SUBJECTS: Same-sex marriage plebiscite, ABCC Legislation, Registered Organisations, Senate crossbench.
LAURA JAYES: Minister thank you for your time.
MINISTER CASH: Always a pleasure.
LAURA JAYES: Same sex marriage is your interpretation now that it won’t be dealt with in this term of parliament in any way?
MINISTER CASH: Bill Shorten has given a very clear stamen today and he is solely responsible for the fact that same sex marriage in Australia will not now occur. I think that is a very disappointing result for the Australian people.
I think it’s very disappointing that Bill Shorten, whom as all Australians know just a short time ago, he himself supported a plebiscite and has now decided to play politics with this issue, with the result being, basically as far as Labor is concerned, there will be no same sex marriage.
LAURA JAYES: For some moderates in your party who obviously want to see the Marriage Act dealt with and they’re looking at this quote in particular from Tony Abbott in August 2015, who said “I’ve come to the view I believe this will be the party room view that this will be the last term in which a Coalition party room will be bound.
There is some conjecture whether that means the 44th or the 45th Parliament, but does it need to be another party room meeting after the plebiscite fails to figure out what the platform is going forward? Is it a plebiscite or nothing or will this be debated once again in the party room?
MINISTER CASH: We have a very clear commitment to the Australian people, we took that commitment to the election and that was, if we are given the honour of being elected to office, we would take the issue of same sex marriage to the people by way of a plebiscite.
LAURA JAYES: So it’s a plebiscite or nothing?
MINISTER CASH: It is a plebiscite or nothing. What I will say is this, when we talk about failing, there is still an opportunity for us to work with the crossbench and I would hope that the crossbench would sit down with Senator Brandis, listen to his arguments, there is still an opportunity for them, should they actively choose …
LAURA JAYES: Is that actively being pursued?
MINISTER CASH: The one thing you learn in life and in particular in the Australian Senate when you don’t have the numbers, the mere fact that Labor or the Greens say they won’t support something does not mean you cannot work with the crossbench and I think the perfect example for you is what occurred in the Australian senate last night. The Government worked constructively with 10 of the 11 crossbenchers and we passed the legislation to support the volunteer firefighters in Victoria.
LAURA JAYES: Good segue Minister, but the same sex marriage plebiscite has obviously been something that’s suffocating the governments agenda, some argue that this is why the Government is down in the polls at the moment and polls at this stage of an election cycle don’t really matter, but are you worried that this will stay on the agenda for another six months or a year and frustrate all the members of your party even further?
MINISTER CASH: No not at all. This is something we took to the election, we are intent on carrying through with our commitment, this is the first time an Australian Government has released legislation which shows what the change to the Marriage Act would be if the plebiscite was upheld.
This is the first time you have had an Australian Government with a very clear plan in relation to same sex marriage. We will continue to pursue that plan. Labor and the Greens have said they won’t support it and yes some of the crossbenchers have said they won’t support the enabling legislation.
However, I would hope that we can continue to work with the crossbench, perhaps we can change their minds. Certainly our commitment remains clear we would prefer to see this matter dealt with by way of a plebiscite on the 11th February next year.
LAURA JAYES: As you say, the CFA legislation passed last night and today we are talking about same sex marriage. That must be frustrating for you after having a legislative win.
MINISTER CASH: I have had the opportunity to talk about the CFA legislation today. I have been inundated with phone calls from volunteers, not just in Victoria but across Australia, thanking the Government and the crossbench for standing up against what was an incredibly hostile union takeover by the United Firefighters Union and the Daniel Andrews Labor Government.
I have also had great disappointment expressed in Bill Shorten to me, that once again he was prepared to stand up for militant unions over 60,000 volunteers who ironically come from his home state of Victoria. Yet again, he had made his choice clear, militant unions - the Australian people; he will back the militant unions every single time.
LAURA JAYES: You had support from the crossbenchers for this legislation, do you think you will have support from the cross bench for ABCC changes as well, we see Malcolm Roberts making some positive soundings as well. Nick Xenophon seems to be the missing link here, are you further advanced with those talks with him, are you confident you can do it by the end of the year?
MINISTER CASH: Certainly, I think what last night I hope showed the Australian people, this is a Senate that can work, last night, Labor and the Greens – not interested in supporting our legislation to protect 60,000 volunteers. I was able to work constructively with the crossbench and get the legislation through. Why? Because it was good public policy. The cross bench listened to our arguments, they accepted our arguments and they were prepared to support us.
And it is in that vein that I continue to approach the negotiations in relation to the restoration of the Australian Building and Construction Commission and of course greater transparency for Registered Organisations.
LAURA JAYES: Nick Xenophon has a list of demands, and you in the past have called it negotiations, so I assume that means you are open to give some ground here. What about increased protections for small contractors and whistle-blowers, introducing an eight year sunset clause for the bill, administrative appeal tribunal safeguard. Are they things that you’re willing to give ground on?
MINISTER CASH: I am willing to consider whatever amendments the crossbench bring to me.
LAURA JAYES: These were in Nick Xenophon’s second reading speech.
MINISTER CASH: I know that and I have always said I would consider those amendments and I have also said publicly on the record though I will not be negotiating through the press, I will respect the confidences of negotiations, as I am doing.
Again, what last night clearly should say to the Australian people is, if Labor and the Greens don’t want to support the Government in the Senate, there is still an opportunity for us to pass legislation and we showed last night that the Australian Senate can work in the interests of good public policy and the people.