personal for Penny. She’s led this campaign, in many respects, over many years, and I don’t think many of us talking about this from the relative sidelines could imagine how tough it has been for Penny and her partner and her kids. Yesterday was a celebration for many people in the country who voted yes, and I’m sure it was a very meaningful and special day for Penny.