ABC Melbourne Interview with Jon Faine

Release Date: 
29 May 2015
Transcript
E&OE

JON FAINE:
Mr Tudge, good morning to you.

ALAN TUDGE:
Good morning Jon. How are you going?

JON FAINE:
Is 'nervous backbencher' the appropriate description of you on same sex marriage reform?

ALAN TUDGE:
Technically I'm a frontbencher as a Parliamentary Secretary and I wouldn't say that I'm nervous.

JON FAINE:
Is it an issue that causes you any difficulties or anxiety? Have you made up your mind?

ALAN TUDGE:
I've traditionally been against same sex marriage but I appreciate that many good people have different views on this. I appreciate that community sentiment is changing rapidly.

I took a particular position to the last election. I've made commitments to certain community leaders but I'm still going to be consulting with people all the way up to the final point when we do have to make a decision.

 

JON FAINE:
As a backbencher, are you a leader on issues or a follower?

ALAN TUDGE:
Jon, this is a difficult decision which every single Member of Parliament has to make up their own mind about where they stand. There is a lot of competing decisions on this. On the one hand, you may have taken decisions to the election at the last election. You may have  certain views, strong faith, and strong personal beliefs.

On the other, you probably see that community sentiment is changing. You want to properly represent the views of your community and they may have changed their views over time.

So each of us has to come to our own conclusion having consulted with our various communities. We want to see the details of the bill to ensure there are adequate protections in place as well and then each of us has to make up our own mind.

JON FAINE:
Is it a litmus test issue or not? Is it one of those things once it's voted on, and there's been a fair bit of commentary on this for instance Barry Cassidy yesterday in our weekly discussion said 'look, you watch, when this is done and dusted everyone will say well what was the fuss about anyway'?

ALAN TUDGE:
That may well be the case Jon. I mean no one would have expected Ireland, for example, to have a referendum which was overwhelmingly supported and I think having gone through it, many people are probably saying exactly that.

Australia is different; every other country is different. There are many people who have very strong positions on either side of this – many good people. I think the important thing is we need to respect the decisions and positions which people have presently.

What I don't like is sometimes where the debate goes, where there will be a lot of labelling either side about people.

JON FAINE:
That's not helpful.

ALAN TUDGE:
I don't think that is helpful.

JON FAINE:
The noisy activists for reform are no more useful than the noisy opponents, than reactionaries against reform. If politics, I'll put this to you point blank Alan Tudge, if politics by and large is about the sensible centre, the argument goes that the sensible centre now

embraces same sex marriage well and truly by either two-thirds or three quarters support on every poll that is done.

ALAN TUDGE:
I think that the public sentiment has changed very rapidly. From my recollection about a decade ago, it was only about a third of the community who supported same sex marriage. I think today it is probably more like two-thirds who support same sex marriage.

It may depend a bit on the particular bill that is put forward as well. I think some people who might be strongly in favour of same sex marriage would still like to see protections, for example, for religious leaders or even for celebrants who do not want to participate in the same sex marriage ceremony.

JON FAINE:
So you can't be accused of discrimination if you say you don't want to do it?

ALAN TUDGE:
Exactly.

JON FAINE:
We already have that at the moment, don't we? For instance, a religious school can say we only want to employ people of a particular faith. I might say I personally think that's a shame.

ALAN TUDGE:
That's right and that's always under pressure though as well Jon. As you know, the Labor Party has many times tried to change that particular rule.

JON FAINE:
But either way you're saying if there are adequate protections and safeguards it sounds to me as if you're putting a toe in the water to switch and put your support [inaudible].

ALAN TUDGE:
I'm not declaring my position here on your program Jon. As I've said, I've traditionally not been a supporter of same sex marriage. I've traditionally believed that marriage is between a man and a woman but I'm going to be consulting with my community as I continually do so right up to the time when we do have to make a decision upon this.

JON FAINE:
So I'm going to call you the weathervane Alan Tudge. The fact that you're opposition is wavering and you're now contemplating, by consulting, contemplating support shows just how profound this community shift is being felt.

ALAN TUDGE:
I think that all of us should constantly be engaging with our communities and we are. I'll be

doing this right up to the time we do have to make a decision on this. As I said, my traditional position has been not in favour of same sex marriage.

JON FAINE:
Understood. Now just finally, we a moment ago were talking to the Greens new leader, Victorian Senator Dr Richard Di Natale, who is taking a much more pragmatic approach to negotiating over Joe Hockey's budget than his predecessor.

That, I would imagine, amongst the ranks of you and your colleagues would be very welcome?

ALAN TUDGE:
It is welcome in terms of some of the decisions which he's already made. I understand that he will now support the change in the fuel excise measure which we could never understand why Christine Milne was not supporting that given that it was a Greens policy.

If Richard Di Natale is going to be pragmatic on that we're hoping he'll also be pragmatic on some of the other simple measures that we are trying to put through the parliament.

We have to get control of the public finances and as you know we are doing that but we often need support of the Senate. So if he is able to support some of those measures to get control of the fiscal situation so that we can be back in surplus in the years ahead, then that would be very welcome as well.

JON FAINE:
Thank you for your time. Alan Tudge, the federal Liberal member for the outer suburban seat in Melbourne of Aston.

ALAN TUDGE:
Thanks so much Jon.

[ENDS]