SUBJECT/S: DOUBLE DISSOLUTION ELECTION; AUSTRALIAN BUILDING AND CONSTRUCTION COMMISSION; REGISTERED ORGANISATION COMMISSION.
LAURA JAYES: As I mentioned before, I spoke to the Employment Minister Michaelia Cash. My first question to her was was this a captain’s call from Malcolm Turnbull?
MINISTER CASH: The Prime Minister spoke to his Cabinet this morning.
LAURA JAYES: But were there decisions made in the last couple of weeks, or was this Malcolm Turnbull’s decision on his own, or did he seek advice from his colleagues?
MINISTER CASH: Well you’d need to speak to Malcolm Turnbull in relation to the advice he sought. But look, at the end of the day I think it’s obvious to all Australians that the Senate has been in a state of paralysis. In relation to the Australian Building and Construction Commission legislation, it has always been our intent to bring it back before the Parliament to have it debated; certainly, it was the first bill that we introduced this year into the House of Representatives. Laura, we received an overwhelming mandate at the 2013 election in relation to the re-establishment of this important watchdog. We remain committed to it and I am delighted that the Senate will now have an opportunity to consider in detail, over a three week period, the legislation.
LAURA JAYES: You’ve heard what the crossbenchers have had to say today though. How do you rate the chances of the ABCC legislation actually passing?
MINISTER CASH: Laura, I am always happy to sit down and negotiate in good faith. Again however, the Prime Minister has made it very clear: enough is enough; the time for playing games is over. We expect the bill to pass in substantially the same form. So whilst I will sit down and negotiate in good faith, I’m not about to tolerate amendments that are going to substantially detract from the bill as it has already been put through the Parliament.
LAURA JAYES: But the amendments have been put forward by a number of crossbenchers, Wong being one of those, Nick Xenophon another, and we’ve seen Glenn Lazarus outright say no to this. Have you already been discussing amendments with the crossbenchers? Dio Wang for one says you have. What’s the point?
MINISTER CASH: Again, I always will sit down with crossbenchers in good faith to talk about legislation, but the Government’s position is very clear.
LAURA JAYES: But are any of those amendments attractive to you though?
MINISTER CASH: Look, I’m not going to talk about hypotheticals at this stage because I need to recommence negotiations. But again, the Prime Minister has made it clear: enough is enough; we need to stop playing games. The ABCC is an important part of the Government’s economic agenda. We had an overwhelming mandate for it at the 2013 election; we would like to see this legislation passed, and we are now giving the Senate an opportunity to consider it and pass it, and if the Senate fails to pass it, again we will dissolve the Parliament and proceed to a double dissolution election.
LAURA JAYES: But Minister, if you really want to see this legislation go through why don’t you consider some of the amendments? Nick Xenophon’s one seemed very reasonable.
MINISTER CASH: As I said Laura, I will sit down and negotiate in good faith, but the Government has made their position very clear. I am not going to sit down and negotiate amendments that are going to substantially detract from the intent of the legislation. Our intent is clear; we would like to see this legislation, which is a good piece of economic reform, passed through the Senate.
LAURA JAYES: So you would prefer to go to a double dissolution though, that is the Government’s preference isn’t it?
MINISTER CASH: No, not at all. In fact, the Prime Minister made it very clear in the letter to the Governor-General his preference is to see good policy passed through the Senate. This is good policy. We would like to see the Australian Building and Construction Commission restored for so many reasons, let alone the benefits to productivity, growth, and ultimately jobs for the Australian people. We would also like to see the legislation to establish a standalone Registered Organisations Commission to very much clean up registered organisations past.
LAURA JAYES: Is this- this is a straight up and down deal, is it? This is a fair deal; if the ABCC legislation passes there will be no double dissolution.
MINISTER CASH: No, the Prime Minister has made it clear that if the ABCC legislation passes he would then expect the Senate to deal with the Registered Organisations Commission legislation.
LAURA JAYES: Okay. Are you worried about the perceptions that some voters might have of manipulating Parliament for your own means?
MINISTER CASH: This is not manipulating Parliament for our own means, this is something that we took to the 2013 election. In fact, the restoration of the Australian Building and Construction Commission has been our policy since the former Gillard Government abolished it, so I don’t think anybody could say we’re manipulating Parliament for our own intention. This is good policy; it is good policy that is supported by a very, very wide evidence-base.
This, Laura, this is the third biggest employer in Australia. The Building and Construction Commission employs over 1 million employees via the thousands of small businesses that support it. We need to ensure that this industry is as productive as possible, and it’s the one industry in Australia that has been shown time and time again to be rife with a state of unlawfulness. We need to ensure compliance with workplace laws, that is what this legislation is going to do, and it has long been our policy.
LAURA JAYES: Okay, just a few of the mechanics of how this will work. As you know better than most how the Senate works, will the budget speech in the Senate, will- you’ll have the budget speech in the Senate on the third. For example, does it have to be done at the same time?
MINISTER CASH: Well basically, as you know the Parliament has now been recalled under section five of the constitution. We will reconvene on 18 April for a period of three weeks, and the Prime Minister has specifically stated in the letter to the Governor-General that the reason for the recall is so that the Senate has a considerable period of time to consider in detail the ABCC legislation and the Registered Organisation legislation.
LAURA JAYES: [Talking over] But on the third, when the budget is handed down- sorry.
MINISTER CASH: The budget will be brought down on the third. It is then for the Senate to determine what it actually does. But again, we have made it clear our priority is to give the Senate every opportunity to consider in detail this very important legislation and to then cast a vote as to whether it does or does not support it. Let’s ensure Australians know exactly where the Senate stands on this legislation so we can all move forward one way or another.
LAURA JAYES: What about the mechanisms though, because just on Friday there was a vote moved by Labor that was successful, and that was to basically remove power from the president to recall the Senate before 10 May. So is there a way to get around that?
MINISTER CASH: Well it is, it’s section five of the Australian constitution …
LAURA JAYES: [Talking over] Right, so under the same section.
MINISTER CASH: … which provides that the Governor-General – exactly – is able to do a number of things, and one of those things is to recall the Parliament as he sees fit. He has now done that as of 18 April, and we have made it clear that the reason for the recall is to consider in detail the ABCC and the Registered Organisations Commission legislation.
[End of excerpt]
LAURA JAYES: Now, Michaelia Cash does have some negotiation ahead of her. From the comments of the crossbench today it doesn’t look like she’s going to get very far, so a DD election on July 2 is the best bet at this stage.