Senator the Hon Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for Western Australia
Date: Wednesday, 9 August 2017
TREVOR CHAPPELL: The Honourable Mathias Cormann, acting Special Minister of State joins us. Good morning Mathias.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Good morning.
TREVOR CHAPPELL: Can you take us back and remind us, what it was, that was the original statement that was made on why this was put to the people?
MATHIAS CORMANN: This is an issue where many good people have strong and sincerely held views on both sides of the argument. The Parliament has dealt with this issue on several occasions now on whether the definition of marriage should be changed. On each occasion the Parliament confirmed the existing definition of marriage, which did not resolve the issue as we know. In the end what we decided, in order to facilitate a more permanent resolution to the issue, was that the only way to settle this on a more permanent basis, was to give the Australian people a say, to give the Australian people an opportunity to participate in the decision making. That that would help ensure that the side of the argument that ultimately was going to be on the losing side, would be better able to accept the ultimate decision that was made, whichever way it went.
TREVOR CHAPPELL: So what was the original statement that was made to Australians, that this is the reason that we want you to be part of the decision making process?
MATHIAS CORMANN: The original statement was that in order to facilitate a more permanent resolution of whether or not the definition of marriage should be changed to allow same sex couples to marry, that the best way to facilitate a more permanent settlement of this question in a way that brought the community together, would be to put this decision to the Australian people. That is because of a recognition that the reason that there is a diversity of strongly held views in our Parliament, the reason there is a diversity of strongly held views within the Coalition, is because there is a diversity of strongly and sincerely held views on both sides of the argument across the community. It was out of respect for that reality and out of respect for the fact that ultimately, one side of the argument, one part of the community would have to accept the ultimate decision, that we thought the best way to ensure that could happen was by giving people the opportunity to have a say, to give them the opportunity to be part of the decision making in relation to this particular issue.
TREVOR CHAPPELL: Do you understand that there is a frustration from the community that this is taking such a long time?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I absolutely understand this. This is why we believe that the process that we have set up now gives the opportunity to bring this issue to a close. We have put forward a process where this issue can be decided before Christmas.
TREVOR CHAPPELL: Do you think that the possibility of a postal vote could be very divisive within the community?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I do not believe so. We have great confidence that the Australian people are able to conduct this debate respectfully. We had a debate in our own party room this week. It was a very respectful, very courteous debate where people put their different perspectives on the table and in the end we made a decision on the way forward. We believe that if we want the ultimate decision to have the broadest possible acceptance. If we want there to be a consensus in the community around the decision that is ultimately taken, then giving everybody the opportunity to have a say is the best way forward. Our preference is for that to happen through a compulsory personal attendance plebiscite. That would happen on 25 November. But if that were not able to get through the Senate, then we believe that we have a Constitutional and legal way forward, keeping faith with the commitment we made to give the Australian people a say through a postal plebiscite. That it is not our first option but it is the next best option to keep faith with the commitment we made to give people a say.
TREVOR CHAPPELL: What are your personal thoughts? Do you believe that there should be marriage equality?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I am on the public record on a longstanding basis - my own view is that I support the current definition of marriage as between a man and a woman. But I have also said that should the Australian people decide through a plebiscite, that the definition of marriage should be changed to allow same sex couples to marry, that I would respect that verdict and that I would vote in the Parliament accordingly.
TREVOR CHAPPELL: And would there be an expectation on other politicians to go with the belief of the Australian people and not vote against it?
MATHIAS CORMANN: What we have said is that if the plebiscite returns a yes vote in favour of change, then the Government would facilitate consideration of a private member’s bill though the Parliament and we are very confident that that private member’s bill would be carried through the Parliament and that the law would be changed to allow same sex couples to marry. I cannot speak for every Member of Parliament. What we have said is that there would be a free vote on the other side of a positive plebiscite. But we believe in that circumstance the Parliament would respect the verdict of the Australian people.
TREVOR CHAPPELL: Just with a postal vote, do you think you will get an accurate reflection of what the Australian people think through a postal vote. In that young people, it isn’t necessarily process that they work very well with.
MATHIAS CORMANN: A postal vote is a very established way of conducting electoral processes. Voluntary voting is the way that democracies in most parts of the world vote. Postal votes are a very established process. Every Australian that is on the electoral roll is enrolled at a physical address. Every Australian who is on the electoral roll receives all of the correspondence from the Electoral Commission now at their physical postal address. I would suggest that any Australian who has a view in relation to this, should participate and will participate and express their view. Whether you are in favour or against change, I would encourage every Australian to embrace this process, to participate in the process. At the end of it, the community will be able to move forward and settle this issue once and for all.
TREVOR CHAPPELL: Minister, thank you very much for giving us a call.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Very good to talk to you.