12 August 2015
TRANSCRIPT OF THE MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS
THE HON MALCOLM TURNBULL MP
Topics: NBN and Mobile Blackspots Program; Marriage Equality Debate
Hello there. I’ve just come from a meeting with Angus Taylor, the member for Hume, and the mayors of Central Western NSW. I talked to them about the great work we’re doing with mobile phone blackspots, much appreciated by local government and the local communities there. And also about the progress of the NBN, and that’s what we’re focussing on today.
Minister can I ask you about the outcome of last night. What did you think of it? What do you think about the idea of some sort of plebiscite?
Well, look, I supported and have supported for some time, a free vote on this issue. I made that point before the election. As Tony Abbott conceded last night, that is consistent with Liberal Party tradition although he made the point that because of the 2004 amendment it wasn’t appropriate in this case. But it has been very much in the Liberal Party tradition. While this issue of marriage equality is very much an important one and very important to many of my constituents, and if there were a free vote I would vote in favour of it, there are a lot of other very big issues. Telecommunications, innovation, economic growth, jobs, the Productivity Commission’s report on industrial relations. There’s a huge number of big issues.
And so one of the attractions of a free vote is that it would have meant that the matter would be resolved in this Parliament one way or another in a couple of weeks. The reason I have not advocated a plebiscite, but I note the Prime Minister has said he is disposed to having one after the next election, the reason I haven’t advocated a plebiscite after the next election is that it would mean, it will mean, that this issue is a live issue all the way up to the next election. And indeed at the next election and, if we are returned to office, it will be a very live issue in the lead-up to the plebiscite itself.
Now I want to be clear, I think it is an important issue but, particularly between now and the election, the more time I can talk about the economy, about jobs, about innovation, about digital technology and digital efficiency the happier I will be.
I’m sorry I didn’t hear that.
What’s the way forward for you on this issue?
The party room decision last night was that there would not be a free vote in this parliament. The Prime Minister has expressed a disposition to having some form of public vote, a plebiscite or a referendum, after the next election. But obviously that is a policy as yet unformed. It will presumably have to go through the normal cabinet process before it is fleshed out. On that note I may take my leave and wish you all a good day.