TRANSCRIPT - ABC AM > Mitch Fifield, Liberal Senator for Victoria

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Senator The Hon Mitch Fifield

TRANSCRIPT - ABC AM

with Michael Brissenden


16 March 2016

7.10am


E & OE

Subjects: Senate, Budget, safe schools


BRISSENDEN:

I’m joined live in the studio by the Manager of Government Business in the Senate, Senator Mitch Fifield. Mitch Fifield welcome to the program.

FIFIELD:

Good morning Michael.

BRISSENDEN:

So the Greens, Labor and Independents warn they use their numbers to block the special sitting of the Senate before May 10, all a bit of a mess for you isn’t it in the Senate at the moment? If you’re looking to get the first budget supply bills passed and the second rejection of the ABCC legislation for a double dissolution?

FIFIELD:

Michael, we take things one day at a time in the Australian Senate. And we’re working to a plan and the plan this week is to seek to reform the voting system for the Senate. To make sure that the votes that Australians cast at the ballot result in the people they think they’re actually voting for getting elected.

BRISSENDEN:

So clearing out the minor parties. These Senate reforms are more important to the Government at the moment than the ABCC legislation?

FIFIELD:

We have a number of important priorities. Reforming the Senate voting system to make sure that peoples votes end up where  they intend them to end up is critical. What could be more important than making sure that Australians actually can give voice to their political views through the ballot box. That’s really important, and we want to make sure that we conclude that bill this week. The Australian Building and Construction Commission is also a very important piece of legislation. We want to put the cop back on the beat. We want to protect people in the building industry. We want to make sure that productivity in the Australian building industry can increase. So that also is a very important priority.

BRISSENDEN:

And you want that trigger don’t you as well for a double dissolution election and it’s all a matter of timing, you want to get the Senate reform stuff through, because that’s important, why would you go to a double dissolution without that?

FIFIELD:

What we would love is to have both voting reform legislation through the Senate, and the ABCC legislation through the Senate. I can’t for the life of me understand how in this day and age, the Australian Labor Party can maintain that there isn’t a problem on our building sites. There is. We know why they’re opposing this legislation. We know why they’re seeking to delay and frustrate. It’s because they get a lot of money from the trade union movement. They’re told what to do. And that’s what they’re doing in the Senate.

BRISSENDEN:          

Let’s look at the logistical problem that you have here. If you do get the Senate reforms done this week, regardless of how long it sits, you push that through. Where do you find time to do the ABCC and put that back into the Senate? That would have to happen on the 10th of May wouldn’t it? Unless you can get the Senate recalled and you can’t really do that without the numbers.

FIFIELD:

The budget week is the week that we would address the ABCC legislation. We would have loved to have dealt with both the ABCC legislation and Senate voting reform already. But Labor have been filibustering the Senate voting reform bill, not just for this week, but the previous Senate sitting week as week as well. Labor don’t want us to get to either the ABCC or Senate voting reform. They’re playing games.

BRISSENDEN:          

So you might have to move the budget forward mightn’t you? I guess to get the supply bills passed in the house you can then put to the Senate on the 10th of May if you want to go to an election?

FIFIELD:

Well the budget is on the 10th of May and as the Minister for Communications, that’s the timeframe I’m working to.

BRISSENDEN:          

Does that create a problem for you? Can you get everything done in the two sitting days that you have before you have to call an election?

FIFIELD:

We could get anything done if we had the cooperation of the Australian Labor Party, I mean we can’t lose sight of the fact here that the great obstruction to actually debating these two bills has been the Australian Labor Party. The ABCC legislation has already been through the House once. It’s already been through the Senate. It’s already been through a Senate committee. But despite that and despite the fact it’s gone through the House again, Labor insisted on kicking the ABCC legislation off to a Senate inquiry. So at every stage they’ve been seeking to delay and frustrate.

BRISSENDEN:          

Okay so can we clear it up that the budget is going to be on May10?

FIFIELD:

The budget is scheduled for the 10th of May, that’s the timeframe I’m working towards.

BRISSENDEN:          

These are the weasel words that are being used ‘this is the timeframe we are working towards’. Is it scheduled for May 10 or not?

FIFIELD:

I can’t talk to things I don’t know. I can only talk to things that I do know. And what I know is that the budget is on the 10th of May.

BRISSENDEN:          

Okay. Clearly this budget is going to be very important for the Turnbull Government. You obviously are hoping it’s going to give you a platform to take to the election. It does look now like tax cuts are off the table. Have you raised expectations too far?

FIFIELD:

We’ve been taking a very methodical approach to tax reform. Scott Morrison has been determined to make sure that at every stage, whenever he’s looking at a proposition, he asks the question, ‘is this going to be good for the Australian economy?’ ‘Is this going to be good for growth?’ ‘Is this going to be good for jobs?’ They’re the questions that he’s asking and he will release before the budget our tax plan. And I’m sure we all look forward to debating that then. 

BRISSENDEN:          

I’ll put it to you he does more than ask questions. You said that there are any number of quotes in the last couple of months where he’s actually raised the expectations of people for tax cuts. Here’s one from January the 21st for instance, “we’re looking also at strong changes in our tax system as we run into an election later this year, and that is about trying to reduce the burden of personal income tax cuts.” Doesn’t seem like it’s going to happen though? 

FIFIELD:

Well, Scott has been talking about what is the aspiration for a tax system. We’ll have to wait and see what the tax package is that he releases. But it will be a very stark contrast between our tax plan and that of Labor. Labor we know are wanting to do some very radical and dangerous things in relation to negative gearing which are going to hit ordinary Australians. So there is going to be a clear choice for voters.

BRISSENDEN:          

And bracket creep has been cited as a big problem, are you now actively trying to lower expectations?

FIFIELD:

Michael, what we’re seeking to do is have a simpler tax system and a fairer tax system. That’s the objective that Scott Morrison is working towards. And obviously it’s an objective, it’s an aim of this Government, to reduce personal income tax. That’s what Coalition Government’s always want to aspire to.

BRISSENDEN:          

But you may not be able to do it in this budget?

FIFIELD:                                                                    

Michael, we will not have to wait long until we have Scott Morrison’s tax reform package.

BRISSENDEN:          

Okay, just quickly on the safe schools review, which as you heard has become another contentious issue within your own Coalition. A number of your colleagues have already labelled it a joke and a fraud. Where is this going? We understand Coalition Senators are considering a motion to demand withdrawal of funding of the program.

FIFIELD:

I think everyone in our Party Room, everyone in the Parliament is as one when it comes to the situation of individuals who are facing some challenges in their school years. We don’t want to see anyone bullied. We want to see people getting good information. And what the review is seeking to do is to see if the material that is provided is consistent with the intent of the program and also whether the materials are age appropriate. The review is underway. It’ll come to government and then we’ll have our response.

BRISSENDEN:          

Some of your colleagues just want it gone though, don’t they?

FIFIELD:

Colleagues were very happy that Simon Birmingham initiated the review. We’ll see what the result is and then we’ll make a decision.

BRISSENDEN:          

Okay, Mitch Fifield thank you very much.

FIFIELD:

Thanks Michael.

[ends]

Media contact: Justine Sywak | 0448 448 487 | Justine.Sywak@communications.gov.au