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Transcript of interview with Kieran Gilbert: Sky News AM Agenda: 23 August 2016: Minister Cormann remarks at Sydney Institute; Omnibus Bill; election commitments; plebiscite



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Special Minister of State Scott Ryan

Transcript - AM Agenda - Sky News

Aug 23, 2016

Subjects: Minister Cormann remarks at Sydney Institute; Omnibus Bill; election commitments; plebiscite.

EO&E…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

KIERAN GILBERT:

…Matt Thistlethwaite and Scott Ryan, gentlemen, good morning to you both. As you both are as well, fathers of some young kids, your reaction to that particular quote from Mathias Cormann? Matt Thistlethwaite, first to you.

MATT THISTLETHWAITE:

Well I know one thing Kieran, Mathias Cormann completely destroyed a good nursery rhyme. That nursery rhyme will never be the same in my book. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to sing it to my kids again. But look, seriously, Mathias Cormann is going on like a child. What a hypocrite, trying to blame Labor for the Government’s woes. They’re the ones that still can’t get right their superannuation reform. This is a key plank of their budget repair and they can’t seem to work that out in their own party room. So Mathias Cormann and Scott Morrison, once they work out their own issues perhaps then they can come and talk to Labor about budget repair and this Omnibus Bill.

GILBERT:

Special Minister of State, Scott Ryan with us as well. He certainly got our attention with not the sort of language you’d normally associate with Gerard Henderson and the Sydney Institute.

SCOTT RYAN:

It probably is the first time a nursery rhyme has been done at the Sydney Institute, I’ll give you that Kieran. Not one I’m familiar with though, as the father of a toddler. Look, the point here is Mathias has brought attention to the fact that Labor still won’t commit to voting for, in principle, the measures they announced during the election campaign. They’re using weasel words, they’re saying they’ll stand by their policies. Now Matt can clear this up this morning right now, by saying they will vote for the

measures they announced during the election campaign. And we can read all through the media yesterday and overnight, that there’s internal debate within Labor as they’re trying to walk away from these commitments that they announced as part of their own budget strategy, things that Matt was going to vote for if Bill Shorten had won the election. This is very important. We have simply said ‘let’s find some common ground, let’s actually look at the measures we’ve both agreed on, let’s put them in a bill’ and Labor’s using weasel words to avoid simply saying we’re going to vote for those measures.

GILBERT:

Senator Ryan and Matt Thistlethwaite, gentlemen, just hold it there for the moment. I’ll get your response, Matt Thistlethwaite, in just a moment. I need to go live to New York. CNN’s Phil Mattingly is joining us now - in relation to Donald Trump and I want to ask you, Phil, looks like he’s, or his campaign seems to be back-tracking a bit on that tough rhetoric when it comes to immigration, is that right?

(cross to Washington)

GILBERT:

Back to Matt Thistlethwaite and Scott Ryan now, and the Shadow Assistant Minister for Treasury, Matt Thistlethwaite. In terms of the Labor - let’s get back to this discussion about the budget domestically and in terms of Labor’s credibility, surely this, the electorate wants a bit more cooperation between the

major parties. Does Labor recognise that, or do you think that a combative, Abbott-style approach is the way to go?

THISTLETHWAITE:

Kieran, we’ll meet the commitments that we made during the election campaign. But you can’t expect us to agree to a piece of legislation that we haven’t seen yet. The Government hasn’t provided a draft copy of this legislation yet, and you mentioned Tony Abbott. We’re all reminded that he went to the 2013 election promising no cuts to health, no cuts to education, no changes to the pension, no cuts to the ABC or SBS, and that’s exactly what he did in his first budget. So the Australian public want the Labor Party, as the principle opposition party in the Senate, to take a cautious approach and see the details in this legislation and whether or not the Government tries to slip additional things in by stealth and hoodwink the Australian public. We’re entirely right to say we need to see the legislation before we

make a full decision on this.

GILBERT:

Okay, Senator Ryan are you encouraged by some of the language from Labor in the sense that they’re saying they’re going to honour all of their pre-election commitments in terms of the savings? So once they look at the detail of the Omnibus Bill that they will likely, you would think given that rhetoric, support it? And the other question I’ll ask is comments made by Peta Credlin last night, saying the Government should have had an exposure draft of the legislation ready to go to say ‘ok, well there are the details have a look and give us you’re an answer’.

RYAN:

Well I’m an optimist, Kieran, and I hope that Labor are good to their word and do follow through. But the truth is that Labor also have form and in 2013, they took to the people various spending measures and then when we tried to put those to Parliament, Labor said ‘oh but no, we wanted to do something different with the money’. They refused to legislate the promises they’d made at that time. They refused to support that legislation. And so Labor is very consciously, I fear here, using words that avoid the simple statement that if the measures were in our costings before the election, we’ll vote for those measures. Now there will be an exposure draft, a draft of the legislation that is brought to Parliament

next week, in the normal course of events because that is what would normally happen. And I think the normal process we take with legislation, given that these are public commitments announced by both parties during an election campaign, I think that is entirely the normal way to go, and as a courtesy to our Party Room, I think we always take legislation to our Party Room first.

GILBERT:

Let’s look at a few other issues I need to explore today, especially with the Special Minister of State here this morning. One is on the same-sex marriage plebiscite. Is the advice, well what is the advice from the Electoral Commission, if you could clear that up for us in terms of timing of this plebiscite?

RYAN:

I think I’ve said on this program before Kieran and to a number of journalists over the last few weeks since my appointment, that I would seek advice from the [Electoral] Commission. I wanted to allow the Commission to complete the very busy schedule they have with the election - what I say is their second- most important job: counting the votes after letting us get there to vote. And the Commission has strongly recommended that the plebiscite not proceed this calendar year.

GILBERT:

Okay so what are we looking at, February (inaudible)?

RYAN:

Well everything else is a matter for determination. I said that, when I was asked a lot of questions about this following my appointment, that I would seek advice, and I thought it was appropriate to make that comment just then, to provide the advice that they strongly recommend against it this year. But other than that, these are matters for determination of the Cabinet, the Party Room and the Parliament.

GILBERT:

But now the vote’s done federally for the election, July 2, that’s done. We’re talking September, October, November, December. Why can’t they get it done between now and the end of the year?

RYAN:

Well I think Kieran there are a number of events that intervene. There will be an opportunity to go into a public discussion of this. I’m sure it will be covered at Senate Estimates. But can I say there’s one very big issue that needs to be addressed, and that’s will the Labor Party let the people vote on this issue? Because legislation does need to go through the Parliament to facilitate the plebiscite. Will the Labor Party allow the public to have a vote on this issue? Because that’s a very important test for when this can be held.

GILBERT:

Well it’s not going to be held by the end of this year, and I’m just asking why? What are the logistics? Why can’t they get their act together?

RYAN:

I’m not going to into all those matters in public and I’ve made it clear I’ll provide the detailed advice that I receive to the Cabinet, which will then come forward in legislation to the Party Room and the Parliament.

GILBERT:

Matt Thistlethwaite, is it time for Labor and those that want change in this area to say ‘okay, well this is the way that we can do this in the short term to start advocating for that change and for a yes vote’.

THISTLETHWAITE:

Kieran this is another broken promise from a weak Government. They said they’d hold a plebiscite this year, they’ve broken that commitment -

RYAN:

(interrupts) No we didn’t Matt. We never said that.

THISTLETHWAITE:

And we’re at a unique moment in Australia’s history where it’s now that we have both houses of Parliament look likely to be able to pass marriage equality in Australia. This is the first time that this has occurred in our history and this Government is going to squib it. They’re going to waste $160 million on a plebiscite. We don’t even know how this plebiscite is going to work. Perhaps Scott can tell us - is it going to be a majority of votes in a majority of states like a normal referendum? Or is it going to be a simple majority of votes? This is the reason why people like Michael Kirby are so sceptical about the outcome of this and the risk that it might not even get up. We’re at a unique moment in time, perhaps the Parliament should do what we’re elected to do, and that’s represent the people and make a decision on this.

GILBERT:

Senator Ryan, can you clarify?

RYAN:

It’s not a referendum, it’s a plebiscite. That has been made clear, all the matters about the mechanics -

GILBERT:

(interrupts) So you don’t need a majority across all the states - a flat majority (inaudible)

RYAN:

It is a national vote. It is not a referendum which requires a majority of states as it would to change the Constitution. May I say, all the mechanics of this are matters for Cabinet, the Party Room and the Parliament to determine. Now Labor simply need to answer the question. We took a very explicit policy, Labor were critical of it, we were honest about it, we think there should be a national vote of the people on this. Will Labor allow the national vote to happen, or will they obstruct it?

GILBERT:

And it’s also a popular move, Matt Thistlethwaite. The polls show that the majority of people support the idea of them having a say on this. Given that the majority back the legalisation of same-sex marriage as well, surely Labor can’t preclude this vote and therefore the legalisation of marriage equality, if this is actually what you believe in and it’s not just about politics?

THISTLETHWAITE:

Well our policy has been very clear for some time now Kieran, and that is that we believe in representative democracy, we trust the Parliament to make a decision on this and we believe that that’s the right way to go. You’re not going to waste $160 million that we believe could be better spent on improving hospitals and schools, and more importantly you’re not going to get his vitriolic and divisive debate that will do Australia harm. I’ve got no doubt that a debate of that nature will do Australia harm and divide the nation. And there is a risk that it won’t get up, and that’s why people like Michael Kirby have expressed that pessimism today and on other days publically (inaudible)

GILBERT:

(interrupts) It won’t get up if people like you and he don’t advocate it? I mean surely now, if this is the only way that Government’s going to countenance change, why don’t people who are supportive, advocates of same-sex marriage now say ‘okay, this is the way we can do this in the short-term, get on with it’.

THISTLETHWAITE:

Because this is the policy that I took to the election in my electorate, and I was re-elected on that basis and the people in my area that support same-sex marriage don’t want a divisive and vitriolic plebiscite. They want the Parliament to get on with that, and in good conscience, how could I change my view on that when I’ve been elected on this basis? So that’s the basis upon which I made my decision and the Labor party’s made its decision to support a Parliamentary vote on this issue.

GILBERT:

Senator Ryan it looks like Labor is giving your answer there. It doesn’t look likely that they’re going to back a plebiscite.

RYAN:

Well I thought it was most amazing that Matt said that he feared the plebiscite wouldn’t get up therefore he didn’t want to have a plebiscite. It’s remarkable to then say in the next sentence you believe in representative democracy. Might I also say, I’ve always been deeply offended by this idea that we can’t trust the Australian people to have a full and frank yet meaningful and respectful debate. I’m a democrat. I believe in Australian democracy, I believe in the judgement of the people. And the arguments being used against this I think offend a lot of people because they’re simply saying I don’t trust the people to either make the decision I want, nor to actually do it in a respectful way.

GILBERT:

Special Minister of State Scott Ryan and the Shadow Assistant Minister for the Treasury, gentlemen we’re out of time.

(ENDS)