TRANSCRIPT - ABC RN Drive > Mitch Fifield, Liberal Senator for Victoria

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Senator The Hon Mitch Fifield

TRANSCRIPT - ABC RN Drive

with Patricia Karvelas

18 April 2016

6.05pm

 

E & OE             

Subjects: ABCC, Senate


KARVELAS:

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 Drive.

FIFIELD:

Good to be with you Patricia.

KARVELAS:

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?

FIFIELD:

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.

KARVELAS:

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.

FIFIELD:

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.

KARVELAS:

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?

FIFIELD:                                                                           

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.

KARVELAS:

Then why haven’t you been trying harder?

FIFIELD:

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.

KARVELAS:

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?

FIFIELD:

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.

KARVELAS:

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.

FIFIELD:

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.

KARVELAS:

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. 

FIFIELD:

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 interest aside. 



KARVELAS:                                                      


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?

FIFIELD:

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 week.

KARVELAS:

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?

FIFIELD:

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.

KARVELAS:

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.

[ends]

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