E & OE – Proof only
LAURA JAYES: Jenny Macklin, thanks so much for joining us.
JENNY MACKLIN: Thank you.
LAURA JAYES: Now referendums don’t have a great track record. You knew this when this deal was made with the Greens and Independent Rob Oakeshott. Are you satisfied that every effort was made to go ahead with this?
JENNY MACKLIN: Oh, I think there’s no question there’s been an enormous amount of work go in, particularly by the Expert Panel that the Prime Minister established and they did not only provide great recommendations to the Government, but also they did a lot of work around the country building and understanding about this issue. Reconciliation Australia are now building further support but the track record of successful referenda is not great. If there’s one area we want to make sure we get success it’s this one. Aboriginal people want to make sure that we not only get a majority, we get a resounding majority so that we bring Australians together, that we use this to strengthen our nation, not the reverse.
LAURA JAYES: I think the figure was only 39 per cent of Australians were aware of this plight.
JENNY MACKLIN: That’s right.
LAURA JAYES: And $10million has gone into this trying to make it a bigger issue. So what needs to be done now? Does there need to be more money? Or is it the Government’s job to get the awareness out there on a different level?
JENNY MACKLIN: Well I think it’s all of our job. Of course the Government has a responsibility. We have provided this $10 million to Reconciliation Australia. They’re now getting grants out to organisations like schools, churches, local government. They’ve been talking to farmers groups. You can think about the huge cross section of Australian society that needs to be involved in this discussion. That’s the purpose of Reconciliation Australia, building that support.
LAURA JAYES: Well do you think that can be done in two or three years when you say maybe this project will come back on line? I also wanted to ask you that, and this will obviously save a lot of money in the next two or three years. Referendums are very expensive, was that a consideration as well?
JENNY MACKLIN: No, the number one consideration is, will we get resounding support? That’s really been the guiding issue for me and of course I’m disappointed, of course I am. I understand people’s desire to bring about this change, I want to be part of it as well. But the last thing we want to see is it fail. And so we are going to take the time and build the support that’s needed.
LAURA JAYES : Is this just another example of Labor unable or unwilling to keep a promise though? We did see Andrew Wilkie with the pokies, the Greens with some elements of the carbon tax, and now this, the referendum not going ahead which was promised to Rob Oakeshott as well.
JENNY MACKLIN: Well I think you need to look at the history of these issues, how hard it is to bring about constitutional change. But that’s also why we do want to introduce an Act of Recognition into the Parliament so that…
LAURA JAYES: …what is that Act of Recognition, obviously it’s a smaller step…
JENNY MACKLIN: …it is a smaller step…
LAURA JAYES: …away from a referendum but what will that mean in practical terms?
JENNY MACKLIN: It really does provide an opportunity for the whole Parliament to come together and acknowledge the place of Australia’s First Peoples, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, and I think have the whole Parliament say to Australians, this is a good thing for us to be talking about. I do want to have a sunset clause, so to say this is only going to last for two or three years, so that the Parliament really is encouraged to keep this debate going and keep talking about it with the Australian people.
LAURA JAYES: Just quickly on another issue. We did see the vote for same sex marriage in the Lower House yesterday. This was Stephen Jones’ bill. You voted for that bill.
JENNY MACKLIN: I did.
LAURA JAYES: But Kevin Rudd voted against it and with the Opposition for this, with this. Were you surprised by that move from Kevin Rudd?
JENNY MACKLIN: Well I don’t want to comment on any individual’s decision. From the Government’s point of view we had a conscience vote and I’m sure everyone acted according to their conscience from our side of the Parliament. It is I think an issue that will build as well over time.
LAURA JAYES: So do you think 42-98 was a good result, for at least a step forward?
JENNY MACKLIN: I think like many people it’s sad there wasn’t greater support for treating people who want to marry, who love each other, equally. And that’s my view, I think people should be treated equally. I think though that this issue will only grow over time as we continue to talk about it. I think it’s a good example of the Parliament having a debate, airing the issues and over time I’m sure that we will see marriage equality in this country.
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