Doorstop interview - Lardner Park, Victoria
JOURNALIST: In regards to the – there are reports that the Attorney General is considering an amendment to the Same Sex Marriage Bill that we use an international agreement to uphold religious liberty, what are your thoughts on that?
JULIE BISHOP: The Australian people have spoken. They've given the Parliament a very clear message that they would like us to change our Marriage Act to allow same sex marriage, so a private members bill will be introduced to the Parliament. There will be amendments on the floor of the House and in the Senate but we're determined to ensure that we can deliver on our promise to give the Australian people a say and that we can conclude appropriate legislation by the time Parliament rises for the Christmas break.
JOURNALIST: Do you think it should include that international agreement?
JULIE BISHOP: This is a matter that can be debated and discussed in our Party Room and also as part of the debates for the House and the Senate.
JOURNALIST: How concerned are you that the passing of this legislation might be delayed by amendments concerning religious protections?
JULIE BISHOP: The Australian people have given us a very clear message that they want to see change to the Marriage Act and I hope Parliamentarians will respect that majority view and that we pass the changes to the Marriage Act as soon as possible. There are other issues that may arise but they can be dealt with by separate legislation and be the subject of other debate.
JOURNALIST: Minister, the polls out this morning show that the seat of Bennelong looks like it might be on a knife-edge. How concerned are you about losing the seat?
JULIE BISHOP: The people of Bennelong will have a clear choice between a proven performer in John Alexander who has been committed to growing businesses in his electorate, providing job opportunities, and acting in their interests, or the Labor contender Kristina Keneally who's a former failed Labor Premier who is clearly only interested in her own political career, yet she presided over the most incompetent and corrupt Labor government in the State's history. She faced the Australian people as Premier and was booted out of office so I believe that the poll that counts will be the by-election on 16 December and John Alexander has proven to be effective and powerful advocate for the people of Bennelong.
JOURNALIST: But Minister your proven performer also probably shouldn't have been in Parliament for the last few years. Do you think that that will weigh down his vote or that will weigh on voters' minds?
JULIE BISHOP: John Alexander has done the right thing. When the High Court handed down its decision on Section 44 on citizenship a number of Members of Parliament reassessed their personal circumstances. John has stood aside so that those questions could be determined. It has now been cleared by the Home Office as a dual citizen so he can stand for Parliament again. There are members on the Labor side who are not doing the right thing, who have even confessed to being ineligible but are staring down the Australian people in defiance of the High Court.
JOURNALIST: It's a bit of a stuff up isn't it? John stepping down and then actually finding out that he was eligible.
JULIE BISHOP: No that was not the case. The Home Office said that he was a dual citizen and then he subsequently renounced it. Whereas with Labor they're admitting that they have dual citizenship – dual citizens – but they are refusing to stand down. There are Labor Members who are ineligible to stand and Bill Shorten should do the right thing and ensure that all his Members and Senators are eligible.
JOURNALIST: Minister, what's Australia's understanding of what's happening in Zimbabwe at the moment and should Australians – are they in danger of travelling there?
JULIE BISHOP: We are very concerned by the volatility in Zimbabwe at present. We understand that the military has secured parts of Harare and that President Mugabe had been in detention but I understand he is moving freely now. We have altered our travel advisory and it's suggesting that people should reconsider their need to travel. We are closely monitoring the situation. It is volatile, politics in Zimbabwe has been volatile for a very long time. President Mugabe has presided over the demise of Zimbabwe as a strong economic player in southern Africa, and I note (inaudible). Zimbabwean politics is going through a very difficult period but we do suggest that if any Australians are concerned about their loved ones or friends and family in Zimbabwe that they contact the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade hotline.
JOURNALIST: Is Australia treating it as a coup?
JULIE BISHOP: At this stage the military have been calling on the President Mugabe to stand down. He has been the President on Zimbabwe for a very long time, he's in his nineties and his party, ZANU-PF, have apparently deserted his support. So it's a matter for Zimbabwe but we are obviously concerned about the security and safety of Australians as well as for the Zimbabwe people more generally.
JOURNALIST: Minister, what do you think about the suggestion made this morning that Liberals not stand in several inner city seats. What do you think of the strategy?
JULIE BISHOP: These are matters for the State Liberal Divisions to make decisions seat-by-seat. It's not for a Western Australia Member of the Party to tell State Divisions how to preselect.
JOURNALIST: In regards to the Royal Commission in the Northern Territory does the Federal Government think the recommendations that were handed down should be brought into other jurisdictions as well?
JULIE BISHOP: A decision has recently been handed down and the Federal Government is considering it in great detail. We will have some announcements to make soon.
JOURNALIST: Just one last one on same sex marriage, do you think Conservatives have anything to fear from – do you think they're correct in saying they fear Dean Smith's bill in its current form?
JULIE BISHOP: Well I understand that there was a Parliamentary Inquiry, that a report was handed down and that Dean Smith's bill is based on that. The postal survey that was so opposed by Labor, the plebiscite opposed by Labor actually gave the Australian people, the people, the opportunity to have their say. They have spoken with a resounding, emphatic yes vote to change the legislation. That's what we as parliamentarians must respect and must do.