TRANSCRIPT - ABC RN Drive
18 April 2016
Parliament is back in Canberra today for an
extraordinary sitting. And extraordinary has pretty much been the word of the
day. Truckies converged on the lawns of Parliament House. A Labor Senator
verballed the Governor General. And now it seems like the debate over the
construction watchdog, which was supposed to take weeks, might be over at any
moment. As in literally at any moment in the next half hour is what some people
are predicting. Senator Mitch Fifield is the Communications and Arts Minister
and also the Manager of Government Business in the Senate, welcome back to RN
Good to be with you Patricia.
And I know you might get called away for a Senate
division at any moment so lets get straight into it. Why are you expecting the
debate on the ABCC to end and a vote to be held so soon?
Well there are two speakers left on the list. Senator
Lazuras and Senator Cash. That would conclude what's known as the second
reading speeches. And that's when we would have the first vote. Now the reason
why we have got through the order of business in pretty quick order today is
because the eyes of the nation are upon the Parliament and so Labor are
compelled to behave responsibly. When they thought no one was looking in the
previous sitting weeks they filibustered and filibustered and filibustered and
filibustered to try and stop this legislation even coming to a vote. Which is
why we have recalled the Parliament to give it the opportunity to determine
this once and for all.
And the ABCC bills won’t pass the Senate will they? I
mean I’m going to speak next with Ricky Muir. But he’s told Senate he’s not
voting for them. Jacqui Lambie is the same and Glen Lazuras and John Madigan
won’t support it either. You just donm’t have the numbers.
On the public statements on those crossbench senators,
the ABCC legislation would not succeed and we’ll know within about the next 20
minutes. And that’s a great shame because we do need to have a strong cop on
the beat on our building and construction sites around the nation. People have
a right to get about their work. Industries should have the opportunity to be
as efficient as they can be. That’s what we want. And should the ABCC
legislation not pass, we do have the constitutional mechanism to resolve the
deadlock and that is a double dissolution election.
You say it’ll be a shame but coming into this process a
number of senators and David Leyonjhelm yesterday told Sky News that he thinks
there has basically been no effort. Senator Lambie said there has been very low
levels of effort to try and get a deal to get the crossbench convinced on this.
So are you really disappointed at all?
Those who know my colleague Michaelia Cash, the Minister
for Workplace Relations, understand that there is not a harder working or more
ceaseless or more determined Minister than her. She has been working with
colleagues in the Parliament on this legislation for months and months. So
there is no lack of effort on her part or the Government‘s part. Nothing would
make us happier that to get this legislation passed through the Parliament.
Then why haven’t you been trying harder?
Michaelia Cash has been trying incredibly hard. But the
crossbenchers have made no secret of their disposition over a long period of
time. Now some have put forward the proposition of changing the bill that's
before the Parliament into that of a broad based anti corruption body. Now
there may well be arguments for and against that particular proposition, but
it’s an entirely different proposition to that which is before the Parliament.
If you’re just tuning in my guest in Senator Mitch Fifield, he’s the
Communications and Arts Minister and when we talk to him usually we talk about
those issues. But he’s also the Manager of Government Business in the
Senate. 0418 226 576, we are hearing
news that the ABCC would be voted on, well imminently, we might lose the
Minister any moment. I’m wondering if you can go through a bit of the process
with us. Because I don’t really think voters listening and a lot of the people
that listen to RN Drive love politics, watch it closely, but still are quite in
the dark about the process. If the ABCC bill fails, if it goes to a vote in the
next 20 minutes and fails, then what does it mean for a double dissolution?
You’ll have your trigger, how will you use it?
Where a bill has been passed by the House of
Representatives, put to the Senate and voted against, with a 3 months gap in
between, when that happens on two occasions, that constitutes what's known as a
trigger for a double dissolution election. Now that's just a fancy way of
saying that it enables the government of the day to use the provisions of the
constitution to enable a double dissolution election. And the benefit of that
is that after you have that election there is the opportunity to have both
houses of parliament sit together so that the governments numbers in the House
and the Senate can combine to resolve that deadlock.
So just to clarify, if this vote happens in the next half
hour, or imminently, you’ll consider that to be your trigger? What will the
Prime Minister then do after that vote is counted.
Well the Prime Minister has already made clear that if
the Senate does not pass the Australian Building and Construction Commission
legislation that he will go to the polls in a double dissolution election on July the 2nd.
So this is it? The other bill that’s also been previously
rejected which you’ve already got a trigger for, registered organisations
exists as your other trigger, you’ll then have both bills fail if that happens
in the next 20 minutes.
Both of those bills would be a trigger. And our founders
recognised that there could be a deadlock between the House and the Senate, and
they specifically provided for a deadlock resolution mechanism, which is a
double dissolution election and a joint sitting of both houses of Parliament.
Look it would be good if that was not necessary. It would be good if the
Australian Labor Party could set the sectional interests of the trade unions
aside for a moment and look at the interests of those who work in the building
and construction industry. But of course they won’t, because the CFMEU is a
good payer to the Australian Labor Party. They want to continue to receive it,
so the last thing the Labor Party will do is to set that sectional and self
So what does it mean for the Parliament, because this is getting dealt
with, I think you budgeted 3 weeks for this issue. It’s by the end of the first
day if we see this vote voting the ABCC down, what do you do for the rest of
the week? Are you going to deal with the truckies legislation,
what tomorrow or the next day and then go home? Is that the idea?
Well it’s very important that we seek to, and hopefully
will, succeed in repealing the Road Safety Tribunal legislation. It is standing
to put owner operators out of business. It is shocking legislation. There’s a
real community understanding I think of just how bad this is. How bad Labor
legislation with the intent of forcing out owner operators and increasing union
membership could be devastating for this particular part of the economy.
Putting Mum’s and Dad’s out of work. So it’s really important that we transact
that business before we leave. And look, if we transact that business and the
other bill that we have before us, then look we can be out of here later this
How quickly do you predict that if the ABCC bill is put
tonight and will ultimately fail if you believe the declared positions of the
Senators. And then this other bill comes up, when could you actually
realistically be out of the Parliament?
Well it will depend how many people want to contribute to
debate. Ultimately it’s in the hands of the Senate chamber. But it’s very
interesting that when the Labor Party think that no one is looking, and let’s
face it, in the Senate compared to the House we are usually a little bit off-broadway.
When Labor think no one is looking they’ll filibuster, they’ll delay, they’ll
use all sorts of precedural tactics to prevent the orderly consideration of
business and actually getting legislation to a vote. But, when the whole nation
is watching, as they are with the recall of the Parliament by the Governor
General, it’s very interesting how their behaviour changes. It's incredible the
effect that sunlight can have.
Well Mitch Fifield, thanks for joining us, I know you’ve
got to go and we’ll be watching this very closely tonight as of course you will
be because you are a Senator, you’re in there, thank you so much. That’s Mitch
Fifield, the Communications and Arts Minister and the Manager of Government
Business in the Senate, so you know he’s actually effectively responsible for
how the Government conducts itself in the Senate.
contact: Justine Sywak | 0448 448 487 | Justine.Sywak@communications.gov.au