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Subject: Same-sex marriage survey result

REBECCA SYMONS:

Now, the result in Gippsland was 60.2 per cent that said yes. Now, that was in the Gippsland federal seat; Darren Chester is the member for Gippsland and he has phoned in.

Good morning Darren.

DARREN CHESTER:

Good morning.

REBECCA SYMONS:

What is your response?

DARREN CHESTER:

Well, it is an historic vote and a compelling return in terms of the number of people who voted yes. I am pleased to see that we have had a strong voter turnout here in Gippsland, and the result is something that I think we can be proud of as a region, and I do take on your previous interviewee’s comments that it’s now important that we give each other the respect that each other deserves. It has been a divisive issue in some parts of the community, but we need to move forward now as a united community, and I think we can do that. I think it is an historic day, it’s an important occasion, but it is one that should unite us going forward.

REBECCA SYMONS:

Were you surprised?

DARREN CHESTER:

I am not surprised in as much as I thought a lot of people would vote, but slightly surprised by the size of it. I thought late 50 per cents would be somewhere where Gippsland would vote, so it exceeded my expectations in that regard.

REBECCA SYMONS:

As in 50 per cent of people actually voting, or voting yes?

DARREN CHESTER:

No, I thought the vote would be about 55 per cent yes. That is just my gut instinct. That was only a guess; I had no science to back that up. So having a return for a yes vote in excess of 60 per cent I think is quite a compelling vote, and probably vindicates people’s view that they want to have their say. I mean, this is an important social issue. It is one that the government, whether it has been Labor or Coalition, haven’t been able to resolve within the Parliament, and so while it was an expensive option in terms of having the vote, I think it gave people a chance to have their say and resolve the issue once and for all.

REBECCA SYMONS:

What do you think it says about the amount of people who are actually engaged and voted with this? It was 79 per cent, almost 80 per cent.

DARREN CHESTER:

I think it is terrific. It shows that people are interested in their democracy; they are interested in participating on issues that, while it may not be the most important issue, is still important to them enough that they wanted to fill out their ballots. I think it vindicates the decision of our Prime Minister to go ahead with the postal vote. Originally, we wanted to have a plebiscite. We wanted to have a compulsory plebiscite, but the Labor Party voted against it.

Now, I think people overwhelmingly participated in the debate in a very respectful and in a moderate and calm manner, and in Gippsland I think we did great credit to ourselves while we had that debate. There were some people at either end of the spectrum who perhaps went a little bit too far, but generally speaking, the vast majority of people got their ballot paper, filled it out, sent it back and moved on with their lives. I think now the tribe has spoken and the Australian people have had their say. It is incumbent upon the House of Representatives and the Senate now to legislate for same-sex marriage as quickly as possible, and let’s get on with other issues that are important to people’s lives.

REBECCA SYMONS:

There has been a couple of different bills put forward. Which one would you support, or what do you think a bill should look like to be able to get through?

DARREN CHESTER:

Well, now we have a yes vote, the Government has made it clear that it would allow for a private member to bring forward a bill. Now, I think Dean Smith, Senator Smith’s bill is the one that has the most support across party lines, and I think that is a good starting point. There is protection there for religious freedom in that bill proposed by Senator Smith, so I will be supporting him in his efforts to bring that forward, and it is up to members now to make up their own minds how they intend to vote. So, it is an important issue; it is not the biggest issue, I don’t think, in Australian political life. It is an important issue, and it is one that, having had the ballot, we need to resolve it as quickly as we can and move on with those other issues.

REBECCA SYMONS:

And what kind of a timeframe do you think we are looking at before same-sex marriage is legalised?

DARREN CHESTER:

Well, my view is we have had the vote now. The tribe has spoken. Australians have had their say; they have overwhelmingly- in excess of 60 per cent of Australians, have said yes. It is incumbent upon the House of Representatives and the Senate to get the legislation in place as quickly as possible, and I think we should be able to do that by Christmas.

REBECCA SYMONS:

Darren Chester, Member for Gippsland, thank you very much for phoning in this morning.

DARREN CHESTER:

I appreciate your time.

REBECCA SYMONS:

Darren Chester sharing his views. He is happy so many people voted. More people in his federal seat than he expected voted yes.

[ENDS]

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